We said goodbye to Coimbatore today, but not before one last excursion. We stopped by the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), an organization that conducts in-depth research on different ways of growing and using cotton to benefit India and the world!
This was the most informative visit on our trip thus far, and the people who spoke to us were incredibly knowledgeable about the importance of cotton on the global economy and environment. Their ultimate goal as an institution is to create “beneficial agriculture for all.” With the largest population in a single country, CICR must take into account many factors that shape India’s agricultural industry, such as ecological systems, financial problems, social issues, and advancements in technology. They hope to be able to reduce waste and risks.
We were first informed of India’s National Farm Development Plan (AKA Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana). Since the early 1900s,` most Indian farmers have transitioned from traditional farming practices to implementing advanced farming technology. India makes up 17.6% of the world population and has 15% of the world’s livestock, but only 4.2% of the world’s water supply and 2.4% of the world’s area. These limiting factors were taken into account when developing a plan for agricultural development in India. They’ve created this fascinating concept called “One Health,” where healthy soil creates healthy plants, which leads to healthy animals and healthy humans. Everything works together, so it is important that all four components are given equal attention.
Many of India’s agricultural improvements are funded by the government and big corporations who want to see growth and progress in India. Some publicly funded initiatives include the breeding of plants to create disease resistant rice varieties and the implementation of BT cotton.
We learned about some specific types of cotton and the different ways to grow this crop for different outputs. Initially, India focused on increasing productivity by growing fewer cotton crops with each plant producing many boils. Now, they are shifting their strategy to grow a larger number of cotton crops that produce fewer boils each. This strategy was initially employed in Brazil, and it has shown high productivity and great success!
CICR prides itself on being an innovative institution that works with local university students on their research and development. They hope to become more self sufficient and rely less on external assistance from other nations in the coming years, and they too contribute to the “Modi” Make in India project.
One of the most interesting things we say at CICR was their colored cotton. This cotton is bred at the molecular level, and it takes decades of growing to transform the color. Currently, CICR produces brown and green cotton in addition to the typical white cotton we are used to. They grow their cotton on site, so we were able to see the incredible cotton fields up close!
We had the opportunity to look at a testing lab, which tests the strength and quality of the cotton grown on site.
After our visit with CICR, we moved on to our next destination, Ooty! We’re now moving around India via what we affectionally labeled as our “party bus” this 70s inspired vehicle is straight out of an Austin Power’s movie with its fringe decorated ceilings and carpeted seats. It’s also incredibly tiny, but I’m in India so how can I complain?
Along the way, we saw a totally different side of India. Up until this point, we’ve spent our time in crowded Indian cities, but Ooty and the surrounding areas are more rural and calm. There landscape is made up of tall trees and beautiful green fields with enormous mountains. Wild monkeys are also characteristic of the area!
Upon arriving in Ooty, we checked in to the Fortune Hotel and roamed around the town for a bit. Ooty is home to about 88,000 people. A town of this size would be considered relatively large in America, but it is pretty small in India. The colorful buildings are clustered against the mountainsides, and goats and cows roam the streets freely. Ooty sits at an elevation of about 7,000 feet above sea level, so it was a bit chillier than the warm Indian weather we have become accustomed to (but still SIGNIFICANTLY better than Ithaca weather!!)
One other difference I’ve noticed about Ooty is religion. In the other regions we’ve visited, Hinduism has been a central feature of the native lifestyle. For example, in Coimbatore, over 83% of residents identify as Hindus. In Ooty, however, Christianity is actually quite prominent, and about 22% of natives identify as Christian. This is attributed to the fact that Ooty was one of the more heavily colonized cities during British rule, which influenced the religious choices of many Indian people.
Ooty is now a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and its many tea factories! Tomorrow, we’ll be touring one of these factories, and even though I’m a coffee drinker, I’m looking forward to learning about the tea production in India and seeing the stunning tea fields up close!