Madhu Chandan, a software engineer in Karnataka, improved the lives of hundreds of farmers in the Mandya district by quitting a lucrative firm in the US and moving back to India to start an organic farm. In 2015, Madhu Chandan opened the first Organic Mandya store. Today, it has eight outlets and a Rs 25 crore turnover as an organic retail network.
Organic Mandya was formed in as the marketing wing to support Mandya Organic Farmers Co-operative Society. This initiative is not just a movement, it has become a way of life for many farmers of Mandya.
Out of 197 suicides in the State, 29 farmer suicides were reported in the Mandya district alone between 1 April and 29 July 2015. Madhu, who comes from a farming family in the Mandya district, was disturbed by the ongoing suicide epidemic and the depressing plight of farmers.
Further, his trips to the city of Bengaluru made him notice how farmers had been migrating to urban districts to earn higher incomes as auto-rickshaw drivers or maids and abandoned their agricultural lands as it was not as profitable. “They had migrated to the city because they failed to see hope in farming. I felt I had to do something for the people of my district,” said Madhu in an interview with The Weekend Leader. “I knew that the farmers were doing farming in a wrong way and that’s why they made losses.”
Madhu set out to reverse this negative tide and bring back the joy of farming. In the process, he also sought to eliminate all the chemicals and pesticides the farmers were adding that were making the produce hazardous and unhealthy. “However, it was not as easy as it sounds. When a couple of farmers switched to organic farming initially, they failed badly.”
But Madhu persisted and used tactics to create a model that could be sustained. He advised the farmers to make the transition to organic farming gradually rather than immediately, increasing the amount of land under organic cultivation. “We can’t leave inorganic farming and do organic farming all of a sudden,” says Madhu. It takes about two to three years to change the texture of the soil where chemicals and pesticides have been used for years.
Under the Mandya Organic Farmers Cooperative Society, about 1200 farmers currently practise organic farming. The warehouse employs about 60 residents of the area, and the stores employ another 60. Organic Mandya pays a premium price for the organic produce it buys from farmers and in this way, Madhu has provided a direct market to the farmers.
The organization is geared towards supporting this thought with our innovative organic farming initiatives. They offer online delivery of organic grocery, vegetables and fruits. They have also launched several initiatives in support of farmers such as ‘Donate A Cow #SaveDesiCows,’ ‘#PlantationDrives,’ ‘Kitchen Garden Club for Women,’ and many more! They also organize free farming training programs, farm visits and a farmers’ market with real farmers for all people to attend. The primary goal of this eco-tourism initiatives is to connect the urban community with the farming village community to ensure a direct bond between the two.
Madhu believes it is high time for individuals to make attempts to live healthier and happier lives by cooperating with nature. One day, he hopes to transform all of Mandya district’s agriculture into organic production and re-establish farming as a prestigious vocation.