In 2017, when Indra Raj Jat and Seema Saini from Jaipur, Rajasthan completed their studies, their parents wanted them to get a job. But they had different ideas about what they wanted to do next.
The duo studied agriculture at the same college, Seema did his MSc while Indra did his BSc, and shared the same vision. So they decided to embark on a journey to start their business by implementing integrated agriculture and agritourism.
They leased about one and a half hectares of land in the village of Khora Shyamdas in Rajasthan and started sustainable agriculture as well as animal husbandry which included poultry farming, goat farming, goat herding, cows, camel herding, etc. The farm also promotes agro-tourism and welcomes its guests in mud houses inspired by the traditional villages of Rajasthan.
Their successful agricultural business registered a turnover of around Rs 35 lakh last year.
After realizing the significance of sustainable agriculture and agrotourism, the duo registered their initiative as an NGO four years ago, to promote the same. Since then, they have been training thousands of farmers in organic and integrated farming and also encouraging them to engage in agrotourism.
A mission of sustainable agriculture and agrotourism
Many people advised them not to venture into farming, saying that it would not be profitable. Indra says, “We both come from farming families and we studied agriculture, so we had a good idea of farming and how to go about it. But we never thought it would be such a hit. In addition, through our business, we realized the potential of agrotourism and also began to promote it.
The duo have adopted integrated farming methods and cultivate different types of vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants and cereals like bajra, barley, wheat, etc. “As we follow a sustainable farming model, we prepare everything, from animal feed to farmyard manure, right on the farm. So we don’t need to go out for anything,” Indra says.
Besides farming, the duo also promote agritourism and host around 50 guests a month, Seema says, adding that all farm products are sold on the farm itself.
“In addition to 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,” adds Indra.
Speaking of the agrotourism concept, he says, “When we started, I built a mud house in the field for us to stay in while we were on the farm. Most people who visited were fascinated by the earth house and many expressed interest in staying in such earth houses. This is how we realized the significance of building such traditional mud houses and welcoming guests, giving them a pleasant farming experience.
Later they built a few more mud houses and started welcoming more guests. “Currently, we have five mud houses and a dormitory. Our office is also built with mud,” says Seema.
“It took us about two years to build them and we spent around Rs 8 to Rs 12 lakh to put this whole design together,” Indra says, adding that the houses were built with the help of local artisans, using mud, cow dung and some kind of grass for his roof.
“People love to stay there as it is a replica of traditional Rajasthani village houses,” he adds.
Then in 2018, they registered the Green World Foundation as an NGO and trained farmers in nearby areas. “In the beginning, we interacted with all the farmers in the neighboring areas and realized that most of them were facing huge losses. It was then that we had the idea of helping them by training them to adopt sustainable approaches to agriculture such as organic farming, sustainable agriculture and also agrotourism. So far, we have trained about 8,000 farmers in this regard and many of them have switched to such practices,” he says.
Arjun Dewasi, a young farmer from Jaipur, who attended Green World Foundation’s training programs says it helped him understand organic farming and implement it successfully. “I took two of their training programs, one on organic farming and the other on advanced horticulture. The training helped me understand how to grow crops more efficiently. After the training, I started growing cucumbers, colored peppers and strawberries organically on my farm. As it is profitable, I plan to expand my business to other cultures as well.
In the future, the duo hope to train many more, like Arjun, in low-cost integrated farming methods.
And as business picks up, Seema is happier to finally have her parents’ approval. “My parents weren’t very supportive when we decided to start this business. There were times when we were in trouble and my parents worried about it all. But now things have changed and they are giving us all the support we need to move forward with our business,” she concludes.
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Edited by Yoshita Rao