From Bihar’s ‘Kisan Chachi’ To UP’s ‘Hi-Tech Banana King’ – 10 Padma Shri Winners Of 2019 Who Promote Organic Farming

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The Padma Shri Awards 2019 have been conferred upon as many as ten farmers from across nine Indian states who have left their mark in agriculture, be it through progressive, innovative methods or by preserving the traditional farming practices sans the use of chemicals or mechanisation. At a time when heavy use of chemicals in agriculture is raising serious health concerns, the recognition of organic farmers across India would surely boost the much-needed change in farming practices.

Rajkumari Devi

Rajkumari Devi, everyone’s beloved ‘Kisan Chachi’ from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, has brought the rural women from her village out of the confines of home and hearth to the forefront of farming and earning. Once a voiceless housewife, Rajkumari discovered a new window of opportunity for her struggling family when she shifted to organic farming of vegetables in the mere two and a half bighas of the family plot, originally meant for tobacco cultivation.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture

Soon, Rajkumari started making jams, jellies and pickles from her produce and ventured out into the local market, now as a businesswoman. She marketed her products across villages in a bicycle, which earned her the epithet ‘Bicycle Chachi’. Rajkumari roped in local women who formed Self Help Groups among themselves to participate in farming and small scale cottage businesses.

Babulal Dahiya

72-year-old Babulal Dahiya is a postmaster and poet-turned-paddy farmer from Pithaurabad village in Madhya Pradesh. In a  two-acre plot, he has revived 110 indigenous varieties of rice in a completely organic manner.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture

Babulal, an adept poet and storyteller in the local Bagheli language, unearthed the names of a few unknown varieties of paddy in the tribal folklores he used to recite. This fuelled his interest to preserve these endangered varieties which were once an integral part of the traditional cuisine. Since 2005, he has been collecting paddy seeds from farmers across India and has sown them in his own land. He is also growing around 100 varieties of grains, pulses and vegetables in another 6 acres of land.

Vallabhbhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya

The 96-year-old farmer from Junagarh, Gujarat was the one to introduce carrot in the food plates of Gujarat. Before 1943, no one in Gujarat was aware that carrots are edible for humans, in fact, quite nutritious. Vallabhbhai, a school dropout teenager back then, was helping his father in their family farm when out of curiosity he tried tasting a carrot from the cattle feed. He persuaded his father to grow and sell this new vegetable, which became a common addition to the Gujarati cuisine in no time.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture

Vallabhbhai has developed the highly nutritious and high-yielding ‘Madhuvan Gajar’ carrot variety. Aside from practising organic farming throughout his life, the ‘Madhuvan Gajaron ke Vidhaata’ (God of Madhuvan Gajar) also started drip irrigation and mulching methods in the state.

Kanwal Singh Chauhan

This progressive farmer from Sonepat, Haryana brought prosperity to the farming families in his village Aterna by promoting the cultivation of HM-4 hybrid variety of baby corn. Presently, Aterna is the top producer of baby corn in India. Chauhan also introduced organic farming to mushroom, sweet corn and tomato in his village, benefitting over 5,000 farmers.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture

Kamala Pujhari

A tribal woman from Koraput, 69-year-old Kamala Pujhari was appointed by Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik as a member of the Odisha Planning Board in 2018. She is a noted agricultural activist, who is known to have convinced local tribal villagers to ditch chemicals and switch to organic farming practices.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture
Credits: New Indian Express

Kamala first came to the limelight for preserving over a hundred traditional paddy varieties as well as endangered breeds of black cumin, sesame, turmeric, maha Kanta, phula, ghantia etc. In 2004, she was adjudged the best woman farmer by the Odisha Govt.

Jagdish Prasad Parikh

Jagdish Prasad Parikh is an unlettered farmer from Ajitgarh village in Rajasthan, whose name has entered the Limca Book of Records for growing one of the largest cauliflowers of the world – the ‘Ajitgarh variety’ which weighs 25.5 kg. 

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture

Interestingly, Parikh has earned his name and fame through his astounding agro-innovations using traditional methods, despite having no proper scientific know-how. In 2017, he received an IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) for his high-yielding and pest-resistant innovative crops.

Hukumchand Patidar

He is the founder of Swami Vivekanand Agricultural Research Farm in Jhalawar, Rajasthan, from where organic crops are exported to Australia, Germany, France, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. In fact, students from these countries frequent Patidar’s farm to learn organic farming from him.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture
Patidar (right) receiving an award for his contribution

Patidar has been practising organic farming since 2004 in his 40 acres of land. Despite suffering initial losses, he has overcome many roadblocks to become one of the pioneers of organic farming in India.

Bharat Bhushan Tyagi

Tyagi, a science graduate from Delhi University, has been practising organic farming for over thirty years in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh. He has trained over 1,00,000 farmers and their families in organic farming and has established an agricultural research and training centre in his village.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture
Credits: Karbanic 

Venkateswara Rao Yadlapalli

This organic farmer from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh has harnessed modern-day technology to promote organic farming among thousands. He has recently launched mobile apps on natural and allied farming.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture
Credits: Deccan Chronicle

Besides, he is the proprietor of three popular magazines – ‘Rythunestham’, ‘Pasunestham’ and ‘Prakruthi Nestham’ – focussing on natural farming, animal husbandry and horticulture respectively. Every year, Yadlapalli also proffers felicitations and awards for organic farmers with remarkable achievements.

Ram Saran Verma

Uttar Pradesh’s ‘Hi-Tech Banana King’ Ram Saran Verma introduced tissue culture to generate tremendous produce of bananas in the wheat-dominated lands of Daulatpur. Born in a farmer family with only 4 acres of land, Verma had to sacrifice his dreams of higher studies due to financial constraints. In his youth, he travelled far and wide to learn newer agricultural methods from farmers and agro-scientists. When his proposal of banana farming was turned down by his family seniors, he started the same on his own in only 1 acre of land.

Padma Shri 2019 Agriculture

Within a few years, his name was known far and wide for the incredible profits he earned. Today, his methods have facilitated over 50,000 farmers from neighbouring villages.

In the animal husbandry sector, Sultan Singh has been awarded for his contribution to pisciculture along with Narendra Singh for dairy-breeding.

Efforts For Good salutes the amazing achievements of all these organic farming crusaders of India and congratulates them on receiving the prestigious Padma Shri awards.

Also Read: 10 Social Entrepreneurs Who Made 2018 A Little Better For All Of Us

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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