The Presbyterian Hunger Project awards BMCT seed grant for Organic Udaipur project,

Jaisamand default organic certification campaign and tribal women farmer-run production center to launch in Feb 2016

Gati fields 1   Gati fields 1   Gati fields 1  

Organic Jaisamand Project Description (as described in grant application)

1. In no more than 150 words, describe what you propose to do, who will benefit and why this project is needed.

In recent decades. the agrochem-intensive Green Revolution agricultural paradigm has devastated soil fertility, polluted waters, spawned vast rural cancer clusters, and caused hundreds of thousands of farmer suicides in northern and southern India. We’re attempting to kickstart a small contagious counterrevolution in Rajasthan by creating: a) an easily replicable model of a collectively certified organic farming village; b) the region’s first women-farmer-run production company & heritage seed saving center; c) fair trade marketing channels; and d) a year-long media campaign to enhance urban organic awareness and market demand. Our project aims to boost participants’ incomes 15~20%; increase their entrepreneurial skills & confidence; and protect their health, water quality and bio-diverse ecology as well as mainstreaming organic produce in neighboring urban communities.

2. How does the project propose to change the conditions that cause hunger in the community? What current realities lead you to take the approach you have chosen?

Currently most of Udaipur district’s 200,000+ farmers are tribal women with less than 2 acre holdings; “default organic” farming methods (they can’t afford the chemicals); and subsistence level revenue. Having no direct market access, they are also exploited by middlemen who pay the same or often less for defacto organic crops and then mix them with shipments from pesticide-drenched commercial farms. Villagers thereby lose the revenue benefits of their labors and the greater community loses access to a significant pure food supply.

Jaisamand Tribal Women’s Organic Farming Project (aka Organic Jaisamand) is a model to address the three major obstacles to organic agriculture adoption in Rajasthan. First by replacing expensive 3rd party certification schemes with newly approved collective or participatory group certification regimes. Second by entrepreneurially generating value-added organic products at the village level; and third, by amplifying organic awareness and demand across the region with a high-profile media campaign.

3. Describe the applying organization. a) How and when was it formed? b) How is it related to the community? c) What has it accomplished? d) How is it governed?

  • A) BMCT was initially formed in 2009 as a local women-run social service organization focusing on environmental education, social justice and capacity-building international exchanges in the arts, education and ecology. Based on its work, BMCT finally received its national trust society certification in early 2015 allowing it to offer donors tax-exemptions.
  • B) BMCT has formed working relationships with a broad range of local entities including urban & tribal elementary/secondary schools, Udaipur’s principal universities, its district & municipal offices, the region’s leading rural development NGOs & Rotary Club network, and UNESCO-Delhi.
  • C) Accomplishments: organized the region’s first green festivals, Zero Waste campaigns, international folk/performing arts exchanges, 14 Shakti Sunday Eco-Festivals each attracting 1000+ participants, collaborative “Creative Economies” bridges between Udaipur’s & Kyoto, Japan’s top universities.
  • D) It is governed by a board of three women trustees and operated by an appointed director and several project managers.

4. What will the project accomplish during the period covered by this application? List objectives & include measurable outcomes. (Activities described in question #8)

The project will create a replicable demonstration model of an inexpensively “certified organic” village embracing over 150 farming households; kickstart the region’s first women-farmer owned and run value-added organic production facility; establish the area’s first seed saver exchange; and amplify local market demand to significantly raise participating families’ farm income.

We are bucking an expensive long-term PR offensive waged by Monsanto, Bayer, Coromandel International and other agrochem giants who have also co-opted state subsidies and most statewide agricultural extension work. But the spreading news of falling productivity and soaring cancer rates in the Punjab and other Green Revolution zones should (ironically/tragically) greatly benefit our efforts. Objectives/outcomes: a 5~7% annual increment in participating families’ crop income (15~20% after 3 years); financial self-sufficiency of the village production facility; requests from at least 3 other villages to replicate the model in their communities; and significant increases in the number/turnover of local organic outlets.

5. What is the total number of people who will be directly impacted by the project (those who have a direct link with the project described in this proposal)?

900+

6. What is the total number of people who will be indirectly impacted by the project (those who do not have a direct link with the project described in this proposal, but could potentially benefit by means of the direct beneficiaries)?

700,000+

7. How did you calculate or determine the numbers of people directly and indirectly impacted?

Those directly impacted initially include the family members of the 150+ tribal farming households personally involved in the collective certification scheme and supplier/producer membership in the production center.

Those indirectly impacted include the other 100,000+ “default organic” farming households in the region, the urban consumers of their products, and the 600,000 local readers of the leading local newspapers.

8. Describe the specific activities to be undertaken related to the objectives. If appropriate, include a timeline and a description of how paid staff and volunteers will be used.

  1. Collective certification of 150+ farming households in the Gati village community – 2/1~ 4/30/2016
  2. Opening/mentoring of women farmer-owned/run Jaisamand Agro Producers Company (village facility for local production/packaging/storage of purees, sauces, achars, etc.) – 5/1/2016
  3. Launch of biweekly “Organic Matters!” half-page newspaper section in a major local newspaper covering all the livelihood, health, ecological, climatic and food security advantages of organic farming written by respected authorities (volunteers) in each field. Each section will contain an 800-word column on such subjects as well as news on local organic outlets, farmer markets, recipes, gardening supplies, etc. The 26 columns from the 1-year series will be compiled/released as a paperback & online book– start date: early 2016.
  4. Opening small Udaipur office as a seed saver center and for storage/distribution of crops/products to local schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, retailers. - 6/1/2016 Three paid staff will oversee outreach, training, certification, mentoring, media/marketing strategy and other aspects of project development.

Our preliminary efforts have already enjoyed significant volunteer support and promises of future help from the Badleshwar Khakhaldev SHG (Self Help Group), a local women farmers' association that assists its members and communities with practical problem-solving forums, seed distribution, marketing advice, etc.

The entire writing team - 10~12 organic scholars & professionals - are participating on a voluntary basis, and we also already have internship inquiries from Swaraj University if the project is realized. (Swaraj U is a local Indian rebirth of the Friends World College apprenticeship education model in which students study with self-selected mentors working in their chosen fields to gain practical knowledge and hands-on know-how.)

9. Describe how the results will be evaluated and by whom.

Results will be assessed based on community compliance with organic certification protocols; observable increments in organic supply chain and production capacity; income differentials in the target households; market response to purveyed crops & products; and participatory interest from surrounding farming communities.

Results will be evaluated by Dr. RC Mehta, agronomist, Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture & Technology (rtd); Dr. GPS Jhala, Development officer/botanist, NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development); Mr. Rohit Jain, Rajasthan board representative of OFAI (Organic Farming Association of India); and Sri MH Rathore, senior agronomist, Udaipur office, Krishi Vigwan Kendra (central government agricultural training agency).

Equally important, it will be evaluated by the village participants themselves in bimonthly meetings on the ground.

10. Describe the people who will benefit from this project and how they will be involved in the planning, implementation and management of the project.

The tribal women farmers, their families and villages will be the primary beneficiaries of Organic Jaisamand, they are already directly involved in the project’s planning, management and educational extension work via their membership in the nascent Jaisamand Agro Producers Company and the village women’s Badleshwar Khakhaldev SHG (Self Help Group) that assists with recruitment, training classes, seed distribution, etc.

11. If applicable, describe any Presbyterian or other church involvement with this project or the applying organization.

Although the Shepherd Memorial Church here is the oldest Christian presence in the region (founded in 1877 by Scottish Presbyterian missionary Dr. James Shepherd), Rev. Raimson Victor, the current Presbyter in Charge, has informed us that the Diocese of Rajasthan’s work today is more involved with education and social justice than rural development and welfare activities. He did express personal support for the aims of our project, but said the Diocese currently did not have any convergent programs in place. So no, there will not likely be any direct church involvement in this effort at this time.

12. Describe the working relationships between the applying organization and other groups in your area carrying out similar or related efforts. Can you call on them for technical and/or other assistance?

We have ongoing collaborative relationships with the organic farming and rural development staff at the Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture & Technology; NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development); OFAI (Organic Farming Association of India); Krishi Vigwan Kendra (central government agricultural training agency) as well as local organic issue educators at Shikshantar Andolan, Tapovan Ashram and Swaraj University. They all have offered to contribute to the media education campaign as well as assist with the project’s technical implementation and expansion strategy.

13. Describe your plans for the future financial support of this project after the PHP grant is spent.

Once the working model for the project exists and we have a proof of principle, we should qualify for assistance from NABARD and other government and philanthropic entities. We anticipate a 3-year timeline to self-sufficiency for the core project from fair trade level marketing assistance, and will use whatever additional funding we receive to extend it to surrounding agricultural areas.