Akash Badave is the founder of Women on Wings’ partner Bhoomgaadi Organic Farmer’s Producer Company, a collective of 3,000 tribal organic farmers – out of which 30 percent are women – which aims at connecting the indigenous and diverse organic produce of the community with the urban market in India. He started his career in a corporate job at Barclays but felt no connection to the work environment. In 2012 Akash heard about the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship’ run by the Ministry of Rural Development. He applied, got accepted and was assigned to Dantewada, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
How the idea of Bhoomgaadi was sown
Once in Dantewada, Akash started figuring out the problems faced by agrarian and forest communities. The forests were increasingly becoming unavailable to a traditional tribal community. The alternative to foraging – agriculture – was of low yield, and the farmers were often unable to even cover their own needs. These communities also had their own advantages, such as their reluctance to resort to chemical fertilizers and pesticides which meant that promoting organic farming was not difficult at all.
In 2013, Akash started by building upon these community interests, making sure that the livelihoods of the tribal communities would be preserved as well as ensuring that the local produce got linked to the market and formed its own niche. Traditional crops were fast disappearing in urban areas, but in high demand due to their unique properties. The farmers needed to be connected to the market through collective efforts, because longer supply chains meant a lower percentage of the proceeds would actually reach the farmers. Akash organized a brainstorm of about 70 to 80 farmers from several neighboring villages along with a few government officials and students. This led to setting up Bhoomgaadi Organic Farmer’s Producer Company (Bhoomgaadi).
Still much to learn and harvest
Bhoomgaadi is currently working on multiple fronts to showcase the value of indigenous products to the urban clientele. Said Akash Badave: “We aim to make this connection as direct as possible and to bring the maximum value to the tribal communities and incentivizes cultivation and conservation of traditional crops, to help bring back diversity and sustainability. The plan is to make Dantewada a 100 percent organic district.”
Organic farming is promoted through a collective enterprise with the brand ‘Aadim’ – under which produce, available at organic stores in all major cities in India, is marketed. Akash Badave on his journey at Bhoomgaadi: “There is still much to learn, and even at this point there are more questions than answers, but despite the hardships I have enjoyed my journey, and the struggle was worth it. Just nine months at a corporate had made me miserable, yet I didn’t realize how fast the last eight years had passed. I guess that it is perfect, isn’t it?”
This news article is a summary of the article that was published in 8infinity.