In 2018 Permafund supported the Foundation for Research and Sustainable Development (FRSD) with micro grant funding for their project in Tamil Nadu, India to teach marginalised farmers how to produce biochar as a low cost solution for the remediation of degraded soils.
Subsistence agriculture in regions of Madurai with depleted soils has seen an increase in the use of commercial fertilisers by farmers, rather than the natural remedies that improve the health of the soil.
After documenting the traditional Terra Preta biochar practices found among rural and indigenous communities in the southern region of Tamil Nadu, FRSD developed a test plot in Sholavandan. The group conducted a series of training workshops titled Promoting Biochar as a Soil Amendment for Sustainable Agriculture.
FRSD printed pamphlets entitled Fertility for the Future on biochar and its uses as an open source resource for the benefit of farmers and NGOs.
Low cost, efficient, adaptable technologies, such as biochar stoves and gasifiers for the conversion of biomass into biochar, were demonstrated to 300 farmers and 25 NGOs during the training sessions.
Farmers in rural areas were encouraged to utilise the invasive small tree Prosopis Juliflora (a mesquite variety), as a source of biomass for potential large scale biochar production.
During the training, farming women were shown how to use the biochar in their kitchen herb gardens.
The FRSD website has outlined how the biochar program was delivered in the Madurai district so it can be promoted and replicated in other districts including through farmers’ associations and other NGOs.
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