Some spend a lot of money on an expensive wedding, but Bablu alias Mith Chaudhari and his bride Bhumika Pande decided to make their marriage special by donating money to farm widows for the education of their children. Bablu Chaudhari knows how important education is for Indian farmers, from his work and studies over the years at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences and Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation.
"India has millions of farmers, and many of them find it difficult to earn enough income from their harvest", said Bablu Chaudhari. "Crop failure due to fluctuating rain and climate change, as well as the low price for their farm produce, are the reasons why some farmers can't repay the loans they have from banks. This is why suicide is quite common among Indian farmers", Chaudhari explained. In Maharashtra state alone over 15 thousand farmers committed suicide in six years, Chaudhari said.
When Chaudhari planned to marry, he and his bride wanted to do something special for the farm widows whose husbands have committed suicide. They donated about 1000 euros to five farm widows and two orphanages who have suffered due to the suicide of their sole breadwinner and they helped one of the widows to set up a business. The money will be used to educate the children who have lost their father.
Education is key
"I feel it's my duty to give something back to the community", said Chaudhari. "I want to help because it will make a difference for the education of these children of the farm widows. Educating young farmers is the key here", Mr. Bablu said. He knows this from his experience over the years working with farmers and agricultural youth, whom he teaches to become more entrepreneurial. Chaudhari works as a consultant with a World Bank project in Jaipur, as well as with a number of NGOs in Maharashtra as an independent consultant.
For example, Bablu Chaudhari facilitates the value chain of oranges, grapes, mandarins, pomegranates and other fruits. "A typical farmer producing fruits and vegetables may not know about the value chain and how to market agricultural produce in an efficient manner. In India farmers usually sell their produce to a market through middleman and other chain actors and receive a low price. But some more educated farmers want to do it themselves. They form a farmer producer organisation or work with an NGO." Chaudhari works with farmers like this and shows them how to market their produce, how to create good relations with a buyer and how to manage grades and standards for export quality. "I advise and connect farmers and build value chains."
Latest practical tools and approaches
Chaudhari has learned a lot about horticultural value chains, farmer entrepreneurship and agribusiness in Wageningen, first during his Master's at Van Hall Larenstein University for Applied Sciences, later during a course at Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation on 'Organised Farmers in Agribusiness'. This course is now called Farmer Agency for Rural Economies. "In the course at WCDI we learned about the latest practical tools and approaches - how a farmer producer organisation can work, how farmers can become entrepreneurs. The course was crucial for me." Chaudhari learned how to use tools like value chain mapping that helps to analyse value chains and advise farmer organisations.
Enhancing agribusiness and increasing farmer entrepreneurship is very important for India, Chaudhari said. "In India, many farmers still use traditional farming practices, and many of them know very little about post-harvest handling and marketing. They don't work as entrepreneurs. Also, the climate is changing, and farmers need to adapt to changing rain patterns." Improving entrepreneurial skills and marketing and empowering farmers in farmer producer organisations results in a better price for their product. "About three quarters of Indian farmers still depend on traders and bank loans, sometimes leading to tragic situations like the farmer suicides."
A role for the Dutch
The Netherlands is well known for its agricultural exports, said Chaudhari. "The Netherlands also carries out innovative agricultural research and has the infrastructure to train professionals across the world. In India we need more human resources of international excellence to understand and manage agricultural challenges for the betterment of Indian farmers, and the rest of the world." In addition to being a researcher and consultant, Bablu Chaudhari is often asked to speak at national and international conferences and agricultural festivals. "I've reached thousands of farmers and students with the knowledge I gained in Wageningen and elsewhere."