Hyderabad, Telangana, India | 28th February 2020: Rishi Verma, a grade 10 student from Oakridge International School, Gachibowli, started an initiative called ‘Swayamkrushi’ with an aim to create a secondary source of income for farmer families, who suffer irregular and meagre revenue owing to the unpredictability and seasonality associated with the farming profession. He identified a growing demand for organic village produced sweets and savouries, which fuelled his idea to make them available to the masses. Within a short span of time, his project was able to raise 80 orders, providing a stream of monthly income to farming families.
Rishi visited Bheemavaram, a town in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh; to understand the issues faced by village communities like dying art and culture, irregular wages and unemployment. After interviewing many farmers, Rishi figured that farmers generally wait on crops to grow for 5-8 months and end up with a meagre revenue after the harvest. To bridge the gap between revenues in the idle months of harvest, Rishi formulated an idea that could serve as a secondary source of income to the farmers on a daily or monthly basis. He empowered women to utilise their skills of producing indigenous food such as sweets, pure ghee and pickles.
“I have been very emotionally connected to my village and its people in West Godavari called Kallakuru, and I decided to give back to the community where I hail from,” says Rishi.
“I wanted to educate families of farmers, especially women, about the already existing market value of village goods in the urban areas, as 80% of organic food produce is directly obtained from villages. After researching about the top-picks consumers prefer from the selection of village foods, I selected the main produce with higher market value than the rest: pootharekulu, palakova, tati tandra, chicken pickle, and cow ghee,” explains Rishi.
Walking from door-to-door to educate and convince the villagers, it was a tedious effort to gain their confidence against the notion of how a 10th grader could impact their lives in a positive way. After being persistent, he managed to onboard several women of the village onto the idea of using their excellent skills to earn money in an independent, sustainable manner.
By simple WhatsApp communications and word of mouth, Rishi managed to grow the customer base for farmers developing these products. He later liaised with Vegesna Trustto package the products, followed by collaborating with a travel agency, Thomas Cook, who subsequently connected Rishi to Tru India Restaurants, a chain of restaurants in Houston, Texas; where they agreed on a monthly order of 12 kgs per product from January 2020. After this massive success, Rishi was able to pool in 80 orders and in less than 100 days, he was able to generate 1.4 lakhs!
“The amount wasn’t the impact, but the impact on the families was my major win, as my goal to facilitate a daily or monthly income to the families was being met,” adds Rishi. He was recently invited at the 1M1B Activate Impact Summit at UN, New York, where he presented his Village Sustainable Programme. The project was received well and was appreciated at the conference.
Speaking on the occasion, Hema Chennupaty, Principal of Oakridge International School Gachibowli said, “We are extremely proud of the work done by Rishi and we are sure that this project will have a long-term impact on improving the lives of our farming community. At Oakridge, we constantly provide various opportunities for our students to think beyond the ordinary and strive towards making a difference in the world. Like Rishi, we have several other students from Oakridge Gachibowli, who are coming up with various initiatives to help make our world a better place.”