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Bridge of harmony-Save the farmer, Save the Agriculture

We aim to bridge the urban & rural disconnect via a pilot initiative that brings farmer and urban families together in a Farming Collective.

Photo of Deepshikha

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

In India, the state of farmers is a very dire one. Most of the landholdings are fragmented, there is major lack of access to good quality seeds, fertilizer or equipment, and conditions such as drought or flooding destroy harvest. In addition, there is a major lack of proper agricultural marketing and market access for the farmers, thus most of the times farmers are forced to sell their produce to middle men or agents in the village at severely low prices, who then go on and sell the product to the consumer at a much higher profit. Add to this the fact that often farmers are denied loans by banks, or offered them at rates as high as 36%, many farmers find themselves in debt, and having to look for alternative sources of employment outside the village. The situation is so dire, that it is estimated that every 41 minutes a farmer commits suicide in India. However, increasingly more urban people are looking at buying agricultural land and dabbling in farming. They buy the land for cheap from farmers who feel it best to sell the land, and end up becoming landless migrants in towns and cities, often earning a minimal wage working as laborers. Culture Aangan’s bridge of harmony aims to foster a connection between urban dwellers and farmers by creating a farming collective with urban dwellers and farmers. The farmer leases out a section of his land to a family, gains access to better materials as a result, and the harvest is divided into three parts; one part goes to the farmer and his family, one to the urban dweller, and the rest is sold at a farmer’s market or online.The urban family gains fresh organic produce, engages with the farmer, learns farming techniques, shares meals with the farmer’s family, and get a first hand opportunity to learn about rural India. In addition, the bridge also aims to bring all parties together via engaging together in programmes about sustainable agriculture, skill building workshops etc. Culture Aangan will be the Implementing Agency.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our direct beneficiaries for the pilot project are 10 farmers in the Sindhudurgh region of Maharashtra, and 10 urban families. The farmers will gain access to better tools, fertilizers, seed varieties, as well as better and fairer market access where there are no agents involved. They will gain an alternate and viable means of livelihood that doesn't take away from their farming activity. The urban family will benefit from a constant supply of organic produce, get the opportunity to farm, live with a farmer family and learn about rural India. In addition there will also be indirect beneficiaries who will benefit with an increase in visitors to the villages, i.e., the artisans, local youth and women self help groups in the villages.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

There are a lot of great initiatives aiming to connect farmers to better fertilizers, farm equipment, and even connecting farmed food products directly to consumers, helping customers make conscious choices. However, in all of these the farmer remains an abstract concept for the urban dweller, and there is no chance of developing any kind of connection: emotional , social, personal, or for there to be any sharing of experiences or skills. We aim to create a shared community of farmers and urban dwellers, thus deepening the connection between urban and rural and creating a stronger base for problem sharing and solving. In doing so, we not only build connections, but the farmers gain much better livelihoods as well. In this way the farmer gets the chance to thrive in his/her environment, and both parties slowly accept changing social dynamics and interpersonal relations, leading to harmonious coexistence.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.
  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Culture Aangan is an organization dedicated to development projects at the grass root level, in the sectors of agri- community tourism, revival of traditional art and culture, and education.
http://www.cultureaangan.com/

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

My childhood was spent in the villages with my grandparents which lend me the sensitivity and understanding of the rural way of life. That has supported me in strengthening my roots. Unfortunately, my children, born in a big city like Mumbai completely lack this grounding,and like most other urban children associate rural with being backward, failing to grasp the immense cultural richness and traditional knowledge that exists in villages, and the enterprising, if challenging way of life there.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

For the past 20 or so odd years, farmers have been stuck in a circle of exploitation, debt and poverty. This has led to agitation, unrest in the country and has even had drastic consequences such as farmers being killed in protests by the police, farmers joining the Naxal terrorist outfits in some parts of India, including Maharashtra. 12,000 farmers commit suicide every year, out of which 3,000 are from Maharashtra. Farmers are in a state of severe economic despair, and often don't have the means to afford food or education for their families. In addition, severe drought has been affecting several parts of Maharashtra for years, while other parts tend to have severe erratic rainfall, thus flooding and damaging crops.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Culture Aangan will be directly involving several scientific experts in pedology, crop science and environmental science. In addition, we will be approaching different state and government entities for collaboration to make use of government schemes. Several trainers will also be enlisted to provide skill development programmes. We have been engaging with government entities in Uttarakhand where we iare working in three villages to develop rural tourism, and several trainers in hospitality, tourism, skill development are providing training to the villagers. There has been a positive response, with more villagers getting interested in the concept of tourism. In addition, for our project in Andhra Pradesh, an agrotourism entrepreneur was invited to give a talk on entrepreneurship, which has made the villagers more enthusiastic to get involved in the project. In Maharashtra, Culture Aangan's programmes have provided increased livelihood opportunities to farmers, artisans, women and youth

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The community has several people who are well versed with traditional building techniques that are suitable for a warm and dry environment. The farmers are experts in traditional farming techniques with knowledge of the land. There are several educated, unemployed but enterprising youth who are ready to work, enterprising women who are well versed in regional cuisine and several artisans practicing unique art forms and sell merchandise that would be interesting for urban dwellers.

Geographic Focus

The project will be based in the state of Maharashtra, in the villages of Sindhudurg.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

18 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

No, this idea wasn't submitted to last year's BridgeBuilder Challenge, however, since the idea was submitted online, we have received some very valuable feedback for which we are very grateful. We have tried to incorporate all of the feedback that we have received into our project. In addition, after our fruitful discussions with Prof. Russell Davis, we have agreed to collaborate and integrate our project into the Rural Renaissance Project.

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Photo of Sai Nellore
Team

Dear Deepshikha, great idea to connect the farmers with the urban dwellers. Having read your proposal, have some suggestions.
Can you please elaborate on how the logistics would be managed.
Is there any technological intervention that is part of the project, say like an app to facilitate the interaction between farmers and the urban dwellers.

All the best with your efforts. Look forward to the project implementation.

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