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Ways out of poverty for farmers in India - environmentally friendly and sustainable

Jiya Lal looks satisfied. The wiry, determined-looking farmer from the village of Titarpur in the Indian state of Uttarakhand has managed to get a reasonable price for his tomato harvest. This was made possible because he sold them directly at the Sunday market in the state capital Dehradun.

"It's a great feeling to be able to set the price for your products after months of laboring," Jiyalal told DW. "I feel empowered and more confident about my job."

Just like him, Kalyan Singh, also a small farmer from the neighboring village of Mindal, is enthusiastic about the money he has earned with a bumper crop of coriander.

"It took months, but we managed to get rid of the middlemen in the supply chain," says Singh. "We are the direct contact for customers, and that is exactly what we want." He wants to grow other spices and also legumes in the coming months.

Plant seed pencils are popular in the United States and Germany

The power of the pencil

The success and relative prosperity of the smallholders is mainly thanks to the NGO "Evolve". The organization tries to create a sustainable ecosystem in the region by selling environmentally friendly products and services.

"Evolve" started about a year ago. The twenties Nupur Agarwal and Abhinav Ahluwalia wanted to do something about the financial insecurity of the agricultural community in Pauli Bhud, a village in Dehradun.

They started with workshops on growing pulses and other high-yielding plants. They also showed the locals how to make pencils and note paper with plant seeds. After using these gimmicks, you can simply plant these gimmicks and the seeds inside will grow.

"With Evolve, we are trying to offer socio-economic benefits to the people in rural India and to awaken a better understanding of the environment and culture in the people of urban India," says Agarwal.

Evolve brought local farmers together and showed them how to grow profitable crops

To do this, she gave up her successful career as CEO of a gaming center. Like her co-founder, she used her savings for the project.

"It took us six months to come up with a working concept," she explains. They agreed to "train people in rural areas and improve their situation through financial inclusion."

Make money to prevent suicides

According to government statistics, almost 70 percent of the 90 million households that make a living from agriculture in India spend more than they earn each month. As a result, many people have to take out loans that they cannot repay. The high levels of debt have led to extremely high suicide rates. In addition, many have moved from the countryside to the cities and taken on menial jobs there.

According to Ahluwalia, this mass migration will worsen India's food supplies and ecosystems.

"That worried me, and we decided to create a smart, sustainable ecosystem for both rural and urban India," she told DW.

In the meantime, Ahluwalia and her co-founder have been able to build up a network of more than 250 farmers in the region. The farmers are now growing various legumes, spices, flowers and dried fruits instead of rice and grain as before.

Since the farmers have been selling their products directly to the end customers, their lives have improved significantly

The whole thing is going so well that the "Evolve" team has started another initiative called "Kisan Window", which means "Opportunity for farmers".

The idea, says Agarwal, "is to help farmers by giving them technical know-how to ensure sustainable use of resources and the production of quality products."

They can now sell these goods at the local weekly market, where they have direct contact with customers and are therefore free to ask a fair price for their laboriously cultivated products. For Jiya Lal this is a fundamental change.

"The farmers in the country suffered for a long time because they did not get a fair price for their products."

Sow the seeds for the future

For other products, such as the seeded pencils, greeting cards, and paper, Evolve ensures that they are sold for their real value. The farmers are paid for the produce as well as a share of the profits. In just over a year, they have sold $ 31,000 worth of plant seed pens in India, the United States, and Germany.

For people with limited space, paper with plant seeds is a great way to train green fingers

This has encouraged the social entrepreneurs to expand their ambitious project.

"We hope to set up 60 sustainable centers across India within the next three years and offer more than 60 different organic and sustainable products in 60 rural travel destinations and 60 weekly markets," says Agarwal.

For Jiya Lal, Kalyan Singh and countless other farmers, this is not only an opportunity to earn a living, but also an opportunity to grow food with dignity.

  • Sick Ganges: India's holy river is dying

    Prayers for "Mother Ganges"

    The Ganges flows more than 2,600 kilometers from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. The river is many things: source of drinking water, bathing resort, job guarantor, pilgrimage site, goddess, cemetery. Every day thousands of Hindus immerse themselves in the water to cleanse themselves of their sins. Many want to die by the river. On its banks, believers regularly say prayers for "Mother Ganges".

  • Sick Ganges: India's holy river is dying

    "I never thought of going away"

    One of them is Lokesh Sharma. The 19-year-old priest lives in Devprayang, a mountain village in the state of Uttarakhand, where the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers converge to form the Ganges. "I never thought of going away and settling down anywhere else," says Sharma. Devprayang is one of the few regions where the Ganges water is still clear.

  • Sick Ganges: India's holy river is dying

    Human dirt factor

    On its way through India and Bangladesh, the Ganges flows past both small villages and metropolises. In the Kolkata metropolitan area with its 14 million inhabitants, the Ganges water is cloudy. Not only here is the river used for daily washing (laundry) and brushing teeth - one of the many causes of the increasing pollution.

  • Sick Ganges: India's holy river is dying

    Ganges rubbish dump

    In some sections of the river, the pollution is so high that bathing is a danger. In many places, private individuals, small businesses and factories use the Ganges as a garbage dump. In addition, thousands of corpses are burned every year and given to the holy river. The Indian government introduced the first rescue measures back in 1985, but the pollution continues to this day.

  • Sick Ganges: India's holy river is dying

    Hazardous sewage

    The industrial wastewater discharged into the river also poses a health risk. Less than a quarter of the almost five million liters of wastewater that flows into the Ganges every day is treated today. In Kampur, the leather industry carries chemicals directly into the river through drainage pipes. Therefore, foam often forms on the water surface at the middle reaches.

  • Sick Ganges: India's holy river is dying

    Declining biodiversity

    In a section near Kampur, the Ganges is now so polluted that the water has turned red. The river is chronically low in oxygen, many animal species are threatened with extinction, and the fish population is constantly falling. According to the World Wildlife Fund For Nature (WWF), the Ganges dolphin population alone has fallen from around 5000 animals in the 1980s to 1800 today.

  • Sick Ganges: India's holy river is dying

    Political failure

    The death of the Ganges has been known for decades, but so far Indian politics has achieved little. Little has changed under Prime Minister Modi either. The government has announced that it will build more sewage treatment plants and want to relocate at least 400 factories on the banks. But the measure, which cost the equivalent of three billion US dollars, is behind schedule.

    Author: Helena Kaschel