Have you been to a sabzi mandi [vegetable market] late in the evening? Many people will claim that it is the best time to visit a market especially because of lower prices. The reason why farmers offer low cost products at that hour is to clear their stock as much as possible lest they have to go back home with unsold vegetables that will be damaged by the next day. While a decrease in prices is boon for some, this severely affects the livelihood of the farmers.
The Economic Survey of 2019-2020 documents that 87 per cent of the farmer population in India are small farmers who have no access to high-end technology, basic storage, or even transportation facilities, thus causing tremendous annual losses. In order to empower these marginalised communities, the Enactus team of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce (DCAC), Netaji Nagar, launched Project Zaraat in 2021. After elaborate research conducted by a team of 95 members, they realised that these farmers’ sufferings were a result of post-harvest losses. Keeping this in mind, the project’s core activity has been to introduce a storage unit that helps them reserve their harvest for longer periods.
The cooling effect
The unit—it is a stainless steel structure wrapped with nylon cloth—is innovated by the team in collaboration with Chennai-based thermal energy company Tan90 Thermal Solutions. “The concept is similar to an earthen pot. The nylon is very absorbent and creates a cooling cover. So the vegetables inside the unit get an extended shelf life,” explains Sanyam Jain, who is the current President of Enactus DCAC.
Currently, the team works with more than 200 farmers from three neighbourhoods in Delhi-NCR—Chilla Village, Faridabad, and Noida. They also plan to work with the farming communities in Punjab soon. Gyan Prakash Maurya (21), a farmer from Chilla Village who has been working with the Zaraat team since the beginning, mentions, “Keeping the vegetables in the unit ensures that they stay fresh for up to five days. The vegetables stay fresh even in the heat, which was impossible earlier.”
Rising to the challenge
Shankar V Murali (20), a member of the Zaraat team, shares how—in the beginning—many farmers were sceptical about this project. “Every farmer will not open up and share their problems because they have been duped many times.” So, to ensure that the community trusts them, the team conducted sessions with the farmers to explain the concept and their previous projects.
Zaraat had also organised a two-day Farmers’ Market in Mayur Vihar in May. The revenue collected from the market went directly to the farmers and the team hopes to conduct another event soon. Speaking of the importance of the project, Murali concludes, “Whenever we talk about agriculture, it is about increasing productivity. However, that has a negative impact on the environment. This way the resources used are appropriately utilised.”