With A Yearly Turnover Of Rs 3.5 Crore, Ex-Techies’ Farming Organisation Has Increased Marginal Farmers’ Income By 20-30%

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Have you thought of investing your hard-earned money in farming, a business which is prone to losses due to weather conditions, price fluctuations, heavy labour cost and returns are not guaranteed? You may ask me, “How can you even ask us this question?”  But former corporate employees Vijayakumar and Vasanth Kumar Mani, who started ‘I Support Farming’, are changing the farming game with guaranteed profits; conditions applied though, for investors in farming.

Efforts For Good spoke to Vijayakumar Mani to know more about the initiative and how it is increasing farmers revenue by 20-30% and delivering profits to investors.

How and when ‘I Support Farming’ started

“I am an engineering graduate and my brother, an agricultural graduate. We both worked in corporates before founding ‘I Support Farming’ in 2016. Along with our corporate jobs, we were doing farming in a 7-acre land in Cuddalore for 15 years. Due to this, we were regularly in touch with farmers was aware of their struggles,” shares Vijayakumar.

During weekends, he and his brother used to travel to Cuddalore to manage the farm. They used to do three cycles of farming – two paddy cycles and one for black gram. But the other nearby farmers were doing only one or two cycles.

I Support Farming

“When we inquired, the farmers said that they do not have enough money to afford more than that. To cultivate paddy it costs Rs 25,000 per acre for a span of three months. Either the farmers get money from a lender at higher interest rates or pledge their jewellery. After harvesting, the farmers get a profit of Rs 10,000 for three months of hard work. That is the reason many marginal farmers are quitting farming and working in cities for a daily wage of Rs 300 which fetches them a decent income every month,” he informs. There is also the issue of middlemen after harvesting.

In addition, the farmers fail to adapt to new technology or practices. Cuddalore is a flood-prone area and every year farmers lose their farms due to submerging of their paddy fields. While Vijayakumar adopted Samba Sub, a variety of paddy introduced by Tamil Nadu agriculture department, which can withstand flood water for over two weeks, the other farmers did not adopt.

The idea of ‘I Support Farming’ sparked during 2015 floods in which Cuddalore is one of the worst flood-hit places in Tamil Nadu.

Vijayakumar narrates, “We sent a message to all our friends saying that we were going for relief work to Cuddalore. If you want to help kindly let us know. The very next minute, we got calls from many cities across India. The support we got was overwhelming. The problem we faced is that donors came till Pondicherry and Cuddalore to drop relief materials but the real people who needed help were further 10-15 km away, in villages. We realised that there are people who want to help but they are not aware who needs help. That’s when we thought of building a platform which connects people from the city and the farmers.”

The first two farmers

After the floods, the brothers brainstormed ideas on how to solve the farmers’ issue. They approached two farmers near their farm and started working with them on six acres of land. It wasn’t an easy task to convince the two farmers to collaborate with them.

“Though The farmers knew us for so long they thought that we have ulterior motives to grab their land or to evade income tax. To get their confidence we paid the lease amount in advance and also we promised them 60% of the profits,” he reveals.
Vijayakumar then reached out to their relatives and friends to invest in farming. They happily agreed to invest in the idea after having an interactive session with the participating farmers.

“We started off with the paddy crop, which gives 100% profits. The initiative got good results. The first produce was directly sold to the bulk buyers who quote a higher price,” he shares.

From 2 to more than 200 farmers

‘I Support Farming’ follows an approach called ‘Lead Farmer approach’. Influential farmers are first on-boarded and then through them, the other farmers are convinced to join the organisation. The ‘farmers’ score’, which evaluates the farmers based on a checklist. Today the organisation works with 200+ farmers in 700 acres of farmland.

Operation model

The organisation follows a farmer-first approach. In the event of calamities insurance covers the losses but in the event of pest attacks, the investors and the organisation gets profits only after paying to the farmer. This is made clear to the investors before they invest in any crop.

“The key thing is we get the money only if the investors get money.”

Farmers are given the required inputs, seeds, fertilisers and machinery instead of money to make sure all the money is utilised to grow the crop. Labour charges are directly paid to labourers via the organisation.

Field team visit the farmers regularly and give necessary inputs. Every one of them is equipped with a tab and the app, which enables them to record the details from the farm and upload it on the server. The team sitting in Chennai monitors all the inputs and gives required advice.

I Support Farming
Pest monitoring by field operators in the farm

The harvest is sold to the highest bidder, which eliminates two or three stages of middlemen. The profits are shared among farmers, investors and the organisation. Recently, the organisation had started animal farming.

Efforts For Good take

What ‘I Support Farming’ started is a much-needed initiative to help marginal farmers who are exploited by every section of the society of their sweat. It is time we as a nation should support the farmers and bring back the glory in agriculture.

Also Read: She Builds Biogas Plants In Bihar Villages To Provide Electricity, Fuel And Better Crop To Marginalised Farmers

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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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Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

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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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It's not how much we give
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