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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.

15 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
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.

Photo of Shikha Dixit
Team

Dear Deepshikha, I find your idea really innovative. I have read through your proposal and really liked the concept. I have a few suggestions which you may consider:
1. Please give some idea about the type of farmers you propose to connect. Are these farmers into food crops or cash crops? Are these from the same village or different ones and if they are small-holding farmers?
2. What type of urban families are you planning to include? Nuclear/ Joint.... rich/ poor.... ?

If you could add these details, the reader will be able to better imagine the approach.

Our team has also submitted an idea for this call (in a different theme though). It would be really kind if you could review it and advise us on needful edits. Thanks!

Best Wishes,
Shikha

Photo of Deepshikha
Team

Hi Shikha!

Thank you so much for going through our project and liking it! In the past week, our team has done some surveys in the villages we aim to work in, and on the basis of that I am creating an infographic, wherein most of the questions you posed in point 1 will be clarified. Once I upload the infographic, I will message you. I would really appreciate it if you would review it and provide suggestions on the same!

Regarding Point 2, we would primarily be looking at urban families who are financially stable or well-off, and have the economic means to be able to afford leasing land from farmers in a rural area for a minimum period of 4-5 years, and are able to visit the farmer and his/her family regularly over the course of the lease period.

And yes, definitely, I would love to go through your project and review it! Will do so today itself.

Warm regards,
Deepshikha

Photo of Russell Davis
Team

Also could you send some project photos that we can combine into a project collage and for the project website?

Photo of Deepshikha
Team

Yes, will do!

Photo of Russell Davis
Team

Hello Deepshikha, We had a great conversation yesterday and on behalf of H2CI we look forward to working together and combining our efforts. Could you send me some of the background on the regions you are supporting, some demographic data, and material related to the high suicide rates of the local farmers. We have similar problems in a project area we are addressing here in Alagoas where they have the highest number of suicides in all of Brazil. Thank you.

Photo of Deepshikha
Team

Hello Russ. Yes, absolutely, I will send them to you! Really sad to hear that farmers in other parts of the world are in a similar situation as well.

Photo of Russell Davis
Team

Hi Deepshikha,
I would like to discuss combining your project into our proposal that covers similar projects in Brazil and Africa. We have experience working with farmers in India and have strategic relationships with various government, NGOs, and TNAU. I think if you were to join our project we can be more effective and likely to get approval under this program. Please provide your contact details so we can speak ASAP.
The H2CI Consortium is all about doing more together than any of us can do alone.
Russ Davis, Chairman H2CI. Let´s talk ASAP.
h2c.research@gmail.com

Photo of Deepshikha
Team

Hi Russ,

Sure! My id is deepshikha@cultureaangan.com, and I've just sent you an introductory email. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Photo of Dima Boulad
Team

Congrats on identifying this gap!
Do you have a shortlist (or a start of one) of the farmers who you will be starting to work with? It would also be a good idea to imagine them, by creating personas, so you can work better towards understanding their needs. This is one of my favourite guides for creating solutions with a good Human Centred Lens: https://www.ideo.com/post/design-kit
I also see a good potential in a name that can go visual! Bridge of Harmony, Farming collective.. It would be a good idea to start visualising those names to create an image for the organisation!

Photo of Deepshikha
Team

Hi Dima! Thank you! I'm afraid we have a very rudimentary list at the moment, as we just came up with this idea a couple of weeks ago. It is however, in one of the locations where we do have a prior tourism-based project, so the local people are already familiar with our organization and what we do. In the next couple of weeks, we are going to try and conduct an awareness generation meeting in the village to add more names to the list, and gain some better clarity on the needs as well. Lots of work to be done on our end for sure :)

What you suggested is a lovely idea, thank you so much! I will go through the Design Kit and aim to make our project as visual as possible as you suggested.

Photo of Dima Boulad
Team

I'm glad this suggestion resonated with you! If you wish to update your application with some of the findings you get, don't hesitate to do so before June 4th, so we can go over them together and suggest additions!

Photo of Deepshikha
Team

Hi Dima, sorry for the late response to this! Absolutely, we are in the process of gaining the information in order to make this proposal more visual, and looking forward to sharing it here! :)

Photo of Daniel Ojulu
Team

Quite interesting concept I must say given the fact you are aiming at bridging the rural farmers- urban dwellers beyond the economic perspective.

How do you intend to bring the urban dwellers on board? What peculiar mechanism and incentives will be given to stop them buying land and rather engage in a lease arrangement

Photo of Deepshikha
Team

Hi Daniel! Lots of urbanites in cities in India today want to get out of the crowded cities and get closer to nature, and are interested in unique offbeat experiences, which is why rural tourism is something that is growing at a steady pace. In addition, urban customers, especially the younger consumers, prefer to make a sustainable, ethical and environmentally conscious choices. We intend on building a marketing campaign that taps into this mindset, and also generates awareness as to why this would be a better choice than buying land from the farmers, and especially what happens to a farmer's family once they sell off their land. In addition, at the beginning, we also aim to target our clients who are currently/ have already visited one of our other destinations, all of which are focused on ethical agro-tourism and the concept of homestays with families in the village. With them having experienced the rural way of life, staying with a host family and sharing experiences and stories, we think that they would be the most responsive to our Bridge of Harmony concept.

Regarding the mechanism and incentives, we intend for the lease to be of a long period, say 5-10 years, during which the urban family will have a constant supply of organic produce directly from the farm. For the produce that gets sold at the farmer's market, we are toying with the concept of a profit-sharing system between the farmer and the urban dweller, but we aren't sure about this yet, we have to iron this out. In addition, the urban dweller would get to stay with, share meals and connect with the farmer and his family, the kids could experience rural life, the urban dweller would get to learn farming techniques from the farmer, and get plenty of chances to dabble in farming. Over the course of the lease period, the urban dweller becomes close with the farmer and his family. In a way it is similar to our rural destination concept, but it is just one where the initial impact has a narrower focus, i.e. uplifiting the farmer and his family.