Most of us experience a calling at some point in our lives, something like Mother Teresa had in a moving train or SRK had at the NASA launch station. Yet many of us fail to respond to it. Working as an IT professional in California, Madhuchandan Chikkadevaiah too experienced a calling: to come back to his village Mandya and help the distressed farmers reeling under debt. He chose to abandon his sparkling career in the Valley and flew back to India in August 2014 to kickstart a revolution in organic farming. Today, that revolution is known as Organic Mandya.”
The state in Mandya:
Mandya is a small, perennially irrigated typical village, just about 100km off Bengaluru along the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway. In the financial year 2014-15, Mandya farmers owed Rs 1,200 crore as loans to banks. In July 2015, more than 20 sugarcane farmers had committed suicide. Debt-trap, falling crop prices, unseasonal rainfalls and lack of access to best farming practices had made the situation in the entire village grim. There was also no direct access to the market and the farm-produce had to be routed through middlemen. This had forced many farmers to migrate to cities and do menial jobs for mere survival.
The Birth of Organic Mandya:
Madhu was deeply disturbed to see such situation in his village where he had spent his childhood. He decided to organize the farmers of Mandya under one brand through which they could sell their products directly to customers. He noticed that organic farming – the practice of farming with minimal use of chemicals and with techniques to preserve the natural fertility of soil – had caught up with some of the farmers, and decided to use it as a distinguishing feature of the brand. With Rs. 1 crore pooled from his friends and colleagues, he founded Mandya Organic Farmers Cooperative Society and registered the brand ‘Organic Mandya’. The Cooperative brought together 240 organic farmers who would use best farming practices to grow crops like rice, pulses and spices and sell their produce via the Organic Mandya shop.
To attract customers, the shop was opened on the busy Bengaluru-Mysury highway, next to an organic restaurant also started by Madhu. The shop offered monthly grocery baskets of Rs. 999, Rs. 1,499 and Rs. 1,999 which comprised of rice, dals, edible oils, personal healthcare products, spices and beverages. To connect people more closely to farmers and to organic farming, Madhu started a number of initiatives under ‘Organic Tourism’ in which city dwellers will volunteer to work in a farm for a day and learn organic farming. Called Sweat Donation Campaign, the initiative attracted over 1,000 volunteers in few months time and became hugely popular among the residents of Bengaluru. Another programme, called Farm Share, allowed families to take up half to two acres of land on rent for Rs. 35,000 and rejoice the process of growing their own food via organic farming. They would get assistance from an Organic Mandya farmer who would get a part of the rent money. After the period of three months, the family could choose to either keep the yield for personal consumption or sell it to Organic Mandya. These initiatives did not only enthuse people with the idea of organic farming which is safe and efficient in the long run, but also provided a source of income and labour to farmers.
The road ahead:
Today, after around six months of being fully operational, Organic Mandya is getting revenue worth crores. Infact, within the first four months, it generated Rs. 1 crore of revenue. The Cooperative has 500 organic farmers under its umbrella who cultivate close to 200 acres of land. Madhu plans to scale up the business by roping in more consumers as well as make the growth sustainable. He is currently trying to get 10,000 families onboard which he expects will yield close to Rs. 30 crore of revenue.
The example of Organic Mandya shows what a right merger of technology, business expertise and the hardworking farmers of our country can achieve.
The efforts of Madhuchandan who has breathed in a new life into the farming sector of Mandya and at the same time, has promoted the novel idea of organic farming. The Logical Indian also encourages people living in or near Bengaluru to pay a visit to the farms of Organic Mandya and experience the joy of farming in the rural hinterland.