Rudi Day 4: Deserts, Salt, Castor Seeds, and Hershey Kisses!

Today we had our earliest day yet (7am pick up) to make the drive to Surendranagar district. We picked up Payal-ben, our wonderful guide for all things RUDI and SEWA, and made the ~3 hour drive west. Our first stop (after picking up the salt farming coordinator) was the desert and salt farms. Our vehicle was definitely NOT made for off-roading, but thankfully our driver is, so we somehow made it onto the desert without getting too much air on the bumpy roads!

Four months of the year the desert is under 7 feet of water, so it was pretty incredible to see it so dry and barren.

Driving into the desert/salt flats.

The salt farming families go to live there during farming season in huts that they have to rebuild each year.

Hut the salt farming family lives in for 5 months of the year.

On the drive in, we were very surprised to see row boats on the dry ground, just waiting for the flooding season to arrive! See a video of the desert here.  We also learned about the salt flats and how they pump the water from ~50 feet down into pools that are evaporated by the sun and increasingly become more and more salty until you are left with Gypsum salt.

Pump bringing ~16% saline water into the first evaporation "pool".

Gypsum salt

Next we visited the Surendranagar district processing center, where we learned about RUDI processing operations and their castor seed procurement.  This district actually bundles many of the seeds, spices, and pulses (grains) together in an effort to increase sales, which has been very successful for them.

Surendranager district processing center

The Surendranagar district is performing better than the Mehsana district, so we are trying to understand the similarities and differences between them.  Surendranager has also been facilitating castor seed procurement for a year longer than Mehsana, so they have been able to work a lot of hiccups out of their system already.  The head of the farmer’s group was especially helpful and took us to his village to see the actual castor seed cleaning process in action.  See a video of the cleaning process here.

Loading 74kg bags of cleaned Castor seeds onto the delivery truck.

Team RUDI with the head of the farmer's group and his wife.

It’s definitely interesting to be the main attraction and it was a great place to hand out the Hershey kisses we had been carrying around for days to the village children :)

Hershey kisses:)

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4 Responses to Rudi Day 4: Deserts, Salt, Castor Seeds, and Hershey Kisses!

  1. Judith Kay says:

    Laura, Very interesting about the salt forming process. I always associate it with the sea but guess it forms in many places in the world. Someday you’ll have to tell us what the castor bean seeds are used for. The entire experience sounds fascinating and I hope you are able to help these hard working people sell their products and improve their lives. Envy your eating all that wonderful food!

  2. Hilary Evans says:

    All of the posts are so informative and fun to read; it’s so nice to be able to learn so much without having to pay those hefty tuition fees ! Can’t wait to hear all the details over the holiday and, eventually, see your photos. Thinking of you often. Love, Hil

  3. zach says:

    The video with castor seeds is fascinating – those guys must get Exhausted. There’s gotta be an easier way…!

  4. David Kay says:

    I’m intrigued by the salt farming when the pools of water dry up. Does the salt come from the desert floor or does it flow in? Maybe both? And 7 feet of water is a lot!