Top 10 Organic Crusaders in India
The conventional form of agriculture has finally begun to show its ugly face. After years of abuse from excessive use of pesticides, the soil quality not only got robbed of its nutrients but also began to deprive of any potential use for the future. This has severely impacted the Indian agricultural productivity. Thankfully, few farmers and individuals took the course of organic farming and have been promoting this practice to this day. Today, organic food consumption has slowly begun to knock every door and make its way to the kitchen, globally.
The country has slowly begun to understand the importance of organic food.
With growing concerns about health, people have opted for organic food. Despite being the largest organic producers in the world, India is yet to taste the complete success of organic farming due to lack of impeding factors: rising input costs, lack awareness, limited market etc. Although only a few parts of the country have transitioned to organic farming, it has enormously impacted many farmers’ lives for good. Let’s catch a glimpse into the lives of some of the well-known organic people, who through years of effort have sailed endlessly overcoming these impeding factors, bringing change to our Indian agriculture and removing the obstacles to organic farming.
1) Kamala Pujhari: A 69-year-old tribal agricultural activist, Kamala Pujhari, hails from Koraput. She first made headlines for campaigning against chemical farming. She has preserved over 100 traditional paddy varieties, along with other spices like black cumin, sesame, turmeric etc. Her work has gathered global attention which mainly involves around introducing several tribal villagers to organic farming practices. In 2004, following her strong campaign against chemical farming, the Odisha government awarded her with “Best Farmer Award”. This Republic Day, the Govt. of India awarded her with prestigious Padma Shri for her outstanding contribution to organic farming practices. Currently, she is serving on the Odisha Planning Board.
2) Vasrambhai Jagdish Prasad Parikh: Another Padma Shri awardee for 2019. Jagdish Prasad is known as Cauliflower King, for his organic farming and cultivation of cauliflower. Hailing from Sikar - Rajasthan, he is the recipient of the 1st National Grassroots Innovation Awards (2001) for developing a new variety of cauliflower named as “Ajitgarh” Selection. It is slightly different from regular cauliflower. He is also known to hold a Limca Book of Record for growing these unbelievably sized cauliflowers for the last 30 years.
3) Bharat Bhushan Tyagi: A renowned name in the agricultural space, Tyagi is known to be amongst the pioneers of organic farming. Hailing from Bulandshahr, Tyagi is credited to have developed a state of the art research & training centre in his native village of Uttar Pradesh. He has received numerous accolades including the Progressive Farmer Award by the Prime Minister. He is one among 12 agriculturists who was conferred with Padma Shri for 2019.
4) Babulal Dahiya: Joining the list is Padma Shri awardee for 2019, Babulal Dahiya. Hailing from Pittaurabad, Satna district (Madhya Pradesh), he is known for his organic farming techniques. A retired Postmaster, Babulal began practising organic farming on his 8-acre land. So far, he has collected 110 traditional varieties of rice to date. These varieties can be cultivated using minimum water. He started a Sarjana Samajik Sanskritik and Sahityik Manch, that served as an educative medium to document and disseminate information about traditional seed varieties to many. The State Biodiversity Board, inspired by his initiative started a Beej Yatra to collect indigenous varieties of vegetables and medicinal plants. Till date, they have collected over 1600 varieties from 24 districts.
5) Hukumchand Patidar: An organic farmer and founder of Swami Vivekananda Agricultural Research Farm, Patidar practises organic farming in Jhalawar, Rajasthan. His story was featured in Amir Khan's Satyameva Jayate. He is the recipient of Padma Shri for 2019. A resident of the Manpura village, it all started in 2004, and since then he continues to inspire many to adopt organic farming. Crops grown on his farm include wheat, barley, gram, fenugreek, coriander etc. Apart from India, he also exports his produce to countries like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, France, and Korea.
6) Yadpalli Venkateshwar Rao: Since 2005, Rao became active in organic farming after realising that even though fertilisers double his revenue and yield, they also cause a hazardous impact on health. He has organised numerous awareness programmes across the AP & Telangana region to motivate farmers to shift to organic farming. His Raithu Nestham foundation promotes organic farming practice in both the States. With his reach on the internet, Rao had recently started campaigning about the usage of millets and its health benefits. This son of Guntur soil also became Padma Shri awardee on 26th Jan 2019.
7) Satyajit and Ajinkya Hange: This Pune sibling-duo quit their corporate career to venture out as organic farmers. The Hange brothers started from a small patch of 2-acre land initially, where they grew varieties of pomegranate and desi tur dal (pigeon pea), and reared 20 indigenous Gir cows. Today they practice organic farming on a 20-acre farm, whose annual turnover is nearly Rs 3 crore. Till date, they have successfully trained more than more 2000 farmers across the country and continue to do so. The duo was also welcomed by esteemed institutes like the Welingkar and IIM Indore for case studies and lectures. With a quest to make organic produce accessible to masses, the brothers have set up a community initiative called OrganicWe, where they set up their first farmer’s market at Dadar in Mumbai.
8) Subhash Palekar: A Padma Shri awardee, Subhash Palekar is a celebrated name in the agriculture sector. An agriculture scientist, he is known to have propounded the cost-effective zero-budget natural farming. The ZBNF technique involves zero fertilisers, insecticides and only 10% of water will be used for irrigation in comparison to conventional farming. His method is currently being implemented in the majority of South Indian states & his native Maharashtra. Also, he is continuously involved in imparting knowledge to farmers throughout India through workshops, seminars etc. Some are held in collaboration with NABARD. He has authored books in vernacular languages on ZBNF techniques.
9) Parakkadavu Service Cooperative Bank: Parakkadavu, a village in Ernakulam has its residents unanimously investing their time in organic farming. Interestingly, the driving force behind this initiative is a local bank, Parakkadavu Service Co-operative Bank who through an organic farming programme motivates people to implement organic farming with the primary goal of helping them achieve self-sufficiency by producing unadulterated vegetables, paddy, fish, meat, eggs and milk. The bank in addition to attractive loan schemes, subsidies and Kisan Credit Cards, also supplies organic pesticides, necessary seeds and is equipped with a manure depot to provide organic manure. With the active involvement of about 800 people in the last four years, around 25 unproductive fields in the village are now witnessing greens sprouting from the ground.
10) Likhita Bhanu & her mother Padmaja Bhanu: The Founders of Terra Greens Organics, A Hyderabad based company started by a mother-daughter duo,. Likhita spent her childhood watching her mother grow crops in their farms located on the outskirts of Hyderabad. However, with the quest of making organic food accessible to all, this practice of growing organic took the shape of full-fledged business, it is today. Through a tie-up with around 4000 plus farmers, Terra Greens supplies more than 90 products including pulses, spices, beverages and breakfast mixes in various online and offline stores across India. The company runs its distribution centres in 5 states and supplies products to 500 retail chains and outlets.
A salute to our organic heroes. Do you know any organic crusader in your region, doing good to nature and the neighbourhood? Share their story with us.