This section on Social Innovation is made possible with the support of Deshpande Foundation India.
The land stretches in font of us, brimming with ripe, luscious fruits. Our guides, Shrikrishna Khode, and his wife, Vimal, show us their plantation which is teeming with pomegranates. It is hard to believe that just over a year back, the plantation was missing and the land completely barren.
Shrikrishna and Vimal Khode belong to the village of Vijaygopal in Wardha district, 100 kilometres from Nagpur, Maharashtra. Wardha lies in the heart of Vidarbha – a name synonymous with agrarian disasters and farmer suicides. Not too long ago, Khode was facing crop failure and a mountain of debts. “I was burdened by the crop failures and debts,” says he, “but I had to keep my family going.”
Changing the face of Vidarbha
Vidarbha is infamous for making the news often for its farmer suicides. As of July 2015, Maharashtra had recorded over 1,300 farmer suicides, only deepening the crisis in the state. The reasons for the suicides are varied – from inefficient policies to mounting debts, farmers often take this drastic step as a way of ridding themselves of their burdens. But it is never the end of their problems – they leave behind their families who, along with grieving the loss of a loved one, must also cope with paying off the debts. Khode is no stranger to the problems a farmer in this region faces. He says, “The thought of suicide has crossed my mind. I just wanted my problems to end.”
In stepped Naandi Foundation. Disturbed by the situation our farmers were facing, Naandi decided to take some measures to help them out. It has started a project in the Wardha district, where it works directly with the farmers and helps them identify the best crop which is profitable, as well as remains a sustainable source of income. After consultations with various experts, with recommendations on what would be best suited for the soil in the region, and what would be economically most beneficial for the farmers, Naandi provides help every step of the way. This includes training the farmers on growing their crops, how to sell their produce, and more.
Being the proud owners of fruitful plantations
The Khodes are among the first people who were helped by Naandi. After several visits to the village, examining the soil and weather conditions, checking the market conditions, Naandi concluded that their land was best suited for cultivating a particular high value crop – pomegranate. Today, the couple are trailblazers in the project. Amongst the first ones to implement the project in Vijaygopal, the Khodes were involved in every step – from clearing the land for cultivation, to digging up the soil for plantations, to planting the pomegranate saplings.
Today, several farmer families, like Shrikrishna and Vimal are thriving because of this project. And it’s just the beginning of a change. Naandi ensures that the farmers use only the best, organic, non- chemical methods of farming.
Shrikrishna’s eyes fill with tears of gratitude when he speaks of Naandi’s efforts. “If it wasn’t for them, I’d still be in huge amounts of debt”, he says, “I owe Naandi everything. Today, I’m the proud owner of a pomegranate plantation, which is giving me great produce.”
This is just the beginning of great things to come; there are still several farmer families who need help. Naandi Foundation aims to help farmers prepare 1000 acres of high quality, pomegranate cultivations by 2017. They aim to do so by providing mounding of land and installation of drip irrigation equipment, top quality saplings and inputs for improving soil health, and stopping infestation by weeds and pests. In partnership with Mahindra and Mahindra, as part of the #Seedtherise campaign, Naandi has set up a campaign on Milaap, to help realise the dream of 1000 acres of pomegranate plantations by 2017. With your help, several farmers and their families will be able to plant and tend to high quality plantations, and come out of a cycle of debt and misery.
Click here to know more and contribute.
The Social Innovation Sandbox is a series chronicling novel solutions across the country that are seeking to transform life quality for the millions at the base of the pyramid in India.
The series is supported by the Deshpande Foundation India that is based out of Hubli and is building a nurturing ecosystem for entrepreneurship, innovation, and local, grassroots efforts so that young people can transform this growing country.