Fellow Since 1995
This profile was prepared when Tarak Kate was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Tarak Kate is helping small farmers with holdings of less than two acres to maximize returns from their land. Central to his program is an emphasis on a bio-diversification, geared to the needs of local farmers, that comprises sericulture, pisciculture, animal rearing, poultry farming, crop cultivation, land banking and watershed management on land previously cultivated only for staple and cash crops. This package ensures diversified agricultural output throughout the year, a steady supply of crops for personal and market consumption, and gainful employment of members of farmers' families on their land. Regular rotation of crops and the placement of animal wastes on lands replenishes soil nutrients.Part of the farmers' problem is high pesticide expenses. According to Tarak, "Farmers realize that while the productivity of land can be doubled with the use of chemical fertilizers, high-yielding seeds and pesticides, the costs soar simultaneously." The use of organic manure instead of costly chemical methods has enabled farmers to more than double the yield of cotton in villages where Tarak's organization, Dharamitra has intervened. The farmers have observed that even as their expenditure decreases, crop yields have increased.Dharamitra is also training farmers in the basics of rural technology. For example, it has evolved a new pesticide a concoction of garlic, kerosene, crushed chili, detergent powder and water–that is effective against many insects and pests. The organization has also designed a pressure cooker to give women of the villages a new and efficient alternative to the expensive and cumbersome methods of cooking. The Mukta cooker has ended the dependence of women on the use of fuelwood for cooking because of its efficient use of cooking coal. Villagers have been training in distilling compost for use as alternative fuel for bio-gas plants. In addition, Tarak is working toward changing the attitudes, lifestyle and economic dynamics within the village environment.