Beneath the apparent tranquility in parts of rural India, lies a community, suffering in silence. Farmers form the backbone of the Indian Economy, making up 60% of the workforce, they are tasked with feeding over a billion people making their contribution to the growth and development of the nation invaluable.

However, statistics paint a rather dismal picture. Despite being the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, India imports produce worth 1.47 lakh crores; a number which highlights the impending problem of post-Harvest losses.

Post-Harvest losses refer to the losses taking place after harvesting but before final consumption, the primary cause of which is lack of proper storage and transportation facilities.

This amounts to agricultural losses of 93,000 crores per year, a figure close to 40% of the country’s produce. In terms of volume, the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that India loses every year is the same as the amount consumed by the people of the United Kingdom in one whole year. In other words, what they consume, we waste. This is reflected by India’s low rank of 97th in Oxfam’s food availability index while 101st in the Global Hunger Index

Determined to find a solution, we conducted various need assessment surveys by visiting farmers in and around Delhi. Here, we learned that they majorly deal in fruits and green vegetables which are highly perishable and need to be sold at the earliest to prevent any wastage.

This results in distress selling, forcing the farmers to sell their produce at whatever price is prevailing in the market, thus leading to a loss of bargaining power. Small and marginal farmers, who constitute close to 86% of the farmer base, bear the brunt of this problem.

To gain a better understanding, we visited Chilla village, a community of 3000 small and marginal farmers.

It was here that we met Jaganlal. He along with several other farmers stated that they can barely make up for their costs by selling in mandis and making profits seems like a far-fetched dream.

To better understand the plight of this community, we assessed the current alternatives available to the farmers, and found that India oversees a gap of 84-99% in achieving the target of improving its storage facilities. Out of the ones that do exist, 75% store only potatoes. We observed that the current storage solutions were expensive, inaccessible and not environment friendly.

Identifying a gap in the market for an eco-friendly and affordable storage solution, we initiated Project Zaraat. Zaraat aims to minimize post-harvest losses by providing a portable storage solution, and enhancing forward linkages, through a self-sustaining social enterprise.”

In association with our storage partner, Saptkrishi , we innovated a 250 kg capacity portable storage which extends the shelf life of the produce by upto 7 days.

Working on the principle of evaporative cooling, it creates a micro climate and inhibits the decaying factor of the vegetables.

The storage works In three ways:
It maintains a lower temperature inside the storage;

Ensures the right amount of humidity to preserve the freshness of produce and Contains ethylene gas converter which slows down the ripening process.

In collaboration with Indian Agricultural Research Institute, the premier agricultural organization of the country, we were able to refine our storage according to the needs of our community.

Impressed by our efforts, they have agreed to serve as our knowledge partners and helped us get in touch with the agricultural department of Michigan State University who are mentoring and helping us delve deeper into the problem of post harvest losses.

To test the effectiveness of our solution, we stored 10 kg’s of different varieties of green vegetables in our storage for a period of 15 days and observed a drastic difference. While the produce stored using conventional methods started rotting within a day, produce kept in our storage preserved its freshness upto one whole week enabling the farmers to battle distress selling.

Zaraat has now evolved into a 5-step model:

We start with Community Identification wherein we conduct ground surveys in farming communities which deal in fruits and green vegetables.

Farmer Mobilization drives are then carried out to explain the working and benefits of our storage. Our affordable eco friendly storage solution is then set up in the farming community.

Our entrepreneurial model functions on, ‘by the community, for the community model’. Our storages are maintained by our farmer entrepreneur who is also responsible for book-keeping of the produce stored. They participate in a one week long articulate training module where they are taught skills like book-keeping, stock management and financial literacy.

We further analyzed various distribution channels by carrying out a detailed opportunity-cost analysis to help farmers increase their income. As a result, we are looking into potential collaboration with B2B organizations citing payment security, an average rise in income of 15-20% and consistency of demand. We have held successful meetings with B2B companies such as Crofarm, Zomato Hyperpure and restaurant chains like Pind Baluchi. We have already collaborated with Bijak wherein we have integrated our farmers into an Online Agri Commodity Trade platform.

This 5-step model has become the hallmark of Project Zaraat. We charge our farmers on a “pay as you store basis” for the storage solution with a minimal charge of Rs.1 per kg of produce stored everyday. This allows the farmers to utilize the storage without having to bear the burden of the entire cost. Out of the revenue generated, 70% goes to the entrepreneur allowing him to earn a sustainable income of Rs. 6,300 while the rest is equally divided between recouping our storage cost (15%) and for reinvestment purposes (15%).

However, Enactus DCAC did not stop here. On one of our ground visits, we found that crop residue such as lady finger stems were of no use to the farmers and were being burnt as a result. To tackle this problem, we have set up composting bins in collaboration with Rise Foundation. The compost thus produced will help boost production and substitute the use of fertilizers allowing us to create a zero- waste model and ensure healthier consumption.

Starting from Chilla Village in 2021, Zaraat has now expanded to four other farming communities including 2 states – Haryana and Uttar Pradesh

Working with such a diverse number of farmers required us to find a mechanism to monitor the data of all our beneficiaries. We have streamlined this process by conducting digital profiling in association with Samunnati, India’s largest agri tech enterprise.

We surveyed the farmers for relevant information on various parameters such as land size, equipment available, livestock possessed etc. after which the platform provides us with predictive analysis. This gives us useful insights regarding crop cycles, harvesting time and resources available which can help prevent further losses.

Realizing that crop productivity is inadvertently based on soil health, we leveraged on the invaluable experience of our channel partner – Kisaan Helpline by conducting soil testing in its accredited laboratory. Here, the soil was tested for quality on 14 parameters. The results will now help our farmers to improve their soil health.

Witnessing the global shift towards digital agriculture gave rise to the idea of Zaraat portal, a one stop solution for the farmers to easily access our very own curated database of resources allowing them to purchase agricultural inputs at a cheaper rate. To ensure ease of access, we trained our farmers on the use of this portal. For farmers like Jaganlal, it is now as simple as connect, browse and order.

To venture into the B2C model, we organized Zaraat Mart to sell the farmer’s produce directly to the consumers. This 2 day event proved extremely successful having sold more than 350 kgs of produce, generating a revenue of Rs 10000, and a profit of Rs.3000 for the farmers.

This journey of Zaraat has been widely recognized for its profound impact by reputed platforms across the country including The Hindustan Times, Krishi Jagran and more. Our efforts were further applauded by Mr.Anurag Kumar Singh, Deputy Manager at Agriculture Skill Council of India.

Seeing our zeal and passion for social entrepreneurship, Adani Foundation has agreed to serve as our financial partner. This will help Zaraat reach greater heights.

To ensure the project’s sustainability, our farmer entrepreneur will evolve as the overseer of the project. Allowing them to take matters into their own hands, we will transfer the ownership of our storage to our entrepreneur after recouping our investment.

Staying true to our aim, we have reduced post-harvest losses by a whopping 60%, and minimized energy consumption by 20%. Generating a revenue of more than 3.7 lakhs and directly impacting the lives of more than 250 farmers, Zaraat has now become a harbinger of hope for farming communities across 3 states.

Enactus DCAC has also represented India at the Enactus World Cup 2022 held in San Juan,Puerto Rico with our flagship Project Zaraat.

Project Zaraat was one of the finalists in two of the Enactus Global Races, i.e., Race to Feed The Planet and Race to Climate Action out of a pool of 90+ teams from 16 countries. And we Feel ecstatic to announce that it later emerged as the Runners up in the Race to Feed the Planet Competition and also bagged a price money of $10,000. The Competition saw a Participation of 91+ entries worldwide and witnessed judging by a diverse and esteemed Panel of judges.

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