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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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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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2,00,000 meals served

KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

94,06,607 Raised
Out of 1,00,00,000

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Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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