“There is a large group of small and marginal organic farmers all over India. We thought it was time for all of them to come under one umbrella so that we could provide some manner of semblance in this fragmented into directed contact with the consumers,” says Ashish Gupta, the founder of Muskaan Jaivik, a Self Help Group (SHG) based out of Pangna Valley, Himachal Pradesh. An ex-It professional, he has been actively involved with socially responsible marketing initiatives and is an organic farming enthusiast as well.
Ashish has been proactive in the sustainable farming for close to a decade now. Muskaan Jaivik was founded three years ago. A platform to empower farmers, this organisation also links the farmers with the market and helps in developing socially replicable business models. This farmer collective operates at a very grassroots level and aims at empowering the farmer community.
The organic way
Jaivik Muskaan started off as an initiative to bring native grains back to our plates. When The Logical Indian spoke to Ashish Gupta, he said, “I had been associated with IFOAM – Organics International for a long period. I wanted to implement the learnings I imbibed in the due course to bring about a change in the method of farming in India. Across the world, many farmers have shifted to the organic way of farming and Himachal being my native state, I decided to start it here.”
Muskaan Jaivik now has fifteen regular farmers who are a part of the SHG and one of them has fully converted into organic farming. What Muskaan Jaivik does is to provide these farmers support and technical know-how about how to go about the organic way. Muskaan Jaivik provides training and conducts workshops on creating value chains and consumption in line with the principles of organic farming. Its aim lies in changing organic farming operations that move from good practices towards best practices. In the due course, agricultural operations are becoming more sustainable and integrate organic principles and methods.
Traditional structures have been built in the fields to facilitate organic farming and help to build a positive impact. The farmers are also sent to renowned organic farming centres across the country to imbibe knowledge about organic farming. These farming procedures are all done in consultation with the local farmers. “Our focus lies on hand-holding and training the farmers so that they are enable to make the switch. They are also educated on the perils of the current farming system which has a high expenditure and yields very less profit,” said Ashish, when The Logical Indian spoke to him. The movement to strengthen traditional agri roots has now gained momentum over the past six years and it is gradually bringing in more farmers under its roof.
Linking farmers to the market
Muskaan Jaivik is also helping in building a marketplace for these farmers to sell their produce. Through this, the farmers get a fair price for their produce. Farmers are the ones who set a price for their produce and if the farmers are unable to set a price for their produce or set a price which is marginally higher than the market price, then the produce is sold at the best selling price. This helps in making the system of pricing participatory and brings transparency in the process. This entire process works on a market feedback mechanism. This SHG often takes part in fairs like Saavan Mela which was held on July 30 in Delhi. These fairs help in creating an emphasis on sustainable farming which is beneficial for farmers as well for the environment. Muskaan Jaivik is aiming to bring more and more farmers into the area of organic farming so that harmful practices of using pesticides during the process of farming is brought to an end. This leads the end consumers to eat healthily and helps the farmers in the long run as well. The farmers are provided with the needed grooming to understand how the market works and it is ensured that they get the best price for their produce.
Crafts and more
Muskaan Jaivik also promotes the traditional crafts by the village craftsmen. Ghade, Gharoloo, Diye, Parwe and Gamle are some of the pottery products which are designed with love and utmost precision by the artisans. These products are later sold in the market at the best price. This process leads to better channelising of the products these artisans produce. Terracotta is a hereditary craft that has been associated with the inhabitants of Pangna valley and has been practised for over five generations now. Apart from pottery, shawls from Kullu and Kinnaur are also one of the many products that are promoted by Muskaan Jaivik. Once popular in Pangna, this craft i s gradually dying due to the lack of profitable markets and demands. Jaivik Muskaan is instrumental in promoting these crafts so that these dying art forms can survive in the best way possible.
On asking Ashish about his message for the readers, he said, “By changing our farming practices to sustainable farming, we not only keep the environmental aspects in mind but also do good to the society in the long run. The state of the farmers is abysmal and they need to be made aware of the harmful effects of the chemicals. The consumer must make informed and educated food choices which will help the farmers, benefit the land and the fragile ecosystem as well.”
The Logical Indian community applauds the efforts taken up Muskaan Jaivik and Ashish Gupta to create a sustainable lifestyle for all people with a vision to regenerate ecology and revitalise the economy.
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