Interviews

An Exclusive Interview with Founder of Aahwahan Foundation, Braja Kishore Pradhan

Aahwahan Foundation works in the field of preserving the environment and promoting community living through integrative agriculture and organic farming practices. The foundation has been working in segments like health, education, women safety & empowerment, community living and environment, since 2009 under the tutelage of Braja Kishore Pradhan who is leading the way forward to help developers reach the grassroots through the organisation’s innovative programmes and methods in place. 

How do you work on integrative agriculture practices and what is it all about?

We are actively working on promoting integrative agricultural practices along with the coastal areas where we consult with the village elders; take the piece of water and adjacent land body to develop it. We basically use the water body for fishery after they have cleaned it, restored it and brought about its pH balance together. This helps the local villages to gain a source of income by selling fishes and alongside the piece of land they use for growing medicinal plants and herbs which fetches a better price when sold to help the villagers in the area. This practice is also sustainable in the long run as the village is made self- sufficient and be able to sustain itself.  

What is Yuktix? How it is helping the farmers? 

Ok… We are working with a Bangalore based startup called Yuktix from four years which is providing the foundation with a device, which when inserted in the farm provides the team with real-time data on all the parameters required before the farming practice is implemented, this arms the farmer with the knowledge of techniques that can be used to enhance the crop yield while maintaining the nutrients of the soil. This initiative together has helped many farmers improve their products and maintain their quality at the same time.  

So it is helping the farmers to understand new farming techniques and practices which help increase the yield while maintaining the soil quality and ensuring the practice is all organic method of farming. 

What about the other areas excluding farming like cooperatives and others? 

Yes of Course … So if you look the average landholding per family is around 1 to 2 acres. By encouraging farmers to combine their land and create cooperatives, they ensure better yields and increased earnings for the farmers. Once the farmers are convinced of the guaranteed price and improved productivity, more and more families would join the cooperatives. 

Even the farmers are also encouraged to commence dairy farming. They are supported to produce organic milk, curd, paneer, ghee, cheese, and butter. Assistance in the form of calf-rearing and techniques for increasing milk production is given. The entire village is declared as a “No plastic zone.” The production cycle involves the concept “Farm to Consumer, where the farmers produce is directly sold to the consumer. Eliminating the brokers boosts the farmers’ income. The success of this initiative would one day spark the next wave of revolution in organic farming.  

We have heard that ISRO chairman K. Sivan is also closely associated with Aahwahan Foundation? 

Yes… Rightly said K.Sivan, who is now Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is helping a lot to us. Even he has appreciated our work in the field of women empowerment. Not only this the organisation also has onboard prominent scientists like Dr Ashish Kumar of World Bank, several other scientists, research students from agriculture institutes who are continually providing inputs to help the farmers. 

Can you tell what more are you doing on the water body, organic and others?

Ok…. So, the NGO also overhauls the water body to create a public park. To improve the aesthetic appearance of the peripheral areas, they set up benches, walking tracks and illuminate the embankments. Public toilets are constructed. Even a computer centre is established for providing technical training to local youth. It would transform the economic health of the area around the water body. Stakeholders, including local government officials, agricultural research universities, other NGO’s, leadership at the village level, and local people have backed the project. The project would set a precedent for other villages in the coastal areas.  

The foundation also promotes organic farming such as providing organic seeds and fertilisers, supporting the farmers on how to grow when to grow; they are collaborating with a team of researchers and scientists to educate the farmers on how to make up for the depleting nutrients from the soil etc.  

What challenges you have faced during COVID-19?

Yes, I would say a lot of since it’s an NGO so COVID-19 has impacted a lot. But still, we are recovering it we are trying to involve everyone and planning how to deal with 3087 volunteers. And of course, we believe in the holistic development of every person would contribute to the overall health of society and promote social well-being. This would make us realize the philosophy Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam i.e. The World Is One Family. Aahwahan Foundation would request companies to consider delivering relief and rehabilitation to individuals affected by COVID-19 with their CSR funds. As a country, we must be socially accountable while we also build our economy. 

This interview was taken by Pritam Kashyap, Journalist, Krishi Jagran on 13 August 2020 via telephone. We look forward to more interactions and collaborations in the future as well.  

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