Journey of an innovator to an innovation influencer

Grassroots innovator turned social worker and noted environmentalist Shri Sundaram Verma who grew over 50,000 trees in the arid Shekawati region of Rajasthan using a water saving technique ‘dryland agroforestry’ that requires only 1 litre of water per tree once, then it leaves the seedling to grow has been conferred with Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award of the country this week by the Hon’ble President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind. The honoured innovator today stands out not only for his innovation, but also for spotting other innovators and inspiring their journey to success.

Shri Sundaram Verma, a native of Danta (Ramgarh), a village in the Sikar district of Rajasthan, was supported by National Innovation Foundation (NIF) – India, an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India for his Green Grassroots Plantation Techniques for Combating Desertification and undertaking research on arid zone crops. It had been extensively deployed for planting trees under the “greening the desert” initiative. The technique utilizes only one litre of water throughout the lifetime of plant and provides a best-suited solution for conserving water in the arid, semi-arid regions as well as avenues of agroforestry leading to land management, revenue generation and sustainable livelihood.

He is a farmer – breeder with a strong innovation quotient that defines his work. His improved plant variety – Cicer arietinum L. commonly known as ‘Kabuli chana – SR-1’ is distinct by virtue of having medium bold seeds (higher test weight) and superior in terms of yield and pest resistance; and it was successfully registered with Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV&FRA).  

In addition, there are other improved plant varieties to his credit like the high yielding ‘Guar (cluster bean)- SR-23’ which is suitable for both arid and semi-arid conditions and can also be grown in various types of soil but the most suitable soil is sandy/sandy loam. Besides, the ‘Moth bean (SR-1)’ is a short duration (60-65 days) variety, superior to the other commercially released varieties in terms of yield & resistance against major pests and diseases. He has been cultivating and conserving local landraces/cultivars of various crops since many years.

Though he was offered an employment opportunity soon after his graduation, he refused it and continued with his passion and area of interest- agriculture based on-farm research for crop improvement and conservation of agrobiodiversity in arid zone crops.

He is one of the earliest collaborators to NIF since inception, currently is its General Body member and has spotted other innovators like him. Shri Jagdish Parikh, another grassroots innovator who was conferred with Padma Shri in the year 2019 for his contribution to developing pest and climate resistant cauliflower variety was scouted by Shri Sundaram Verma on behalf of NIF nearly two decades ago. Additionally, innovators like Smt Santosh Pachar (Carrot variety), Shri Madanlal Kumawat (Multi Crop Thresher), Shri Subhash Ola (Condensate and Heat Recovery System), Shri Yusuf Khan (Groundnut Digger), Shri Rai Singh Dahiya (Bio-Mass Gasifier System) were scouted by Shri Sundaram Verma on behalf of NIF. They were later conferred with Biennial National Grassroots Innovation and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge award. Few innovators spotted by him were invited to be the part of Innovation Scholar In-residence programe at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

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