Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, or IIT-K, is renowned for its innovations in science and technology. However, it is now gaining attention for a very different kind of innovation – organic farming. Recently, IIT-Kanpur made headlines when it started preparing organic ‘laddoos’ or sweet balls, made with the help of organic farming practices. These laddoos are not only unique because of their organic nature, but also because they are being used as a means to support 150 farming families in the surrounding areas.
The initiative of preparing organic laddoos was taken up by the ‘Harit Dhara’ project of IIT-Kanpur. This project was launched in the year 2015 with the aim of promoting greenery and sustainability in the campus and the surrounding areas. As part of the project, the institute started organic farming on a small scale. However, the result was so successful that they decided to expand the project.
The organic farming is being done on a 60-acre land situated inside the IIT-Kanpur campus. The crops grown here include a variety of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, brinjals, okra, cauliflower, cabbage, watermelons, muskmelons, papaya and banana. The use of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals is strictly prohibited on this land. Instead, natural fertilizers such as cow dung and vermicompost are used. The sun, rain and soil are the only factors responsible for the growth of crops here.
The ‘Harit Dhara’ project has been successful in producing organic fruits and vegetables in abundance. However, the surplus supply was a problem as there were not many takers for organic produce. Therefore, the institute came up with the idea of preparing ‘laddoos’ from these organic fruits and vegetables. The laddoos were made using jaggery, which is a natural sweetener, and no artificial preservatives or additives were used.
The organic laddoos have become very popular among the students and staff of IIT-Kanpur. They are priced at Rs. 20 per piece and are sold at the campus canteen. The laddoos are not only delicious but also a healthy snack as they are made from organic produce.
The sale of organic laddoos has also brought economic benefits to the farmers in the surrounding areas. The ‘Harit Dhara’ project has tied up with 150 farming families in the nearby villages. These farmers sell their organic produce to the institute at 20-30% higher prices than the market rates. The organic farming practices being followed by IIT-Kanpur are also being shared with these farmers. This has helped them to adopt sustainable farming practices which are both economically and environmentally beneficial.
The ‘Harit Dhara’ project has also set up a training center for the farmers. Here, they are taught about natural farming practices, soil conservation, composting, and pest control. The institute has also provided them with seeds and saplings of organic crops. They are also given technical support whenever required.
The ‘Harit Dhara’ project is not only about organic farming and the preparation of laddoos. It is a comprehensive plan for making the campus and the surrounding areas green and sustainable. The project has also developed a solar energy farm which provides 2.5 MW power to the institute. The solar energy farm has been developed on a 10-acre land inside the campus.
The institute is also planning to set up a rainwater harvesting system and a biogas plant in the near future. The biogas plant will be used for generating electricity and also as a source of cooking fuel.
In conclusion, the ‘Harit Dhara’ project of IIT-Kanpur is an inspiring example of how a premier institute can take up sustainable and eco-friendly practices. The project has not only made the campus green and self-sufficient but has also provided economic benefits to the farmers in the surrounding areas. The organic ‘laddoos’ made by the institute are not only a tasty snack but a symbol of a larger initiative towards sustainability. It is hoped that initiatives like these will inspire others to take up organic farming and sustainable practices.