RANCHI: 30-year old Engineering Graduate, Rakesh Mahanty, quit his high paying job to start community farming and has been helping more than 80 farmers associated with him in Patamda Block of Jamshedpur to double their income.
According to Mahanty, if one wants to make things better, he has to become a model, create an example, and then the people will start following him automatically. Therefore, he prepared a model-farm with the support of 5 farmers already working with him on his own on a small piece of land and then things improved and people started adopting the concept automatically. Now more than 80 farmers are attached to him making a good profit out of it.
Earlier in 2017, Mahanty began his social enterprise, ‘Brook N Bees’ which primarily works on the concept of community farming and collaborated with local farmers to grow organic crops. Rakesh and other farmers share land, resources, knowledge, equipment, labour and machinery with each other, against which the farmers having their own land receive profit percentage while the landless ones
receive a salary of Rs 6000 every month.
In addition to that, farmers don’t have to worry about selling their products or spend money on transporting them to the market.
Recalling his journey from a technocrat to farmer, Mahanty said that after completing B. Tech from BIT Bangalore in 2012, he got placement with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). But, over the time he realized that he is not meant for 9-5 job and wanted to do something in the field if rural development for his own people back in his village.
After four years, he left his job and joined Management Programme with XLRI, Jamshedpur. As he was highly inclined towards making innovations in farming, he kept on visiting his fields in Jamshedpur regularly while pursuing his MBA Prgramme and planning his future.
“While pursuing MBA, I developed interest in farming and wanted to to convert agriculture into and industry but as the time passed on; I observed that there were several challenges which are difficult to deal with. To deal with those issues, I travelled intensively all over India and met farmers to understand
their way of farming and problems they were facing,” Mahanty said further, “Finally, I concluded that local issues have to be dealt locally and brought a concept of ‘Ecological Sustainable Farming’ under which problems are sorted out looking at three aspects – Environment, Social and Economical.” Under this concept, things are designed contextually according to the requirements of the local community, he added.
Later, Mahanty observed that market for his products was required in his surroundings and hence, started another initiative called ‘Farm Participation Project’ under which, workshops were organized in the farm fields for the people from urban areas where they get to know about local food system, how the food products are produced, agro-ecology, about the livelihood of the farmers.
“It was just to bridge the gap between the people living in urban and rural areas so that they get to know about each other. The idea is to promote local food system among the people living nearby,” said Mahanty.
Meanwhile, ‘Farmer’s Haat’ was also initiated under which stalls were set up in hosing societies to make his organic products available to the consumers at their doorsteps and create a habit among them to consume them, he added.
Besides doing farming, they also plant saplings of fruit-bearing trees, non-timber forest produce, timber, medicinal plants as a long term planning which would also help in ecological restoration of the land.
"As of now, around 200 farmers are connected to me all over the Country, whereas nearly 80 farmers are attached to me in Patamda Block. I also provide consultancy to them as and when required from the farmers all over India,” said Mahanty.
Basically, it is a community farm where some people work in their own land while some others also work as employees, he added.
Mahanty said that, those who are having their own land get a percentage of their produce while the landless are given a salary of Rs 6000 every month. All decisions are taken collectively all the 80 farmers, he said.
Four varieties of rice, food crops, leafy non-leafy vegetables, millets and various other things are produced by them.
Local officials told that Mahanty has become a kind of role model among the local farmers who has been a source of inspiration for many in the region.
“Being an educated farmer, he has made a great impact on others as he is a motivation for many other youths in the region. He has been doing Hi-tech organic farming and marketing his products in his own way,” said District Horticulture Officer, Mithlesh Kumar Kalindi. Looking at him, people have started farming of high-value crops and getting profit, he added.
Kalindi said that Mahanty also runs a farmer’s school where farmers are given free training in organic and modern techniques of farming. They also send the farmers who are interested in getting training in integrated farming, he added.
Local farmer Pawan Singh Sardar, who earlier depended on forest reserves, said that the steady income has considerably improved his financial situation.