How this Assam agri-preneur is making farming lucrative, attracting youths
Guwahati: Krishna is a student of Chitralekha Siksha Bikash Mandir based in Jorhat. She has been trained in the production of vermicompost by recycling and reusing waste at SPREAD NE. This skill has given Krishna an opportunity to earn a living while learning. Her family warns an income from the sale of the compost, the vermiwash and the earthworms.
Krishna went on to motivate several self help groups also to journey on this path. She is currently studying Sericulture at the Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Jorhat, and she bears the cost of her education by making vermicompost, recycling waste.
Krishna is just one of many beneficiaries of the work and efforts of one man, Samir Bordoloi. His story is one of dedication and commitment. It is a tale of a life-long journey; of passion for a trade not many are privy to. It is the story of one man's exploit at ecological-friendly farming.
We recently had a chat with this cheerful industrious fellow and learnt a lot about his life, mission and work.
Bordoloi says like most other people, he had a very humble beginning. “My exposure to the world of farming began in the alluring mountains of Arunachal Pradesh during my childhood. My father was posted to a place called Dirang. I loved the home garden we had there. I loved the look on my father's face while he worked in the garden; it was very relaxing for him," he says.
Bordoloi has a sound background knowledge of agriculture. Even before he ventured into this career path, he understood the basics of farming and was always passionately invested into it. As an agricultural studies graduate from the AAU, he started his career in the food industry.
His job revealed to him many things about the farming sector that appeared revolutionary to him. He soon discovered that there wasn't a direct link from the local farmers to the consumers. Armed with that revelation, Bordoloi quit his corporate job in 2015 and began his very first plant health clinic called SS Botanicals based in Jorhat.
“Due to my agriculturally industrious background, I soon figured out what the problem was. Farmers, in order to provide for the industries that required a small supply of raw materials, were losing out on home grown crops, they kept on planting the same crops on the soil repeatedly, introducing chemicals and getting little pay. I wanted to put an end to it," he says.
As a social agripreneur and the secretary general of the enterprise SPREAD NE, based in Assam, Bordoloi practises and enhances ecological farming. His idea of farming is one formulated into a simple principle: ’Local People - Local Food - Local Economy’. This principle is born out of the need to create awareness against exploitation by big agro-based companies of the produce of local farmers. He feels local farmers are not paid commensurately to their work.
"As a farmer myself, I understand the need to adopt measures that ensure the profitability of farming. When this is achieved farmer's children will aspire to take over the practice from their parents," he notes. This reaches his passion for environmental-friendly farming. He desires to see more local farmers take up this mantra of farming in an ecological friendly manner.
He took this passion a step further by creating his own cheap ecological farming practices, which over 10,000 farmers who work with him, have judiciously taken up as a practice. Bordoloi is proud of his profession. He wears the title of farmer, which he always places as a prefix to his name, as a badge of honour.
To Bordoloi, farmers are future healers and they heal by providing healthy locally grown food to people. Most of the projects Bordoloi embarks on are aimed at incorporating the younger generation into growing their food locally. His association with the younger generation of farmers led to the commencement of village organisations like Pathar, Prakrity and Seuj Chinta Integrated Marketing And Extension Group.
Bordoloi travels all across the country to learn traditional farming practices from the local and grassroots farmers; he tags the agricultural knowledge from the university as very theoretical. Based on his agricultural expertise, he formulated several new models of ecological friendly farming practices.
Bordoloi also employs other methods of attracting the younger generation to embrace farming; one of them includes increasing profit by reducing cost of farming, achieved by utilising industrial resources. Bordoloi aims to lower cost by increasing availability of local resources.
Bordoloi began a students’ programme called Attracting Students Agripreneurship. He started training college students and school children on how to create Food Forest using local crops. Several school children in Northeast India have proceeded to create several food forests as school projects and have learnt a lot about ecological preservation.
For Bordoloi, the goal is to reach a time when young people will aspire to be farmers. He says, “We understand that food is one of the big businesses in the world today. Nobody wants to sleep without food. Everything is marketed, starting from the seeds to the feeds. Farmers are one of the major stakeholders in this big food industry, but what is surprising is that no farmer's child wants to be a farmer. Nobody dreams to make their kids into farmers, not even those students who are studying agriculture in the universities.”
At Bordoloi's farm learning center SPREAD NE, he teaches young farmers on low budget ecological farming practices. He trains them to become successful social agripreneurs which he refers to as Green Commandos. SPREAD NE accepts Green Commandos from all around India, not just from Northeast. Green Commandos, who may have strong ties with people or markets in urban communities, may utilize their influence to market the local products.
Ever since its inception in 2017, Bordoloi has trained over 426 Green Commandos at the SPREAD NE. In a bid to connect the Green Commandos directly to the local farmers, he began an initiative called 'Farm Connect'. In this initiative, the Green Commandos train farmers at the local level and then market their products in the big cities. The Green Commandos serve as a bridge between the farmers and the consumers, thereby eliminating the big agro based companies. Bordoloi's work has been warmly received and spread far and wide. He has been recognised by both international and national bodies for his socio-economic efforts.
Some of the awards of recognition include the Pragati Puraskar, which he received in 2016 from the Indian council of Agricultural Research, ICAR, and All India Agricultural Students Association, AIASA.
In 2017, he was awarded the Best Agripreneur of the Country by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare. In 2018, he was awarded Krishak Ratna Award by the Assam Agricultural University. Bordoloi also received the Innovative Farmer Award of the country in 2019 from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, IARI.
Bordoloi has gone on to author books on budget friendly ecological farming practices and has published a lot of viral articles. Bordoloi is a true example of how far passion and dedication can drive a man and lead him to unbelievable heights in his quest to affect lives and change societies.