“You’ve misplaced your thoughts”, “It could be a failure”, and “You’ll lose all of your cash” — these had been the phrases thrown at Rakesh Chowdhary (40) when he instructed his family and friends that he needs to do medicinal farming as an alternative of conventional farming.
Hailing from a farming household from Rajpura village within the Nagaur district of Rajasthan, agriculture for a dwelling is all he has recognized his complete life. So even leaving his village to pursue BSc from Jaipur didn’t deter his determination to hitch his household occupation.
“For those who go away dwelling and get educated, most individuals count on you to get a job and never do farming. I discover this downside with youth, who would like a Rs 7,000 job as an alternative of taking on agriculture. Nevertheless, for me, it was at all times clear that I’ll find yourself on the farm,” Rakesh tells The Higher India.
At present, Rakesh earns Rs 10 crore yearly by planting natural and medicinal crops along with his firm Vinayak Natural. He has farms everywhere in the nation in states together with Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Gujarat, participating over 50,000 farmers to do natural medicinal farming.
The roadblocks to success
Speaking in regards to the inspiration behind planting natural crops, he says, “In 2003, I used to be serving to my father on farms whereas taking a look at completely different farming companies. That is after I came upon in regards to the State Medicinal Plant Board’s scheme of contractual farming.”
He continues, “Within the scheme, the federal government was providing subsidies to farmers who would do contractual farming of medicinal crops. Contractual farming is an settlement between farmers and processing and/or advertising and marketing companies for the manufacturing and provide of agricultural merchandise. However on the time, nobody in my space, together with my household, was able to take the leap and check out one thing apart from conventional farming.”
For Rakesh, it appeared like nobody might see the potential of a chance like this. “I assumed to myself, ‘Why not?’. The officers that I met within the medicinal plant division guided me in the direction of extremely worthwhile medicinal crops,” he says.
Whereas Rakesh’s success story may look like a stroke of luck, the trail resulting in it was riddled with hurdles. Firstly, he suffered from an absence of assets and cash to put money into his enterprise.
“For a small farmer like me, there aren’t any loans, as we have now nothing to mortgage. My spouse took a mortgage by mortgaging her jewelry. We additionally had some cattle that we bought to acquire the required funds to sow my first crop,” he says.
In 2004, he used a portion of his household farms and sowed his first crop — mulethi (liquorice) and flame lily.
“It was a catastrophe. Rajasthan is dry, scorching within the summers and very chilly in winter. I didn’t look deep sufficient into the local weather of the place and the necessities of the plant. I misplaced some huge cash. I used to be past comfort at that time,” he remembers.
Though he was knee-deep in losses, Rakesh by no means considered giving up. For his second crop, he put his solely tractor at stake and borrowed cash from a personal particular person.
“All of the taunts that folks made appeared to be coming true. However not even for a second did I consider giving up. I knew this had potential. I planted aloe vera the second time, and it labored splendidly. All I wanted to do was to analysis extra and perceive the soil of the realm for a profitable crop,” he says.
All these hurdles apart, what burdened him essentially the most was the shortage of religion from his household.
“I used to be very younger, and all I used to be searching for was religion and help. I used to be an unsuccessful farmer with debt in his palms and a household to take care of. My biggest motivation was the adversity I used to be in. I needed to make it work; it was like I had no different selection. I made a guidelines to contemplate earlier than sowing a crop — take a look at the local weather of the place, plant supreme high quality crops, and market demand of the sowed crop.
By 2005, Rakesh had cracked the code of farming. He says, “I knew all about my soil, the crop and the local weather required, and many others. What was forward was to acquire prospects — the third factor on my guidelines. In 2006, I discovered my first buyer for aloe vera, they usually purchased it for Rs 1.5 per kg.”
Making farming worthwhile
“Though I had a number of religion in my work, with so many hurdles, I used to be beginning to really feel discouraged. Once I bought my first order, it felt like a ray of hope. Understanding the ins and outs of farming, I knew this was the proper time for me to succeed in out to increasingly farmers throughout the nation,” he says.
He continues, “Reaching out to farmers grew to become a activity for me as I had by no means been out of Rajasthan, and I used to be a bit of nervous too. It was an inner battle that I had, however I stored pushing myself. I reached out to farmers, spoke to them about the advantages of medicinal farming and collaborated with them. At present I’ve farms throughout the nation in a number of states that develop crops that swimsuit the local weather and soil.”
It took him almost a decade to ascertain himself. In 2017, he launched his agency, Vinayak Natural, with which he was in a position to join with 1000’s of farmers throughout the nation.
“To construct a community was arduous. No one knew me, however right now, many do. We develop over 120 sorts of medicinal crops and ship them to pharma firms and sellers throughout the nation,” he says.
These embody aloe vera, ashwagandha (withania somnifera), chamomile, stevia, chia, akarkara (anacyclus pyrethrum), methi (fenugreek), and saunf (fennel).
Rakesh strongly feels that there’s a want for increasingly younger folks to take up farming.
“It’s noticeable that the most recent technology of youngsters from farming households go away the occupation. The farmers work arduous and ship their youngsters to high schools and universities in order that they discover jobs and by no means return to farming. Solely 30 p.c of the kids truly flip in the direction of agriculture. Largely they go for farming as a result of they may not discover a job or couldn’t get an training,” he says.
“The issue lies in how unorganised the sector is. As soon as often called an agricultural nation, India’s farmers have suffered losses time and again. With correct planning, market orientation and truthful costs, the situation may be modified. It’s changing into the necessity of the hour. In any other case quickly, there will likely be farms however no farmer to farm on it.”
Rakesh has taken it upon himself to induce increasingly younger folks into the agriculture sector by proving how worthwhile it may be. “With the proper set of individuals, information and the desire to battle by means of arduous instances, anybody can turn into a profitable farmer,” he says.
Edited by Divya Sethu; All photos courtesy: Rakesh Chowdhary