‘Swayamkrushi’: Empowering rural women to be breadwinners
- 3 March 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.
The Middle Year Program (MYP) Project, part of International Baccalaureate curriculum at Oakridge International School, Gachibowli, is structured for students to be inspired and pursue individual passions. “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 hailed from”, says Rishi. He 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 can 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 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 Trust to 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. Pivoting his project towards success, he also ensured that their primary stream of income(agriculture) wasn’t affected by this secondary source. To do this, he focused on 3 key aspects which ensured that the farmers’ have a sustainable lifestyle:
Sustainable: Rishi split the participating people of village into groups based on the social relations they belonged to as well as the products that they developed. This ensures in a well-connected group of individuals working towards a common goal.
Monetisable: The elected group leaders, well-versed with handling finances, help in directing the money to their individual bank accounts, which is also linked to Yojana Schemes from the Government.
Scalable: As a long-term plan, Rishi wants to create a business model out of this initiative and help several other villages across India to be more independent and educated about their own strengths.
We are extremely proud of our students, who not only excel at academics but also at sports and extra-curricular activities, and who strive at making a difference in the world, as they are the future leaders. From running initiative like Give Way to Ambulance across the country to teaching under-privileged children, to taking up e-waste disposal projects; Oakridgers are doing their bit to make our world a better place.