In 2017, when Indra Raj Jat and Seema Saini from Jaipur, Rajasthan, completed their studies, their parents wanted them to secure a job. But they had different ideas of what they wanted to do next.
The duo studied agriculture at the same college, Seema did her MSc while Indra did his BSc, and shared the same vision. So, they decided to embark on a journey to start their venture by implementing integrated agriculture and agro-tourism.
They rented out about one and a half hectares of land in the Khora Shyamdas village of Rajasthan and started sustainable farming along with animal husbandry that included poultry farming, goat rearing, cow rearing, camel rearing and so on. The farm also promotes agro-tourism and hosts its guests in mud houses that were inspired by the traditional villages of Rajasthan.
Their successful agri-venture clocked a turnover of around Rs 35 lakh last year.
After realising the scope of sustainable agriculture and agro-tourism, the duo registered their initiative as an NGO four years ago, to promote the same. Ever since they have been training thousands of farmers in organic and integrated farming and encouraging them to take up agro-tourism too.
A Sustainable Farming & Agro-Tourism Mission
A lot of people advised them not to venture into the field of agriculture saying that it wouldn’t be profitable. Indra says, “We both belong to agricultural families plus we studied agriculture, so we had a good idea about farming and how to go about it. But we never thought that it would be this successful. Also, through our venture, we realised the potential of agro-tourism and started promoting it as well.”
The duo has adopted integrated farming methods and grow different types of vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants and grains like bajra, barley, wheat and so on. “As we are following a sustainable farming model, we prepare everything from animal feed to farm manure within the farm itself. So, we don’t have to go out for anything,” says Indra.
Besides farming, the duo also promotes agro-tourism and has been hosting about 50 guests a month, says Seema, adding that all the produce from the farm is being sold on the farm itself.
“Other than the vegetables and grains, we also sell dairy products, spices and value-added products like pickles. But we never had to market them outside the farm,” Indra adds.
Talking about the concept of agro-tourism, he says, “When we started, I built a mud house in the field for us to stay while we were at the farm. Most of the people who visited were fascinated by the mud house and many expressed their interest in staying in such mud houses. That’s how we realised the scope of building such traditional mud houses and hosting guests, thereby offering them an indulging farm experience.”
Later, they built a few more mud houses and started hosting more guests. “Currently, we have five mud houses and a dormitory hall. Our office is also built with mud,” says Seema.
“It took us around two years to build them and we spent around Rs 8 to Rs 12 lakh for setting up this entire model,” Indra explains, adding that the houses were built with the help of local artisans, using mud, cow dung and a kind of grass for its roofing.
“People love to stay in it as it’s a replica of the traditional village houses seen in Rajasthan,” he adds.
Then in 2018, they registered Green World Foundation as an NGO and have been training farmers in the nearby areas. “In the beginning, we interacted with all the farmers in the nearby areas and realised that most of them were facing huge losses. That’s when we got the idea of helping them by training them to adopt sustainable approaches in farming like organic farming, integrated farming and also agro-tourism. Till now, we have trained around 8,000 farmers in this regard and many of them have switched to such practices,” he claims.
Arjun Dewasi, a young farmer from Jaipur, who attended the training programmes from the Green World Foundation says that it helped him to understand organic farming and to successfully implement it. “I attended two of their training programmes, one on organic farming and the other on hi-tech horticulture. The training did help me to understand how to grow crops more efficiently. After the training, I started growing cucumbers, coloured capsicums and strawberries organically on my farm. As it’s profitable, I am planning to expand my venture to more crops as well.”
Moving forward, the duo hope to train many more, like Arjun, in low-cost integrated farming methods.
And while business is picking up, Seema is happiest about finally winning her parents’ approval. “My parents weren’t that supportive when we decided to start this business. There were times when we were struggling and my parents were worried about the whole thing. But now things have changed and they are giving us all the support to move forward with our venture,” she concludes.
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Edited by Yoshita Rao