Bringing back organic farming in Anantapur

December 14, 2016
By Rang De Team

Dharani is a collective of organic farmers and their products are sold in Bangalore and Hyderabad

Should we wait for a drought to conserve water?

Should we wait for erosion to conserve the soil?

Should we wait for a crop failure to adopt organic farming?

Should we wait for the total depletion of resources to adopt sustainable development?

No.

And that is exactly what Dharani, our impact partner in Andhra Pradesh, believes.

Working in one of the most drought-prone areas in India, Dharani, part of Timbaktu Collective, promotes organic farming and helps farmers become sustainable food producers.

Timbaktu is a collective of a number of cooperatives which work for the benefit of 20,000 families in 150 villages in three mandals of Anantpur district — Chennekothapalli, Roddam and Ramagiri. They work with women, children, the disabled and farmers.

Dharani, a federation and producer owned business enterprise, helps organic farmers with post production activities as well. Since August 2015, Rang De has helped them raise funds for their working capital needs.

The couple behind Dharani

During a particular time of the year, farmers knocked on the doors of Timbaktu asking for loans. Bablu ‘CK’ Ganguly, the founder, soon found out that the loans were being used for purchasing pesticides.

Which meant that farmers were going into debt poisoning their crops. Bablu strongly felt that the farmers had to switch to organic farming to preserve their way of life.

Initially, only 300 hesitant farmers decided to take up organic farming and now this number has reached a whopping 1,600.

Ganguly and his wife Mary purchased 32 acres of barren land in 1988, working with farmers to promote an organically sustainable lifestyle.

With their crops now healthy and devoid of chemicals, more and more farmers are signing up with each passing year. Their efforts have been regularly covered in media and they remain a source of inspiration to many of us involved in the development sector.

It has not been easy, though, as organic farming is labour intensive and requires more effort in comparison to farming using chemical fertilisers and pesticides but their success is proof that farming across the country can switch back to traditional methods.

Prior to their intervention, chemical methods of farming had extensively damaged the fertility of the soil. The products of the farmers are packaged and sold under the Dharani brand in Bangalore and Hyderabad

The farmers that have taken up organic farming are glad to share their success stories as well. With the help of The Logical Indian, Bagappa Chininti, a farmer from Anantapur shared his story earlier in the year.

I myself lost lakhs twice… and was indebted to the tune of Rs 4 lakhs at one point of time. Small farmers like us really can’t cope with such losses and debts.

Can you imagine having spent months, toiling under the hot sun and rain, caring for these plants like our own children, very often leaving our own children unattended? And then the middle man, the trader who buys our produce comes and says that the market is down and we will get half of what we would normally get? Or that the transport people are on strike and we can’t take your harvest? We are desperate then… desperate to get the harvest off our hands.

During this time, people from Dharani started talking with us about organic farming. It felt strange doing all the things which my father did but which I had forgotten over the years. You won’t believe it, but my chilli plants grew to almost 6 feet in height. I too couldn’t believe it, neither could my friends, relatives and other farmers. We harvested these plants 30 times! Some of these chillies we sold in the open market and some we sold to Dharani.

I hadn’t spent a penny on fertilisers or pesticides! This was really unheard of.

Not only do they help farmers adopt organic farming methods, Dharani also takes over their marketing and logistical responsibilities ensuring that farmers get a fair price for their efforts

The work that Dharani has done in the Anantpur district has gained them recognition far and wide.

Bablu was honoured with awards like the Ashoka fellowship in 1993, Oxfam fellowship in 1995, CNN-IBN Real Heroes Award in 2012 and numerous other awards for his achievements and contribution to society. Mary and Bablu were rewarded with the Couple of the Year Award by THE WEEK magazine in 2005 as well.

But ultimately, the greatest satisfaction that this couple gets is in securing the livelihoods of the community of farmers living in Anantapur.

Bablu Ganguly spoke at our fifth Rangdezvous held last year. Dharani is seeking a loan this year and you can support them and positively impact the lives of farmers from Andhra Pradesh. Invest here.

If you would like to get updates about your favourite organisation working hard to bring you closer to rural development, please write to empathy@rangde.org

You can read more about Bagappa’s story here