As soon as the announcement of the lockdown was made, many of us rushed to the nearest grocery store to stock up on vegetables, fruits and other essentials. While we were wondering about how long the groceries will last, farmers in Sarjapur, Bengaluru, had a different problem to overcome.
With their fields harvested, many farmers were contemplating throwing away the vegetables because getting the produce to the city had suddenly become a risky affair. The strict COVID-19 lockdown meant that only a limited quantity of produce could be transported.
Distressed by the situation and eager to find a solution, Muniraju, a farmer living on the outskirts of Bengaluru, called up Jagadeesh Kotturshettar, the President of Sarjapura Residents Welfare Association (SRWA).
Fortunately, the idea they thought of together would bring freshly harvested veggies right at the doorsteps of about 600 families and help the farmers earn between Rs 12,000-15,000 daily!
Local Bengaluru Connections Help During the Lockdown:
The SRWA has been in touch with about 10 local farmers since 2014-15. Jagadeesh tells The Better India (TBI) that he received a call from the farmer on 31 March, just a few days after the nationwide lockdown was imposed.
“He told me that going all the way to KR Market to sell vegetables was getting costly for the farmers and that since even the public couldn’t come there, the efforts seemed in vain. He proposed that an arrangement be set wherein the farmers could sell their produce directly to families in Sarjapur, benefiting both the parties,” says Jagadeesh.
Where on one hand, we have been reading unsettling reports of farmers dumping or destroying their produce during the lockdown, on the other hand, Bengaluru residents were scrambling for good quality fresh vegetables.
Thus, as soon as Jagadeesh received that distress call, he was quick to spring into action.
Joy VR, co-founder and current secretary of SRWA says, “Over 100 apartments and villas come under the umbrella of the association. After Jagadeesh got the call, he informed me to send a message across the secretaries of each apartment asking if they were interested in a farm-to-home initiative during the lockdown. About 40 apartments were keen and work began almost immediately.”
The SRWA members got due permissions from the police to send a van providing essentials to the residents. When all formalities were completed, work began with full force.
How the System Works:
Barani Dharan, a resident of SRWA tells TBI that once the 40 apartment complexes confirmed they would like the farmers’ produce to come directly to them, a WhatsApp group was made for their respective secretaries.
“Whichever apartment complex requires vegetables, they confirm the request via email. One member of the SRWA makes an excel sheet with addresses and requirements and sends it to Muniraju, who drives the tempo to the apartments the following day. The van stops at every apartment for a couple of hours so residents can purchase fresh produce,” informs Barani.
Jagadeesh confirms that Muniraju attends to a maximum of six apartments every day to ensure safety. In addition, wearing masks is compulsory for the driver, the helper and the residents. They stand in queues maintaining social distance. These rules are to be broken under no circumstances.
“The van comes to their apartments with commonly used vegetables like onion, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes as well as others. In a week, at least 600 flats have bought vegetables from this system. Since Monday this week, at least 250 have confirmed their orders. The farmers save about Rs 2 per kg of vegetables that they usually spend on transport and Maniraju says their total income is between Rs 12000-15000 per day!” informs Joy.
This amazing system with winners on both sides will continue as long as the lockdown does. Joy and Jagadeesh both said that after the success of the first week, residents started requesting fruits and farmers have offered to sell in-season fruits to them.
The lockdown may have put a halt to our normal lives but with initiatives like these, Bengaluru residents are ensuring minimal loss to farmers and normalcy to consumers.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)