Pathbreaking research on natural methods to promote plant growth

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Phd on Sanjeevak co-supervised by Prof Tarak KateProfessor Tarak Kate is a core member of Faculty who has since the start of our Masters’ programme helped co-teach the sustainable agriculture modules. He is based in Maharashtra State in central India where he works with thousands of small farmers who have converted to organic production. He comes to South Africa every year for a month or two. His research with the Indian farmers revealed that these farmers use a growth promoter called Sanjeevak – a mix of cow dung, cow urine and molasses. Prof Tarak observed that this growth promoter worked but he did not know why. At the March 2012 graduation ceremony a Phd will be awarded by Stellenbosch University’s Soil Science Department to a West African student called Richard Orendo-Smith who decided a few years ago to conduct a scientific investigation of Sanjeevak in order to explain scientifically why it works. He realised that Sanjeevak was potentially a solution to millions of African farmers who are too poor to buy chemical inputs. But for it to be mainstreamed it would need to be validated by science.

Professor Tara Kate sent the following email to his friends and colleagues:

Dear friends,

Today, I have a special pleasure to share with you. One of my Ph.D.students in the faculty of Agri-Science in Stellenbosch University, who was guided by me, got a Ph.D. degree recently. I wish to share with you his letter which I received today. Although I served as a co-supervisor, I suggested him the problem and provided most of the guidance in his work that was found necessary.



Dear Prof. T. Kate

My defence took place yesterday afternoon and went reasonably well. I have been awarded the degree and will certainly attend the graduation ceremony taking place in March 26-29, 2012. I am sure by this time, you will be visiting South Africa and I will be honoured to have you attending the ceremony and take souvenir pictures to celebrate the occasion.  However, being my co-supervisor, you will in most likelihood be seating in the grandstand alongside Dr Rozanov who did an unbelievable job in supporting me until the very last moment.

Some time next week, I will be sending you the electronic copy of my dissertation that will be submitted to the university library electronic database. I strongly believe that this work is much yours than it is mine. It is certainly a true testimony of your vision and advocacy work for the use natural resources for food productivity but also that of the brave men and women of rural India who found innovative solutions to their pressing problems.

The scientific findings in my thesis and those in your reports certainly confirmed your primary hypothesis regarding the role of sanjeevak in food productivity.

I intend to write scientific papers using the findings in my thesis. I hope, you will be able to support me in any way possible when you do get in South Africa.

Warm regards
Richard Orendo Smith