The Telangana region of India has struggled with extreme weather patterns attributed to climate change. Extended periods of drought, heatwaves, and unpredictable heavy rainfalls have led to crop failures, mounting debt, and a heavy human toll. More than 3,000 farmers committed suicide in Telangana during a three-year drought.
Last year, 15 farmers in the region participated in a pilot program based on an innovative, low-cost greenhouse design. Instead of trapping heat, these greenhouses are made with breathable, aluminum-coated cloth netting that reflects some of the sunlight, reducing inside temperatures. Drip-irrigation systems allow the farmers to use an average of 90% less water than their neighbors. Most of the farmers were able to produce between five and eight times more crops within their greenhouses.
The greenhouses are made by a non-profit called Kheyti that is developing the structures and facilitating loans for the farmers. The greenhouses cost $2,500, which is paid with a $471 down payment and then installments of $233 after each growing season.
The greenhouses are fairly small (258 square yards) but reliably allow farmers to grow high-quality produce in quantities that require an acre outside.
With the initial success, the program is expanding to other villages and plans to reach 1,000 low-income farmers.
Kheyti does not only supply greenhouses. It provides training and daily check-ins with farmers, help with transportation to market, loan servicing, fertilizers, and connections to vendors. (The farmers also become part of a collective and gather weekly to share knowledge and discuss challenges).
In developing countries, climate variability has always been a challenge. Climate change has brought more focus to this issue and innovations like these Indian greenhouses may offer some answers.
Photo courtesy of Kheyti via Facebook.