I’ve been working at Zameen Organic’s head office in Hyderabad for five weeks as a communications intern. Last week I had the chance to visit one of Zameen’s two farming areas, meet Zameen farmers and to see the cotton fields for myself. It was great to have the opportunity to meet the farmers and their families and to hear their stories and I was even invited to attend one of their festivals!

There were some great stories which came out during my time spent with them which really brought home the importance of Zameen’s sustainable and ethical business model which puts the farmer at the heart of everything it does.

Ravindra Ingale is a farmer trainer helping Zameen farmers to overcome problems such as pest invasions and teaching them new organic practices. His work involves giving one three hour lesson a week in the cotton fields to the other farmers in his group and attending one cluster meeting a month. By giving lessons in the field the famers are able to actively learn as they work. As a Farmer trainer he was paid a wage of 1,000 Indian Rupees (€13) a month to carry out his work, this supplements the income he makes from selling cotton. This salary has enabled him to move out of his cramped temporary home which wasn’t watertight, into a more spacious permanent house which he built himself made from bricks, tiles, and concrete.

In the village of Bhilopur a group of female farmers were so inspired by the work being carried out by one of the Zameen groups that they decided to set up their own female farmers group. Collectively they have been able to cultivate 35 more acres of cotton alongside other crops such as soya bean. The women decided to work together on each other’s fields for free to maximise their profits. They are excited to be in control of the money they will earn from the harvest and told me they were planning on spending it on education costs, such as books and uniforms for their children, and on family healthcare expenses. Over the next few harvests they hope to be able to raise enough from the Fairtrade premium money to be able to build a borehole well to provide a constant supply of water to the village, rather than having to depend on the current village supply which is only available for a total of four hours a day.

Everybody I spoke to during my stay was so positive about farming, which was a very refreshing contrast to the negative reports which are seen in the media, both in India and internationally. Most importantly, the farmers themselves saw this as a sustainable source of income, and were able to see their lifestyles improving through their relationship with Zameen, as well as benefits for the whole community.

Members of the female farmer group

Members of the female farmer group