Saturday, 4 April 2009

Clay-Cow dung Grain Silos of Gujarat

Peasants in India store grains in various ways: paddy straw, silos of bamboo mat as well as clay silos. The enclosed photographs document clay silos in humble villages of Gujarat state. These are sufficient to show the state of the art of building these silos by the newly married women that is customary.
Wet clay and cow dung are mixed to build the wall/s, base, and the stubs that support the base and a thin cover at the top over the stored grains – wheat.
The main crop of the region is wheat.
The silos are either circular or square. The silos rise up to about 14 feet (3.5 m), of course, because of the shape. The square silos are usually up to 1.5 m to 2.0 m high. The circular silo is about 1.2 m at the base and 0.9 m at the top. Walls are about 100 mm thick. In case of circular silo the walls taper to 75 mm thickness. The base, of course, is raised by 300 mm above the mud floor (the reason obviously is to prevent dig burros from underground. A hole is provided at the bottom to remove gains whenever needed. The silos are finished white with lime wash; it is closed with cotton rag.
Women collect the clay from the village tanks. They were built (dug) by keeping in mind the contours of land, some generations ago, by community participation. They collected rain water from the surrounding fields.
They do not use any chemical pesticides in the stored grains. Instead they use Neem leaves. The grain usually lasts for whole year, and it doesn’t get affected by pest. The peasants have experienced that grains stored in tin or aluminium or any other metal or plastic cans get affected by pests.
Surprisingly, the silos are safe from the rodents while the villages infested with them. Also, the people don’t kill them or other animals or birds. The people of high castes may occasionally attack the untouchable casts is another matter!

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 Note on Cow-dung:

 Some time ago the Indian Petro-Chemicals Limited (IPCL), Baroda came out with a chemical for waterproofing treatment of mud walls. The offer came through CAPART, Delhi to use it on experimental basis, at 90% subsidy on its cost, on the first 50 houses built for the tribal, under RLEGP. Being skeptical about such industrial products about its cost, economy, and the after-effects etc. we declined. Instead, we suggested using traditional cow dung wash on the walls. The chemical was highly toxic. Thankfully, IPCL had a good sense of withdrawing entire stock from the market, perhaps in good time.
Traditionally the tribal and villagers use cow dung for finishing the mud floors and mud walls. They also use it for the grain silos made of mud, or apply it on bamboo silos. People must have observed that pest does not affect the grain stored in such a condition. From the Vedic times, ‘Agnihotra’ – a ritual with fire – uses cow dung, which is believed to purify environment. Are these superstitions? Perhaps IITs and IPCLs could divert some of their resources to understand cow dung. We should not be surprised, though, with use of chemical fertilizes and pesticides even the cow dung may found to be ‘fouled’!

© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

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