In an era when people migrating to cities tend to forget their roots and adapt to the white-collar job lifestyle, there are few who stay connected to their roots with a mission to contribute towards the betterment of the society. One such name is Rama Bharti from Delhi NCR, a farmer who has taken the organic farming to an altogether new level.
Rama with her thriving unique initiative ‘Ramaiya Basket’ is ensuring that people get fresh and chemical free vegetables and grains at an affordable cost and indulge in a healthy lifestyle. While her organic farm is producing a wide variety of vegetables and grains that demands practicality and objectivity, it is also allowing her the proximity with nature, which in turn inspires Rama to write poetry by giving her opportunity to feel, contemplate, imagine and dream. Her works are regularly published in various literary magazines.
In an exclusive conversation with Apeksha News Network, ace farmer and poet Rama Bharti talks about her goals towards promoting organic farming, issues faced by women in India, literature that India needs, and much more.
Tell us something about your initiative ‘Ramaiya Basket’. How it started and what are the current developments?
‘Ramaiya Basket’ is a concept which came in my mind while I was working towards organic farming. I thought that if I am growing chemical free vegetables then why not send them directly to the consumers. Since, I have a lot of friends in Delhi NCR, I had started providing them a weekly basket of all the seasonal vegetables that I could grow. This was quite appreciated, and then I had started some add-ons such as ‘Mini-basket’ which is designed for two people and ‘Gift a Basket’ which people started sending to their family and friends on various occasions. We also then introduced ‘Basket for Senior Citizens’ with 30% discount keeping in mind the income of senior people. Later, some cancer patients approached me for buying the vegetables, which give me thought for ‘basket for patients’ with 40% discount considering the expenditure they spend for the treatment.
With this initiative, I aim to not only ensure that people get fresh and chemical free vegetables but also get mentally involved to the concept of healthy lifestyle. Recently, we have started growing pulses, wheat, mustard and some herbs too!
How has been the journey so far for you as a Farmer?
This journey so far has not been a cake walk. I hail from a family of farmers, so I have seen the problems closed by farmers closely and could get connected to them easily. My Ph. D Botany degree helped me to have an insight of plants and their growth, soil type, crop selection, etc. Also, I was pretty sure that this work can only fetch me bread, though I should not think of butter since it is not very profit earning work but I still enjoy being a farmer as I love nature and my poetic needs are also nurtured. The feeling that I am useful in some or the other way for people gives a sense of satisfaction to my soul.
What is the biggest struggle of a farmer today in India?
The biggest struggle of Indian farmer is not getting the price for what they produce. Technological innovations are introduced, field trials are conducted, but an average farmer does not get the benefits of all this on a ground level.
What is the aim of ‘Association for Protection of Environmental Resources’ that is run by you?
APPER is a non-profitable organization and I had started this when I left my job with TERI. Our main aim is to protect and promote the resources available to us by mother nature. We have documented the natural colour making from plants and their parts in Madubani district of Bihar. Also, we have started a special school for girl painters. From time to time, we conduct awareness programs of sustainable living.
A female entrepreneur or young woman who wants to be an entrepreneur does not always start off from a level playing field compared to a young man from the same community. She may not have access to the start-up capital (land, house, money) she needs to start her business and she may also have other time commitments like childcare. Do you think the existing programs introduced by the government needs enhancement? Any suggestions to the government?
Though skill development programs have been introduced by the government, I still think more participation of women folk must be targeted. They should be motivated on village and family levels. Skilling should be done in more progressive way, and these initiatives should reach to the needy females without fail. Education and financial independence are the only key for women to have a better life, and government needs to work to help them attain it. For young mothers, there should be facilities like daycare in every office and even in field jobs. Loan facilities for females to start their own business must be simplified.
Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to women considering a career in farming?
I would like to say that this is a very exciting career which now includes modern farming technologies for youngsters like terrace farming, hydroponic, etc. I always feel that a plant feels safer and grows happily with a female, so this is also an enjoyable work that helps one to connect with roots. Females should also try to get trained in plantation jobs.
Is (gender) equality an important issue for you? If yes, why? If no, why?
Yes, Of course! It is very important issue. Girls are equally talented as boys, they are humans as boys, so why they should not get the opportunity to do what they wish to do? We all are humans and gender bias is an illiterate way to discriminate. Hence, females should fight for their rights and the best way is to be financially stable at the first place.
Literature plays a huge role towards the growth of the country, considering culture, youth, etc. What do you feel that what kind of literature India needs currently?
I truly believe that literature plays a very important role for the growth of any society. I feel that we have enough conventional books, and now we need more of applied literature that could help the youth to connect with present day problems and stimulate them to find solutions for themselves and for coming generations too! I advocate the applied aspect of literature in this alarming time of transition phase.
What main change would you like to see for young girls in the next generation?
Hundred per cent education and hundred per cent employment. Though it is very difficult to achieve, but we can always try!
List down your favorite top 5 must read books for literature lovers.
There are many books in the list, however some of the best would include;
1. Bridge Across Forever, by Richard Bach
2. One straw revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka
3. Lust of life, by Irwing Stone
4. Gone with The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
5. Nadi Ke Dweep, by Sachchidanand Vatsyayan
Please share few tips and tricks for people who want to grow their own organic farm for personal use?
One can grow seasonal vegetables on a very small piece of land, or even in pots. They can get the seeds from the shops that are selling organic seeds. Also, some vermin-compost and cow dung are easily available on the shops selling agricultural material. With the help of a gardener, one can start and then slowly learn to water, manure and harvest. After some time, one can grow organic vegetables independently.
Are there any assumptions about women that you would like to change? Why?
Yes! Assumptions that they are delicate and cannot do certain things or tasks. I strongly feel and have witnessed that women can do every work and in a better way, if given a chance.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Is it important that we have one?
International Women’s day is the day to remind every woman of their power and equality. This day is important till the time gender inequality exists. Also, the women role models are celebrated on this day, which is motivates other women and girls who have dreams and wish to achieve them.
Apeksha News Network congratulates Rama Bharti for her efforts and contribution towards the society with her initiative on organic farming, and wishes her good luck for her future endeavors!