The clarion call for transforming India into “Atmanirbhar” or self-reliant is making headlines. Amidst the heated debates on national news about whether India can do, will do, or cannot, I was thinking about our own journey of the past 15 years.
I started 24 Mantra with a few core beliefs. Of these, better health & nutrition for consumers and better livelihood for the small & marginal farmer was paramount. Driving self-reliance and self-sufficiency for every single partner in our movement was important.
The Atmanirbhar farmer – not reliant on commercial agricultural inputs
The farming households associated with 24 Mantra have lived the “Atmanirbhar” motto. It took us a lot of learning, effort, iterations to our methodology to train and equip farmers to become self-reliant. After all, organic cultivation is all about being self-reliant. You don’t depend on fertilizers or pesticides for a good crop. Most farmers associated with 24 Mantra are small & marginal farmers with small landholdings and dependent on rain-fed irrigation. Our endeavor has been to help them get rid of purchased inputs. As part of our intense training and mentorship, we have helped farmers move from being overly dependent on fertilizers and pesticides for productivity to developing their own organic inputs, right at the farm. Think developing manure & compost-based fertilizers and using alternative methods to ward of pesticides. A lot of innovation has gone into these methods, all of which make the farmer more self-reliant.
The Atmanirbhar farmer – not reliant on moneylenders
The direct consequence of this self-reliance for inputs has been their financial self-reliance. Farmer suicides in India have been an epidemic across the length and breadth of the country. Who bears the brunt of these? The small & marginal farmer. The root cause? Indebtedness for buying farm inputs and low household savings as a result. With no savings and an ongoing debt cycle, any significant life event, whether a joyous one such as a marriage in the family, or a catastrophe such as an accident, leads to immediate insolvency. And this makes the farmer financially and emotionally vulnerable.
We also pay a premium for organic produce to encourage the farmers to stay invested in this sustainable way of agriculture. These measures, however, small adds up to better savings.
Farming is a proud profession. You eat what you sow. The fact that the “organic” farmer does not buy any inputs helps them shore up more savings and therefore adds to their financial health.
The Atmanirbhar farmer – not reliant on ‘middlemen’
Another intervention in our operations is to not buy from “middlemen”. Our partnership is with the farmers and we buy from them. The middlemen shave off the margins and therefore the savings of the farmers. Direct procurement ensures that the farmers are paid what they rightfully deserve and on time. Direct procurement is also essential to ensure the integrity of our supply chain all the way to the retail store shelf. How does this drive self-reliance? Read on.
The Atmanirbhar YOU – All your health and nutritional needs
The regulations may define “permissible” pesticide levels, but any amount of residue making it to our digestive system causes undesirable side effects.
Conventional Agricultural practices lead to significantly beyond defined “permissible” levels of pesticides in food. Heavy usage of synthetic fertilizers and pesticide spray implies that the food on your plate has these rouge ingredients. The impact of this adds up every day with every meal.
The result? A lower immunity apart from other diseases. How many people you know suffer from low immunity and are dependent on supplements and pop pills routinely for lifestyle diseases? I am sure you’d have noticed that this tribe is growing.
Using organic products, directly sourced from the farms and scientifically inspected for pesticide and chemical residues ensures that your intake is absolutely the purest. The purity of food drives your immunity. Not surprisingly, those using 24 Mantra products report fewer doctor visits and a general improvement in their wellness.
That for me is being Atmanirbhar for good health. In clinical parlance, organic food promotes preventative healthcare.
We’ve always believed in local. Our produce comes from almost every state in the country. We have thoughtfully organized ourselves to source ingredients from regions where the product is of the highest quality.
Our pioneering efforts have shaped the Organic movement in India. Today we can proudly look back and say that we have played a large part in creating a sustainable production model which is driven by the use of low cost/ low carbon footprint local resources and wherein both the farmers and consumers share the benefits – better price and better health respectively.