A novel effort appears to be under way across rural India in an attempt to boost farmers’ income and the man leading it is a former member of the Aam Aadmi Party, Mayank Gandhi. Disillusioned by political realities, Mayank Gandhi realised there are other ways to work for the betterment of the country and its people. And thus, the Global Vikas Trust was established.
The plan was to devise a replicable method to augment farmers’ income. The target was set to Rs. 2 lakhs per acre when the same stood at Rs. 10,000 to 40,000 across the country at the time. Consequently, Parli Taluka in Beed district, Maharashtra was selected due to its extreme levels of poverty and pitifully low levels of irrigation that stood at 1.72% as against a national average of 40%.
For the first two years, 2016 and 2017, the focus was on supplying water through tankers and all around development in the areas of education, water management, healthcare, skill development, capacity building, social reforms, gram Swaraj etc. Global Vikas Trust said, “Water harvesting and conservation is the fountainhead for any agricultural endeavor. Once the fountainhead is established, all agricultural activity will flourish. This logically leads to maximizing income from land. Horticulture is the answer.”
It added, “In 2018, we created 222 crore liters of water storage – 70 kms of deepening and widening of river and its tributaries, 164 farm ponds, 62 check dams, 5 KT weirs etc. More importantly, the water table increased from around 500 feet to 50-70 feet. All of this was accomplished through ‘shramdaan’ — voluntary physical labor of thousands of villagers. It brought credibility and support of all the stakeholders and converted into a people’s movement.”
In 2019, the farmers were convinced to change their cropping patterns and plant more fruit trees. 11.87 lakh fruit trees were planted by farmers including mango, papaya, drumsticks, lemon, guava and custard apple as such products provide a good remunerative value. The objective was to “marry” traditional farming techniques with modern knowledge in order to produce “better-than-US” yields. Consequently, the best variety of fruit saplings, resilient, fruitful and best suited to the local agro-climatic condition was sought to be provided.
The other objectives were to “Plant in large clusters so that the market converges to our farmers rather than the other way around. and wholesalers converge to our farmers to purchase their produce” and “Facilitate forward linkages like innovative marketing, value added post-harvest processing, input procurement, supply chain etc.”
By now, the papaya and drumsticks that were planted have started giving harvests and consequently, farmers have started earning Rs. 3 to 4 lakh per acre, which happens to be 15 to 20 times of their earlier income. 20 lakh fruit trees have been planted in 2020 despite the lockdown and 4000 villages have been covered.
The target for 2021 has been set to provide forward linkages through direct marketing centres, procurement centers, sorting and packing units, godowns, cold storages, processing and drying units and “Plant around 25 lakh fruit trees in Marathwada, cover districts of Nanded, Jalna, Hingoli and Aurangabad to complete Marathwada, and thereafter focus more on increasing plantation in Madhya Pradesh with a target of planting another 5 lakh trees.”
Global Vikas Trust has also met with the Union Agricultural Minister, a few other Union Ministers and bureaucrats. The institution now seeks to scale up their project in order to boost farmers’ income.