I had a short sleep that day. Woke up at 3 AM, freshened up and got going. I had a bus to catch. Where was I headed? To visit a rural community in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. A four-hour journey from Bangalore.
After two long years of the pandemic, I was thrilled to travel again and resume Rang De field audits. I boarded the bus on time, and as soon as I got seated, my phone chimed. It was Sathish from Swachha Kaadyam, our Impact partner, checking if I made the bus in time. I replied affirmatively. In a minute, I got a call. He checked in to ensure things were in order and said that he’ll pick me up at the station. I was amazed at his dedication, and how he took responsibility even beyond work hours.
Before I continue, I want you to know, Swachha Kadyam is a Rang De Impact Partner. They are strengthening infrastructure and livelihood opportunities for the farmers in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. Rang De Social Investors assured them credit support. It was around 9 am in the morning when I got down. As farmers were busy in fields during this time of the day, we decided to visit the processing units first. The FPO was filled with hustle and bustle. The majority of the workers were local women. To my intrigue, the unit was kept semi-automatic in functioning. Ensuring a mix of both manual intervention and machine automation. It was crucial to ensure employability for the rural people.
The women sat in small groups taking up different work. Chatting and giggling while they did. It seemed like they were having a good time.
Swachha Kaadyam started operation in 2019 in an effort to empower local farmers. Produce is purchased from farmers, processed, and packaged before being sold to the end customer. Eliminating middlemen, vendors and others from the chain. They buy fresh produce at fair prices from the farmer and process it locally. One unique thing to point out is that they buy the produce right at the farm when it is harvested. Enabling the farmer to save on transportation, storage and labour costs.
The post-harvest processing like scaling, grading, cold pressing, filtering, and quality check is done by the local women in the mills. Anantapur is a dry and arid region. Water levels are low and there are only a few crops a farmer could grow. Groundnut is the cash crop. Millet and sugarcane are grown in certain regions.
I saw the entire process of how cold pressed oil is made out of raw groundnuts at the unit.
It was now time to visit the farmers. At peak noon, they return home to take a rest. I travelled with Sathish to meet them. The first farmers we met were a couple. They didn't retire at the noon, both were working in the scorching sun.
I could barely see anyone in the vast stretches of the field except for Hemavathi and Nagaraju. They shared how they took up organic farming practices to increase their revenue. Even went at length to explain some of the organic farming techniques to me. The use of ‘Hing’ or asafoetida as a natural fungicide is applied to the seeds. This prevents unwanted bacterial growth and damage to the seeds during the germination period. They also use natural camphor to keep away insects as it has a strong pungent smell. These farmers are yet to receive organic certification due to the complexities of the process. But they do have a certificate for pesticide-free products. I met a few more farmers and then we went back to the office. I noticed that all the farmers had really old and small houses. Whatever savings they made, it was entirely used to acquire more agricultural land. That shows farming is the only means of income for them. SK helps farmers to increase their profit margins by cutting their dependency on the external market. For e.g, Seeds are now preserved and used by farmers themselves. Earlier they used to buy it from traders which would give them low crop yield or at times even result in crop failure. The price which was earlier dictated by the traders is now set by farmers.
SK enabled a chain that was owned by the local community right from the harvest to the end product.
After a really long day, It was time for me to return. I extended my stay to the last minute possible. Caught my bus at the nearest toll gate and left for Bangalore. The field visit was enriching. Learned a lot about how communities work and the different variables that govern them. It is hard to define rural India as it is distinct and diverse. I am glad to share the story of this community.
With the intervention of Swachha Kaadyam malpractices that exploited the farmer has reduced substantially. The community is thriving and has become independent. The question you might ask is, what role does Social Investing play in all this? Rang De Social Investors ensured the credit backing needed to sustain this unique model which resulted in an end-to-end supply chain, complete ownership by the community and increased revenue margins for farmers.
56 lakhs have been disbursed to Swachha Kadyam farmers to date and the impact is visible on the ground. You can join and empower farmers in Anantapur by investing in them at https://rangde.in/invest