In India, agriculture is the largest employer of the workforce as it serves as the primary source of livelihood for approximately 58% of India's population. The agricultural industry contributes to 16.5% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), with the industry and allied sectors' gross value added (GVA) at 18.8% in 2020-22.
However, the statistics and ground reality portray the farmers' rather problematic picture as indebtedness, loss of livelihood, and, ultimately, farmer suicides demonstrate India's multifaceted nature of agrarian distress. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report for 2020, over 5500 farmers died by suicide between 2019-20.
For the upliftment of the agricultural communities, Enactus Delhi College of Art and Commerce (DCAC) has come up with an initiative, 'Project Zaraat'. Their project strives to minimize post-harvest losses and uplift the farming community by enhancing forward linkages through a self-sustaining social enterprise.
The project plans to provide farmers with a cost-effective, microclimate-based, energy-efficient portable storage that extends the shelf-life and preserves the freshness of fruits and vegetables anywhere between 5 to 30 days.
The project team told The Logical Indian, "Project Zaraat is our endeavour to uplift the farming community, which has suffered long due to financial instability and lack of agricultural infrastructure."
Under the project, Enactus DCAC has installed their first storage unit in Chilla village, a settlement of small and marginal farmers in Mayur Vihar, Delhi. To help these farmers, they conduct frequent visits to the village and take constant feedback from the villagers to make sure the project is focused on the need to help the community impacted.
After several ground visits and community interactions, they came to know that these farmers face risks such as low rainfall, price volatility, and rising debts every year. The pilot witnessed multiple farmers availing of the solution's benefits and inevitably building faith in their project.
The project provides the farmers with a storage solution that is entirely different from warehouses, such as cold storage. Their facility is comparatively affordable, portable, and therefore easily accessible to the target community of farmers.
What Do The Beneficiaries Say?
Farmer Jaganlal, a beneficiary of the project, told The Logical Indian that he grows vegetables on his farm and sells it in the nearest mandi the same day because they start to rot if they are delayed for selling.
He said he and other farmers have to sell their produce at a substantially lower price than big mandis, where the prices for products are better.
Jaganlal said, "We met some students from Enactus DCAC who told us about the benefits of portable storage and installed the same near our home in the village. With the help of storage, we can now store our produce and wait for better market prices without fearing that our crops will rot. These students have also connected us to big companies to sell our products, and now we can transport our products to them every alternate day."
Objective Of The Project
Project Zaarat aims to solve a neglected niche problem, i.e. post-harvest losses, further resulting in distress selling. It also seeks to solve the issues like less income of the farmers, minimize carbon emissions, water wastage, food wastage, all this just by reducing post-harvest losses.
The project is also a recipient of the KPMG Ethics Grant and awarded a special mention at Enactus Early-stage Nationals. Enactus DCAC plans to rapidly expand into other communities by setting up similar storage solutions and ultimately empowering the farmers.
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