After identifying multiple needs of the Agariya community,
(Team field visit report link - https://www.ss.sristi.org/single-post/2017/06/01/Special-shoes-for-salt-farmers)
which a team of engineers and designers are working closely with, the team brainstormed and generated multiple concepts to tackle a few of their major problems and is hoping to make a change in their lives by the end of this summer school. Mentioned below are the identified needs and the selected concepts which the team is working on :-
Need for an effective way for digging wells to bore brine water for salt farming.
A typical salt farmer on average digs 10-15 wells (of 12-15 ft depth each) at the dawn of every salt farming season, out of which only 2-3 wells bore water. Each well is dug using a Phavada , and it takes 2-3 days to dig one single well (using Phavada) and hence around one month is spend in digging and searching for water after only which farming is started.
Any effective method to help farmer dig well faster and/or detect presence of water underground would save a lot of time and energy of the farmer during the farming season.
Concepts under development
1. A rotatory manual auger blade mechanism for drilling bore holes to procure brine water for salt farming. The team has made the first version of the prototype which involves a manual T-Handle welded to an Auger blade. The team performed the drilling trial and realized the need for an height adjustable handle to rotate the drilling blade. Team is currently developing a height adjustable clamping mechanism to allow rotation of blade at waist level for minimum load for the farmer.
2. Since the soil is muddy and has high salt content, the team came us with a hypothesis and decided to test it, in their next community visit. The hypothesis is based on the piece of information that salt farmer dig a 12-15ft deep well and then look for its texture and/or softness as an indicator of underlying brine water based on which they dig 40-50ft deep further. So the hypothesis being, the top soil which is directly above groundwater base will have high moisture content than the moisture content of soil with less/no/deeper groundwater base.
The team is designing experiment and building apparatus to test soil for its moisture content at surface and at 10 ft depth with expectations to see if there is any significant variation in the moisture content. One prototype is based on soil moisture sensor and Arduino unit while the other prototype is based on soil conductivity measurements.
Need to prevent direct contact with saline water while leveling for salt farming.
The team identified that for salt farming, an Agariya (a salt farmer) needs to level ground before growing salt crystals in the salt pans. This leveling of ground is done barefoot as the leveling isn't possible through conventional shoes or slippers and since the mud is very soft initially, whatever slippers and shoes they have, it gets inside the mud and the leveling gets tougher for them to perform.
A low cost frugal slippers to help salt farmer level surface more effectively with less or no contact with saline water. The team has decided to keep a wooden base as it has a large flat area, is light weight and most importantly, it's locally available. The team will be making three different prototypes of the slippers, with three different foot resting - insertion mechanism, one with normal rubber grip like a normal slipper, one with floater (Sandal) like grip and one with holding Velcro belts to fit in and wear with shoes. The idea was discussed with the salt farmers and they were excited to try such a product for leveling.
Currently, the wooden base for all the prototypes have been cut and brought to show shape. The team is working on the upper part parts and will soon complete all prototypes and will demonstrate it to the users.
The team found that the salt farmers in Kharaghoda District have gum boots available in their local markets, but most of the other communities of salt farmers don't have any shoes for salt farming. Barefoot salt farming leads to blisters, legions, bone deformities etc. The team is also looking for ways to get shoes to the communities which need them.