Going organic!

This Hyderabad-based company is helping transform the Indian agricultural industry into one that's sustainable.

An organic farming and produce marketing company, 24 Mantra Organic, is trying to transform the Indian agricultural industry into a sustainable yet profitable one. This came to fruition earlier this year when the Sikkim government announced that it had converted 100 per cent of its agricultural land to organic farming, something that 24 Mantra had a large hand in.

Hailing from a farming family and studying agriculture while graduating from IIM Ahmedabad, founder Rajsekhar Reddy Seelam knew he always wanted to work in the farming industry. He started at a company that manufactured and sold pesticides and fertilisers. “Working at that place made me realise that the situation of the farmer was quite bad in this country. I’ve seen farmers dipping potatoes and cabbages in pesticide solutions and sending it for cold storage and for selling it at the market,” he says.

After his father was diagnosed with cancer, research showed him that pesticides played a big role in increasing the incidence of cancer across the world, and he swore to help the country turn to organic, healthier agricultural practices.

He founded 24 Mantra Organic in 2004, through which he partnered with existing organic farmers to also create job safety and alleviate problems that farmers across the country faced. “It ultimately has to benefit farmers by creating a sustainable livelihood for them and increasing their quality of life. Second, it would ensure that we’re able to give pure, healthy food to consumers,” Rajsekhar explains.

They not just train farmers but learn from them, and using their practises to help others in various parts of the country. They also have a team of scientists at hand to advise farmers through their representatives about what to do if they face any difficulties.

Over a span of 12 years, the company now works on more than 40 projects across 15 states, covering 1.75 lakh acres of organic farming land. And this is not counting the work they’ve done in Sikkim — out of the 75,000 hectares of agricultural land that is now organic in Sikkim, 24 Mantra converted 12,000 hectares. The positive results of which, Rajsekhar says, are plain to see — “Farmers are able to make 15-20 per cent more net income. Their financial risk comes down because they don’t have to borrow money for fertilisers or pesticides.”

Their experience has helped them turn skeptics into believers, even convincing the unbelieving scientific community to see the benefits of organic farming. “Organic is also about science. The only difference is that we need to respect nature and that the science is in tune with nature,” Rajsekhar says.
His CEO, N. Balasubramaniam, who joined the company shortly after its inception, adds, “We’ve signed an MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government and with the recent announcements in the budget about organic farming I think more and more state governments will look at organic land conversion. Telangana state, Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments also have shown interest and the ball will start rolling now.”

While their focus will always be on organic farming, Rajsekhar also looks at bettering the quality of these farmers’ lives through health screening camps, educating school kids, engaging women in the family and more.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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