It’s only when you interact with him that you realize he is not an average 17-year old. With a refreshing world view and a holistic understanding of sustainable living today, Yuvraj has been volunteering in promoting sustainable farming activities with Farmer Groups for the past few years.
The transformation started from year 2016 when Yuvraj first learnt about Fair Trade on his maiden visit to one of the Fair Trade Certified Projects in Gujarat. He discovered his new passion, citing rural India as his inspiration; “What many people don’t realize is that 70% of India’s population lives in villages.”He says, “With sub-par resources that make it difficult for individuals to live day-to-day life, which the rest of us take for granted”. He sought out ways in which he could help individuals living in villages and small communities. Since then he has travelled to Kerala, Maharashtra and out of India as well to countries like Uganda.
Yuvraj’s interest in farming came from his exposure to agriculture, as his family has been involved in the agriculture business for decades. He always maintained and campaigned the belief that the Indian farmers need to be armed with the best resources possible. This vision came to fruition after learning about Fairtrade. The Fairtrade organization connects disadvantaged farmers and workers with consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower farmers and workers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives. Yuvraj understood that the best way to contribute to sustainability was to empower these farmers instead of enabling them.
Yuvraj actively works towards identifying different aspects of the farmers' lives and their families, and sees this as an opportunity to learn from them. “Our farmers are some of the most resourceful people I have ever met’, he says. “They make the best out of what they have, and don’t take anything for granted”. He understands that the country builds from the ground up, and not the other way around. “The more empowered our farmers are, the better our country will develop”, he says.
Yuvraj often makes efforts to be part of the farmer groups which conduct Need-Assessment at village level to understand the requirement of the farmers. His commitment isn’t limited to the farmers, however. Yuvraj tries to be actively involved in community and family affairs of farmers groups as well. Along with sustainability, he is passionate about education and understands that education greatly improves one’s chances at a rewarding future. He describes his experience of Gujarat where he noticed that one scholarship programme is run by the farmers group which is only for Girls, “Why only girls?” he asked the group members, to which their explanation was, "female student drop-out rate is higher as expense of sending girl students to secondary schools far away from village by spending money on their transportation was considered unnecessary." In 2016 I was not clear about the result of such project, but results were amazing, if you see the number of girl’s student are increasing in their scholarship list. Now in just three years the number of girls under this programme has increased almost three times. The scholarships are to cover the transportion costs and tuition fees of the girls of class 9th till Graduation and now it’s a great success.
Yuvraj also regularly takes part in the team which conducts Need-Assessments on village level to understand the farmers' need. “What is unique about the assessment exercise is that the farmers identified the problem and then collectively came up with the solution and with little assistance from organizations who like to engage themselves as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.” He says, “so rather than simply stating a problem, this becomes more of an empowerment exercise”.
Yuvraj started volunteering for some of the farmer groups initially and later Fair Trade Certified Farmer Organizations. He encouraged the farmer's group to get involved in the process of planning for developmental activities for possibly facilitating through utilization of Fair-Trade premium.
To increase yield of black pepper vines, it is needed to be rejuvenated. The farmers decided to utilize the Fair-Trade Premium for this purpose, Accordingly the plan was prepared for distribution of fresh black pepper seedlings to member farmers. The seedlings were distributed in Idukki, Kerala. Yuvraj was involved and actively participated in this activity of distribution and helped farmers to plant the seedling. “We also distributed some farming equipment and baskets to collect the harvest”, Yuvraj said, “Along with a large piece of canvas to dry the pepper on”. During his last visit to Idukki, he assisted in digging watering ponds which can hold 250,000 to 300,000 liters of rain water for irrigation. Yuvraj observed that the project primarily can be taken up by these farmers group are related to water conservation, organic input for chemical free agriculture which leads to sustainability.
These experiences helped Yuvraj to realize that how much Fair-Trade can mean to improve Farmer’s lives and empowerment. He regularly works with the team in Gujarat and Kerala in the activities which are promoting organic and sustainable farming methods through agricultural experts to conduct various training on bio-input preparation from on-farm available materials.
Yuvraj has been involved in Fairtrade activities, and demonstrated his passion for sustainability and development through direct and indirect contributions to the Fairtrade organization. Yuvraj is also making active efforts to branch out to more communities in India and beyond through Fairtrade. He is getting engaged with few NGOs, farmer producer groups and even -for profit but social companies to continue his volunteering forsustainability of marginalized communities and making a difference.
Yuvraj believes that volunteering has greatly contributed to his personal growth as it has helped him broadened his horizons. He wishes that most of India’s urban youth would take an interest in agriculture and would work towards making the lives of these farmers and their families better. “We need to look beyond social media, and see what the reality is”, he says. “The sort of future we want to build is in our hands.”