SAN JOSE, Calif. (Diya TV): Madhucharan Chikkadevaiah, a 37 year old software engineer gives up his luxuries life in the USA and decides to help the framers from his hometown Mandya, a small town that is situated on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway.

Madhucharan was a software engineer working in the Bay Area. He travelled the world, worked with various companies and became the co-founder of a company in San Jose, California. When he was at his highest point of his success with the new product that he had designed- “I felt I had already done all that I wanted to in the software field. What more was left? Be chief executive of yet another company? That was not fun, anymore”, he added. Finally, in 2014 August Madhucharan decided to go back to India.

Until recently, Mandya was branded the suicide capital of farmers due to their huge debts. Although farmers from Mandya had over 200 acres of land to produce crops, they did not see much profits and today the farmers are able to sell their products with no delays, middlemen and negotiations. The positive change in these farmers lives has brought some hope for betterment and all thanks to this ex-software engineer Madhucharan who initiated the “Mandya Organic Farmers Cooperative Society”.

Madhucharan Chikkadebaiah, at one of his organic farms in Mandya Karnataka
Madhucharan Chikkadevaiah, at one of his organic farms in Mandya Karnataka

After Madhucharan moved back to Mandya, he observed even though the farmers were following the modern techniques of farming they were unable to yield profits due to lack of marketing skills, improper information exchange, and inability to bargain effectively with middlemen. They also needed to have the right equipment to make farming efficient and effective for profits. They were unlikely to find metal buildings West Virginia companies to accommodate their storage where they were, but they could find something similar, and that needed to be at the top of the list.

“In the entire world, the farmer is the only person who sells at wholesale, but buys at a retail price”Quote Author

– Madhucharan Chikkadevaiah

Madhucharan believes this fundamental fiscal truth is driving the farmers into poverty and he wants to change that.

“Over the years the farmers have been misguided to use all sorts of fertilizers and chemicals when it wasn’t nesessary, which in the long run have destroyed the soil and affected crop yields. They made the mistake of following agriculture experts who had no practical expertise. As a result, farmers failed miserably. Only 5-6 per cent of farmers succeeded as they followed natural and organic methods of farming,” says Madhu.

Once Madhucharan understood that these were the reasons, he and his other friends pooled in about 150 thousand dollars to form the “Organic Mandya Co-operative Society” – a place where the farmers could sell what they produce under reasonable prices. This means that they can afford new tires for tractors and other equipment for their livelihood. Under this banner- Madhucharan also started a restaurant which promoted organic food.

The 'Organic Mandya' store along 'Mysuru-Bengaluru' highway
The ‘Organic Mandya’ store along ‘Mysuru-Bengaluru’ highway

Madhucharan believed that folks would stop by for a bite at the restaurant and may be encouraged to buy their weekly groceries at the store. However, the opposite happened.

Since the location is on the Mysuru-Bengaluru highway, it is ideal to get a large number of customers. With an oil extraction mill, customers can buy fresh oil as well. Among the 50-55 products sold, the most sought after products are Joni Bella (a liquid form of jaggery), jaggery powder and jaggery blocks.

Seeing the huge demand for products has boosted the confidence of farmers, who are now working with great vigor to meet the rising demand.

Madhucharan has not only incorporated the organic techniques of farming, but is also assimilating the right practices which would benefit the farmer. For example, they are looking into organic insecticides that would allow them to control pests without strong chemicals. This would increase crop yield whilst keeping their products healthy for consumers. Other practices they are looking into are:

  • Sweat Donation Campaign “More than 20 percent of farmers’ yield is lost because of lack of timely labour”, says Madhu. This thought of his brought up an initiative where people could sign up for volunteering at the farms who could help out. The initiative was also started for people who enjoy farming and who want to experience a farmer’s life. “We put out a request on our Facebook page and had around 24 volunteers who completed the work in half a day.” In the last few months, the Sweat Donation Campaign has attracted over 1,000 volunteers from Bengaluru– right from college students to IT professionals and retired couples” added Madhu.
  • Farm Share Another program, where this would allow people to rent out the farms for about three months paying a certain amount and the renters can produce their own crops. The package allows the renter to spend about 8-9 nights in the farm and learn the techniques of farming and on the other days an Organic Mandya Farmer would look after. Once the final crop is ready, the renter could either use their produce for consumption or they could sell it to Organic Mandya.
Volunteers helping farmers at 'Organic Mandya' farm
Volunteers helping farmers at ‘Organic Mandya’ farm
  • ‘Team @ Farm’ This is a very interesting initiative with a nominal expense of about 25$, where the employers could bring their staff for spending a whole day out in the farm. There would be rural activities such as Kabadi, Gilli and Lagori (Outdoor Sports in Rural India) along with Jaggery plant Tour- a tour that gives the people to understand the entire process of Jaggery making.

Madhucharan’s innovative ideas have helped the farmers to have a better life, one they deserve but have been unable to live so far. The co-operative has 500 registered farmers who collectively own about 200 acres of land, producing over 70 varieties of crop.

Today, along with a healthy lifestyle, Mandya is seeing people migrating back from the cities into sustainable villages.

“My biggest success is when someone returns from the city to start farming again. And so far, around 57 have returned to their land. This is only the beginning of a rural organic revolution”, concludes Madhucharan.