Hartley Magazine

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Hope in a Box (along with a greenhouse)

And the winner is…KHEYTI, developers of…drum roll…Greenhouse-in-a-Box. Screaming and hugging ensues. Cut to video of project installations and co-founder, Kaushik Kappagantulu in voiceover, “The world depends on its small-hold farmers and yet their lives are amongst the hardest on earth. Our Greenhouse-in-a-Box is empowering farmers in India today. The steps we have already taken at Kheyti are now building to change farmers’ lives at scale.”  Honestly, by the end of the proceedings, I felt quite validated in my belief that the next generation of inventors and innovators will be our salvation on so many fronts. What a great way to segue into 2023. A little hope goes a long way!

In the shelter of a Greenhouse-in-a-Box, Kaushik Kappagantulu (center left) farmers and a colleague are surrounded by healthy crops, grown in a system that offers small-hold farmers a chance at a healthy future.

I’d tuned in to the Earthshot awards program to see what William, Prince of Wales’s prize was about, which William describes as “designed to find and grow the solutions that will repair our planet this decade.”  Ten years to fix the mess humanity has made of the earth – no small order. William was inspired by another comparatively young leader, President John F. Kennedy, who in the 1960s set a 10-year challenge to send man to the moon and back safely, thereby laying the groundwork for transformative technologies to create employment in new, allied industries. William, however, has his sights set on life on earth. Which, imho, is far more important that establishing colonies on Mars or some other astral body. I mean, let’s clean up our own backyard first.

In its entirety, the Earthshot finalists and winners told a story of hope, innovation, and success against seemingless unconquerable odds. Please don’t think I’m overstating this; as we gardeners all know from little acorns mighty oaks do grow, and these folks are sowing some viable seed for the future.

Kheyti’s development efforts are focused on improving the lot of India’s 100 million small farmers in a country that is one of most adversely impacted by climate change. Kaushik describes how as young man he encountered a farmer eating dirt, his crops had failed in a period of severe drought, his income was decimated leaving no money for food.

An exterior view of a Kheyti Greenhouse-in-a-box, that is having a positive impact on rural smallhold farmers in India, but has global applications. “Our goal”, said co-founder Kaushik, “is to make the hard work of half-a-billion farmers around the world pay.”

Greenhouse-in-a-Box provides each participating farmer with modular greenhouses to fit 2% of their land at half the cost of a traditional greenhouse. These are like polytunnels and tents, not uncommon in developed nations, but out of financial reach for farmers in countries where such hort-tech is most needed. A Greenhouse-in-a-Box provides as part of a their service a drip system, installation help and training for the farmers, quality seeds, and appropriate fertilizers. They claim their system, which is designed to resilient to most adverse climate events, uses 90% less water and produces seven times more food that the farmers then bring to their local wholesale market, giving them profits to bank and a future on which they can depend.

Charlot Magayi of Mukuru Clean Stoves, Kenya, an innovative company with the mission, “To be the most reliable cooking asset for base-of-the-pyramid households.”; those being Kenya’s slum and rural communities. The project also brings attention to the need to “To Positively impact the health of slum and rural communities [and especially their women and children] by significantly reducing toxic household air pollution (HAP)”.  Making a positive impact are the keywords to the Earthshot project and its wide-ranging finalists and winners. Photo: Ronald Grant
Knowing Hartley Botanic’s tradition of supporting rehabilitative projects, like providing a greenhouse to the now shuttered Rikers Island prison, and to horticultural education through such outreach (not to mention the company’s UK/USA presence — are you listening, Prince William?), I feel confident saying we’d all agree that while we can reach into the depths of outer space searching for answers, we can surely find and support solutions to the homegrown challenges our planet and humanity faces. If we made it, we can fix it. And to that end, greenhouses of every description are a positive step in the right direction.

Happy New Year to you all.

©Ethne Clarke, 2022. Photos courtesy of Earthshot and Kheyti unless otherwise credited.

To learn about Earthshot, watch videos of the finalists and winners across five categories of environmental innovation visit https://earthshotprize.org/


All about Kheyti is on their website at https://www.kheyti.com/


An inspiring TED talk about Greenhouse-in-a-box and what it means to small-holding farmers in India, and can mean to smallholders in struggling conditions and economies generally, a good place to start is https://www.ted.com/talks/sathya_raghu_mokkapati_the_greenhouse_in_a_box_empowering_farmers_in_india

To find out more about Makuru Clean Stoves and support them if so inclined, visit https://mukurustoves.org