YAP proposal #368: Connecting Urban Consumers and Organic Farmers (Ekta Jaju, India)

I am Ekta Jaju and I describe myself as a social entrepreneur. I am an environmental filmmaker from the Film and Television Institute (FTII) of India and have also completed a Goldman Sachs scholarship programme on Women Entrepreneurship from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. I was also the Asia Team Leader for Project Survival Media at UN Climate Conference COP 15 and 17, Copenhagen and COP 17, Durban.

In early 2008, along with two other members, I co-founded the Environment Conservation Society (SwitchON), where the major sectoral focus is renewable energy, agriculture, sustainable transport, education, and well-being.

I have always been interested in indigenous methods of farming and a huge supporter of preserving the indigenous crop gene pool. I am a permaculturist.

ONganic (www.ONganic.in) is a social enterprise that connects small and marginal organic farmers with urban consumers.

Small farmers organized as a farmer producer company grow, process, and package the produce, which is marketed and sold by ONganic through both e-commerce and offline platforms.

ONganic promotes organically grown indigenous variety of non-perishable food products including cereals, pulses, flours, spices, dairy, and other healthy products.

Our unique supply chain enables us to keep our price lower than market and offer affordable organic alternatives to our consumers at their doorsteps while enabling farmers to earn higher incomes.

ONganic is a spin-off of Switch ON (www.SwitchON.org.in) and is supported by MSME, Yale School of Management, and IIM Calcutta.

Additionally ONganic was selected for
an entrepreneurship TV reality show by Govt of West Bengal, to identify, recognize and reward aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs having unique innovative start up ideas across all sectors

Currently Agriculture is plagued by too many steps and does little value addition—the supply chain is unregulated and disorganized. The food supply chain is very complex in rural areas where small farmers are not benefited in the traditional sales of their produces.

There is approximately a 400% price-hike on produce from farmer to the consumer. Distribution and Supply chains are sectioned with 5–7 intermediaries, who add little value.

It is very critical to develop models to connect farmers directly with consumers to ensure a steady income for farmers, and ensure that they are self reliant and self-sustaining.

Value-adding to produce such as, improving produce drying and packaging techniques can be profitable to farmers.

In turn, this will reduce farmer debts and incidences of farmer suicides in the country, which are on the rise. It also allows for producers and consumers to connect and come to a common platform through mutual trust and respect.

Organic farming is currently driven mainly by large farmers, as third-party certification is very expensive.

If small farmers can be aggregated to produce and process organic food directly and supply to the consumers through a unified front, the produce can become more affordable, at the same time benefit the farmers directly.

Initially we organized voluntary groups and Organic Melas to create awareness with consumers in urban pockets, but very soon realized that unless the marketing activities were not done in a financially sustainable manner, it will not provide a lasting solution. Thus ONganic Foods Pvt Ltd was launched to bridge the gap

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The goal of the organization is to develop a niche market for the non-perishable organic products and help the farmers reap direct benefits. The steps include identifying and forming groups of organic farmers and provide them with proper training. A shift from modern methods of chemical farming to organic farming is a transition phase for the farmers where they require support technically as well as financially.

The products require a market. The urban consumers have a growing demand for organic products. Thus, our social venture tries to create a linkage between the producers and the consumers eliminating all middlemen. we have tried to build a reputed brand name for the product and also look forward to expand our presence in the export sector.

The organic farming initiative along with the formation of the farmer producer company helped in the value addition to the products (which is required to surpass the grip of the middlemen).

Thus SwitchON has initiated a supply chain innovation, which attempts to create a sustainable agricultural framework for the rural marginal farmers in India. Organic farming was introduced not only to benefit the farmers in the long run, but also to save the environmental resources.

The innovative marketing method used by ONganic is inspired from the Tupperware model. Various avenues of marketing channels are used to reach out to the direct consumers.

ONganic initiative addresses the biggest ache point in organic food chain—reducing costs by connecting the farmers with the consumers and make it available at the consumer’s doorstep. Complete end-to-end solution—after understanding customer needs and pain points.

The ONganic initiative was started last year in June 2015, now we have marked our presence through our online website, one store and collaboration with retail outlets.

In ONganic we measure our success in terms of improvement of income of the farmers who are associated with organic farming. the initial years of transition the farmers suffer a significant loss but with proper support and guidance they are able to recover in two years time. The farmers’ income has increased by 20 – 30%, with the marketing support provided by ONganic.

ONganic has expanded its marketing presence both on online and offline marketing venues and procures its products from over 1000 small and marginal farmers all over West Bengal.

We also provide support to the farmers who want to shift to organic farming thus we have trained over 500 farmers.

The grant money will be used to train more farmers in organic methods of farming. As the organic food product trend is growing and the urban consumers are willing to pay more than the regular price for the nutritious chemical free products, we have encouraged more farmers to join the indigenous practice.

But with the emergence of green revolution, the indigenous method of cultivation is a lost art which only a few preserve, today we have research institutes and other organizations which train farmers.

The money will be used to train the interested farmer groups in organic farming practices. The training program will be divided into three phases and will be conducted with a group of 200 farmers.

In the first phase the estimated expense is 110,000 (September to October 2016)

  • Introduction to organic farming its potential benefits and the guidelines.
  • Process of sowing seeds
  • Preparation of liquid manure
  • crop rotation and combination cropping practices

Second phase, the estimated expense is 100,000 (November and December 2016)

  • Preparation of liquid manure (Amrutpani)
  • Preparation of organic pest management
  • Preparation of Vermicompost

Third phase, the estimated expense is 120,000 (January 2017)

Farmer groups will be taken to visit successful small farmer land and organize an interactive session with them. This is the last phase of the training where the new farmers will gain working knowledge from the already established farmers.

 

Blogpost and picture submitted by Ekta Jaju (India): bismita[at]switchon.org.in

The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.

 

This post is published as proposal #368 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

The first selection of the winners will be based on the number of comments, likes and views each proposal gets.

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