Success Story

A teenager's firm effort of promoting agriculture

At first glimpse, Yuvraj Mehra seems like a regular teenager from modern Mumbai.

It’s only when you interact with him that you realize he is not your average 17-year old. With a refreshing world view and a holistic understanding of sustainability today, Yuvraj has been volunteering in promoting sustainable farming activities through Farmer Groups for the past few years.

The transformation started inthe year 2016 when Yuvraj first learnt about Fair Trade on his maiden visit to one of the Fair Trade-certified projects in the state of Gujarat.He discovered his new passion early on, citing rural India as his inspiration; “What many people don’t realize is that 70% of India’s population lives in villages”, he says, “with sub-par resources that make it difficult for individuals to live day-to-day life, which the rest of us take for granted”. He sought out ways in which he could help individuals living in villages and small communities. Since then, he has also travelled to Kerala, Maharashtra and out of India to countries like Uganda.

Yuvraj’s interest in farming comes from his exposure to agriculture, as his family has been involved in the agriculture business for decades. He always maintained and campaigned for the belief that Indian farmers need to be armed with the best resources possible. This vision came to fruition after learning about Fair Trade. The Fair Trade organization connects disadvantaged farmers and workers with consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower farmers and workers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives. Yuvraj understood that the best way to contribute to sustainability was to empower these farmers instead of enabling them. 

Yuvraj actively works towards identifying different aspects of the farmers lives and their families, and sees this as an opportunity to learn from them. “Our farmers are some of the most resourceful people I have ever met’, he says. “They make the best out of what they have, and don’t take anything for granted”. He understands that the country builds from the ground up, and not the other way around. “The more empowered our farmers are, the better our country will develop”, he says.

Yuvraj often makes efforts to be part of the farmer groups which conduct need-assessments at village levels to understand requirements of the farmers. His commitment isn’t limited to the farmers, however. Yuvraj tries to be actively involved in community and family affairs of farmers groups as well. Along with sustainability, he is passionate about education and understands that education greatly improves one’s chances at a rewarding future. He describes his experience of Gujarat where he noticed that one scholarship programme is run by a farmers group which is only for girls, “’Why only girls?’I asked the group members, and their explanation was ‘the female student drop-out rate’.The expense of sending girls students to secondary schools far away from villages by spending money on their transportation was considered unnecessary. At the time in 2016, I was not clear about the result of such project, but results wereamazing.If you look at the scholarship list, you will notice that the number of female students is increasing.In only three years, the number of girls under this programme has increased almost three-fold. The scholarshipscover the cost of transport and tuition fees of these girls in 9thgrade until they graduate, and it has been a massivesuccess” says Yuvraj.

Yuvraj is also regularly a part of the team which conducts need-assessment at the village level to understand farmers’ needs. “What was unique about the assessment exercise is that the farmers identified the problem and then collectively came up with the solution and with little assistance from organizations who like to engage themselves as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.” He says, “so rather than simply stating a problem, this becomes more of an empowerment exercise”.

Yuvraj first started volunteering with some farmer groups initially, and later onFair Trade-Certified Farmer Organizations. He encouraged the farmers groups to get involved in the process of planning development activities for possibly facilitating through utilization of theFairTrade premium.

For example, to increase the yield of black peppervines,they need to be rejuvenated. The farmers decided to utilize the FairTradepremium for this purpose. Accordingly, aplan was prepared to distribute fresh black pepper seedlings to member farmers. The seedlings were distributed in Idukki, Kerala. Yuvraj was involved and actively participated in this activity of distribution and helped farmers plant the seedlings. “We also distributed some farming equipment and baskets to collect the harvest”, Yuvraj said, “along with a large piece of canvas to dry the pepper on”. During his last visit to Idukki, he assisted in digging watering ponds which can hold upto 250,000 to 300,000 litres of rain water for irrigation. Yuvraj observed that the project primarily taken up by these farmers group are related to water conservation, organic input for chemical-free agriculture which leads to sustainability.

These experiences helped Yuvrajrealize how much FairTrade means to improve farmer’s  lives and empowerment.  He regularly works with the Fair Trade team in Gujarat and Kerala in activities which promoting organic and sustainable farming methods through agricultural experts to conduct various training on bio-input preparation from on-farm available materials.

Yuvraj has been involved in Fair Trade activities, and demonstrated his passion for sustainability and development through direct and indirect contributions to the Fair Trade organization. Yuvraj is also making active efforts to branch out to more communities in India and beyond through Fair Trade. He is getting involved withsome NGOs, farmer producer groups and even for-profit, social companies to continue volunteering forthe sustainability of marginalized communities and making a differencefor them.

Yuvraj believes that volunteering has greatly contributed to his personal growth as it has helped him broaden his horizons. He wishes that more of India’s urban youth would take an interest in agriculture and would work to making the lives of these farmers and their families better. “We need to look beyond social media, and see what the reality is”, he says. “The sort of future we want to build is in our hands.”



Share your comments