Have you ever thanked a ‘farmer’ while having your lunch or dinner?
At the very start of the interview, she raised this question to me and it hit my consciousness at the very moment.
Our negligent mind probably never realizes the value of the producer. While we sit comfortably in our dining chairs, relishing each bite of the hot and soft tasty chapatti, thousands of farmers give up in their battle of life. In the course of filling our stomachs, hunger kills them – Tragic but true. After completing her post graduation in Food Science and Technology from Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University in Jabalpur, Archana joined BAIF Research Development Foundation. Her first exposure to the deep rural pockets in Hoshangabad district brought to her notice the sorrowful conditions of farmers. “I realized that how undignified, unrecognized and disrespected a farmer’s life is.”, expresses Archana.
But is an ideal model for equitable distribution of resources and sustainable economic development sufficient to cater a farmer’s need?
What about the crop which he produces? Millets – one of the indigenous crops in India which many children of the present generation have not even heard of. A crop with such a high nutritional value, comparatively very low irrigation requirement and high tolerance level is undervalued in our country. It is presumed to be a food majorly for the lower economic classes and in the urban areas, it is primarily used to feed birds. On the other hand, to add a status symbol to their lifestyle, the same elite class of the society consumes oats and quinoa which are imported from other countries. All these aspects and prevailing scenario of cultivation and consumption of ‘wonder crop’ millet in India, gave Archana’s reformative thoughts a firm direction. Finally, while pursuing her M.A. in social entrepreneurship from Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, Archana gave her thoughts a platform for implementation. She did her first pilot project in Chhindwara in 2014. She has also piloted her project ‘Miraculous Millets’ in Seoni and Mandla.Presently working with her colleague Gaurav Jaiswal in his organization Agrini Samaj Kalyan Samiti, she has collaborated with Falam Sampada Kisan Udpadak Samiti comprising of 247 tribal farmers and also with two self help groups of 20 women. This network manages the entire process, right from production to collection, processing, packaging and marketing the product. These 20 women are being trained by Archana’s organization in collaboration with Nageshwar Charitable Trust. They learn the technical skills of processing the grains, packaging and also inculcate marketing skills. Through this, Archana also aims to provide a self-sustainable livelihood to rural women. For the pilot testing, she put up a stall for the sale of Kodo millets in Delhi Haat. “Kodo Millet is a substitute of rice for Diabetic patients. At the Delhi Haat, we got a great positive response and have also got repeat orders for its sale”, explains Archana delightfully. Her prime goal is to maximize benefits for the farmers and provide them proper markets with fair prices. With this objective, she has also started associating farmer organizations to organic stores.
Also a Changelooms Fellow, Archana gladly mentions how the fellowship has helped her understand and analyze her own idea in a better way that has led to an amplified impact of her project over the past few months.
At a time when the nation is losing both its resources and producers at an alarming rate, Archana’s initiative of inclusion of the undervalued and disrespected ‘farmer’ and a long forgotten crop ‘millet’ proves to be a step towards a brighter future for Indian Agricultural Sector.
Story by : Piyuli Ghosh | Compiled by : Abhishek Tilatiya
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