Planting the seed of change
“The indebtedness level is around 90 per cent in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and it’s only getting worse.
CHENNAI: Our country has a lot of fleeting issues - Aryan Khan's arrest, the India vs Pakistan match, accusations of tobacco promotion in the film VIP - that cause mass racket for a few months before becoming a footnote in history. But, behind the sensationalism lies India’s real problems, the systemic faults that never lose currency.
While we can create a small dent through charity, systemic issues need systemic solutions like the one being attempted by four schoolgirls - Sharada Gopalakrishnan (14, Chennai), Nandini Raju (16, Hyderabad), Srilakshmi Reddy (16, Hyderabad), Amrutha Potluri (16, Arizona) - of The Purpose Academy by 1M1B in partnership with College of Engineering, SCET at UC Berkeley and Innovation Acceleration Group. Targeting the debt crisis in the agricultural sector is their Project Mritsa.
While the sector has the highest rate of employment, farmers are hardly living their ideal life. With capital-intensive equipment and low earnings, the nation’s food providers find themselves in an unfortunate cycle of a neverending debt.
"The indebtedness level is around 90 per cent in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and it’s only getting worse. Due to the high levels of debt, sadly around 12,000 farmers commit suicide every year. Simultaneously, there is a harmful impact of chemical intensive farming resulting in soil and environment degradation, which is devastating," she says.
"When we came across this news, it shocked us! We knew we had to come up with a solution to improve and sustain farming, so the four of us came together to form Project Mritsa, meaning good earth in Sanskrit," explains Nandini.
The student initiative aims to help farmers in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, shift towards chemical-free, safe, and sustainable zero-budget natural farming. By creating videos, the students help farmers understand how to apply for government schemes. They also create training modules to teach them natural methods of farming and use their Instagram handle to garner more eyeballs for the issue.
“We hope that our project will strongly impact farmers in Andhra Pradesh, and help students like us face and solve real-world problems more efficiently,” shares Sharada, whose love for graphic design and the visual arts allowed her to help produce the videos and animations for the team. “I could tell that these (mentoring sessions) were very valuable lessons that are applicable in a variety of fields. I now have a rudimentary understanding of entrepreneurship and how to use these ideas and mental models to create change. I have an inkling about the lives and struggles of a very significant yet very overlooked portion of the Indian population,” she adds.
The team hopes to raise more funds for cold storage units, continue engaging and educating farmers and help them access government schemes and training modules. 1M1B is an organisation co-founded by Manav Subodh with an idea to activate a million people who will impact a billion. The Purpose Academy is a programme of 1M1B that engages bright young minds to solve real world challenges; for this they undergo a 150-hour curriculum.
“If we can tap into their (the children’s) brain power to begin (a change) in our backyard, that is something we will be leaving behind. We scout for real problems that the country is facing, such as the farming community in this instance. These children have been raising funds and educating people and I am glad that these girls are showing the way. They are truly creating an impact, not a surgical one but a systemic one,” notes Manav.