Pawan Sharma was born in a small village called Mahagauli near the small town of Pinahat in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh. He often saw his father talking about the farming problems and finally one day his father quit farming and moved to Delhi to work in a pharmaceutical company. However, Pawan always knew that he was going to go back some day and help the farmers solve their problems. And when he got a degree in Mechanical Engineering from NIEC, he started thinking about how he could use his skills to help farmers in distress.
As luck would have it, in 2013 he met Ayush Agrawal, another engineer who did Civil Engineering from IIT Delhi, in one of the orphanages where Pawan and Ayush taught at the time. Ayush, who is from Jaipur, was also concerned about the farmers’ well being, especially when he would hear of low rainfall in Rajasthan. As both the men shared common views,they became good friends soon and started thinking towards their common goal — to double the income of farmers and introduce sustainable methods of farming.
After rigorous research and two failed startup attempts, the duo finally came up with a project model to help the farmers, in October 2015, and called it Kaushal Gram.
Today, project Kaushal Gram is helping farmers with training and technologies, and assisting self-help groups with business models, finance and administration training. They are also helping kids with creative ideas and youth with career counselling and communication training.
So far, they have covered 21 villages in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Uttaranchal. As many as 2,800 households are impacted by their work and 200 plus kids are being taught under their initiative ‘A day of joy’.
However, the journey has not been easy. Pawan and Ayush were a team of just two without any financial backup. They were also working as full-time employees so had only weekends to work on their social initiative.
“I am working as a project consultant in Nasscom Foundation and Ayush is working as a data scientist in Policy Bazaar. We both decided to keep some portion of our income for this social cause and work on weekends. But how will just two people help thousands of distressed farmer in a minimum time frame? That was the big question,” says Pawan.
The duo then decided to make videos of successful farmers who were using technology and natural farming methods. They would make videos and show it to the other farmers on the projector in their village.
“Generally farmers believe only what they see. Just telling them about sustainable farming was not enough. They would also question our expertise as we both were engineers and not hands on farmers. Hence, showing them what their fellow farmers were doing different to be successful really worked,” says Pawan.
Pawan and Ayush also realised that most of the farmers had small plots of land and were unable to afford expensive technology even if they were willing to adopt the same. They then started to build their own technology for these small farmers under their project ‘Route to Roots.’
Some of the low-cost technologies that two engineers havedeveloped are as follows –
Bio Gas System –
A low-cost bio gas plant was invented,costing just Rs. 5,000, as opposed to the system that costs almost Rs.50,000 to Rs. 60,000. This was really helpful for small farmers as they would get around 20-30 minutes of gas, just enough for cooking purposes. The cow dung is directly transferred to the home-made biogas plant, which turns the dung into slurry filled with microorganisms.The slurry overflows to the farm irrigation system, thus transferring the manure without manual work and efficiently producing organic crop. So far, 40 such bio gas plants have been installed at various places.
Solar Dryer –
The team also made a solar dryer just at Rs. 4,000.
Watch Pawan explaining how it works
Drip irrigation system with waste drip-bottles:
As Pawan’s father was working in a pharmaceutical company, he had always come across drip bottles that were thrown away as waste after use. Pawan noticed that these bottles could be used effectively in drip irrigation. Today, they have helped many farmers with this technology without any cost.
“We have not registered this project because we believe that farmers should be the last owner and that’s why we have made our technology open to everyone without any vested interest of making money from this,” says Pawan
The duo also reached out to maximum number of farmers to help them switch to natural farming.
“There is a misconception amongfarmers that organic farming gives them low returns. We completely shattered this myth by showing them numbers of examples of farmers who were already doing it through our videos,” Ayush explained.
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They also conduct workshops on the basics of natural farming, right from training the farmers to making fertilizers and pesticides using cow dung and urine to showing them the correct method of seeding. They are also educating people on banking, financial and insurance sector along with training on digital aspects of daily life.
“In a country where over 75% of the rural population is unaware of digital transactions, we’re taking technology changes to people,” says Ayush.
“I’ve learnt about bank and finances. They helped me open bank account; put my money and how to transact. I’ve never felt so good,” says Geeta Devi, a small farm labourer in Uttarakhand.
Ayush and Pawan also understood during their journey that the farmers also need all the information right from weather to the possible solutions handy. They wanted to have a portal where a farmer can get all of this information without the hassle of downloading an app or logging in every time they need information. However, outsourcing this work required capital investment, which they were lacking.
Hence this civil and mechanical engineer learnt IT skills through self study for six months until they developed their dream portal for farmers.
Pawan and Ayush have developed an Agricultural Portal in which farmers can enroll for weather forecasting, state and center farmer welfare policy, natural and effective micro-organism agriculture methods. In this portal, farmers can register their mobile numbers and get information in their local language through SMS. In case they are unable to read, they will also get calls in their mother tongue. This service will be absolutely free of charge for the farmers.As many as 25,000 farmers and counting have already enrolled for this portal.
“We know there are lots of apps available for farmers but the problem is that our farmers are not literate enough to use smart phones anddownload these apps. That’s why we have developed this portal in which farmers do not need to reach technology; rather technology will reach to farmers.This is our Dream Project,” says the duo.
With youth like Pawan and Ayush we can definitely hope for a better India where technology will soon reach out and help each and every farmer of our country.