This MBA Dropout Has Taken On Sustainable Farming To Help Farmers Pay Off Their Debts
24-year-old Raghav Baldwa is a native of Indore, MP. For a long time now, Raghav has been using sustainable farming techniques and employing debt-ridden farmers to help them pay off their loans and safeguard their livelihoods.
The Logical Indian recently spoke with Raghav, who has a history of social service. He is known as the man who used Facebook to start mass blood donation drives to ensure that patients got the care they needed in the shortest span of time (more on this here).
When he was in TA Pai Management Institute (TAPMI) pursuing his Masters in Business Administration, Raghav Baldwa began researching and studying about organic farming and its scope in India.
“The more time I spent researching,” Raghav told The Logical Indian, “my aspirations of becoming an organic farmer grew. I found out that there are some serious issues which need to be resolved in this industry. I realised that people, no matter how educated they are, they give almost no importance to the source of food they are eating every day. Many people claiming to sell organic produce fail to show any certifications related to it. Using this level of ignorance and lack of information, organic retailers started taking advantage. Charging a premium price for organic products without any certification by any private or public agency became a habit. All these retailers are majorly middlemen – even they don’t have any clue of how and where the organic produce they are selling is grown.”
Raghav personally witnessed various people selling organic food without any certification at a much higher price and that too which they bought from local mandis, claiming it to be organic.
“We at Mangalam Organic Foods are working on stitching up the whole supply chain of organic food products, starting from preparing the farmland to delivering it at consumers doorstep. We are currently selling highly nutritious, pure, and government-certified organic vegetables, fruits, pulses, grains, wheat and wheat products.”
A sustainable model
In May 2015, a month after dropping out of his MBA college, Raghav and his father ventured into the organic farming business. “We purchased a barren land plot around 80 kilometres from Indore, Madhya Pradesh. I converted that barren land into highly fertile organic farmland, completely changing the aesthetics of the area. Spread over 20 acres initially, we practised chemical-free agriculture; we focused on all the natural ways, we choose not to use even a drop of harmful chemicals and fertilisers in our farm lands. We used naturally-grown neem manure, gobar manure made of cow dung, vermicompost, etc. We use techniques such as crop rotation, manual weeding, mulching, composting, etc. We grow vegetables, fruits, pulses, and grains. We also have around 11 pure Indian breed cows; we also sell their milk and dairy products which are organic. We also sell value-added products such as pickles, papad, chips, juices, etc.”
Raghav applied for organic certification in 2015 and received it after high-level scrutiny and multiple lab tests of his farm’s produce and soil in May 2016. Officials from MPSOCA (Madhya Pradesh State Organic Certification Agency), the organic certification agency, visits his farm now and then for surprise checks.
“We also work on a leasing model,” Raghav said, “we take land from farmers who are in debt and have a piece of land but no resources to cultivate crops on it. We prepare that land for organic farming, train those farmers for the same, and take care of all the certifications and rules and regulation. Employing those farmers again on their land helps them not to shift to cities for work, which saves their livelihood – and their lives as well.”
Raghav’s farmer consists of over 42 acres of land and employs over 150 people annually for various blue collar jobs. He told The Logical Indian, “We have leased land from 6 farmers right now, and our produce is also shipped on demand to different cities in MP, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. We are currently selling over four tonnes of produce every month, and helping farmers’ lives in the process.”
Ventures to increase yields
Raghav is presently working on various methods to increase production and yield. This includes adopting different techniques that help save water – like drip irrigation, sprinklers and mud pots inside the ground. Raghav aims to use technology and science as much as possible to increase the yield.
“I am also working on moisture sensing technology to sense the moisture in the soil and watering accordingly, which can save a lot of water. I am also working on implementing drones in farms for surveillance purposes.”
Nobody in last three generations of Raghav’s family was into farming. He did face many challenges in his early days. “I learned it the hard way, mainly through primary and secondary research. I took help from a couple of experts in agriculture. We use methods such as crop rotation, mulching, intercropping, companion farming, etc. We use only natural substances such as cow dung, vermicompost manure, cow urine, neem manure, gobar manure, etc. We also use natural fertilisers such as panchakarma and amruthapani. The cost of preparing these items is expensive, but results are great, and the best part is all these are 100% organic.”
The Logical Indian community appreciates Raghav’s efforts in adopting environment-friendly farming techniques and using his venture to help debt-ridden farmers and their families. This is truly a noble enterprise, and we hope that more of India’s youth take up such efforts.