Two brothers from Punjab are helping farmers sell their produce directly to the consumerHema Vaishnavi
Farmer Friend has helped around 30,000 farmers sell produce online by helping them fetch the right price.
Most often people do not know where the food on their plate is coming from or how much is the farmer isgetting paid for what he grows. Does the farmer really get paid for his work’s worth? Does our money really reach the farmer? How much do we end paying the middlemen?
These are a few questions that will help us understandthe plight of the farmer. We are at a point when the country is facing the most number of farmer suicides, with the government reporting at least 12,000 suicides every year since 2013. To address these issues at the root level, two brothers from Punjab, Paviter Pal Singh and Harjap Singh have setup an initiative to ensure that thefarmer always gets the right price for his produce.
The making of Farmer Friend
Committed to working towards the betterment of farmers and improving their economicconditions, the duo launched the platform, Farmer Friend. The online platform helps the farmers to be contacted directly by the end-customer and vice-versa. The platform allows you to either register as a ‘farmer’ or a ‘friend’ allowing you to buy or sell the produce of your choice, by directly interacting with the seller or the buyer.
The platform aims to bridge the gap between the farmers and the society, eliminating middlemen and connect directly to the customer.
The brothers found inspiration in their father, Subedar Major Balkar Singh Sandhu, who served in the army for 32 years. Being a farmer’s son, he always wanted to return to his roots and start farming on his ancestral land.
Balkar Singh began to notice farmers’ issues after he retired from the army in 2008, and got involved in the lives of small farmers, especially those who have been facing the burden of loans for generations now.
My father has been actively fighting for the upliftment ofthe famers in our area. By God’s grace we have enough land and income to live comfortable life but he is not the typeto close his eyes and ignore the situation. He started campaigning for farmers’ rights and was elected regional head of Kisan Sangharsh Committee in Amritsar and Taran.
“Being involved in dharnas and protests for this cause had become an integral part of our lives. Changing the current system is an uphill task but we wanted to make sure we tried and fought for our rights,” says, Pawiter, who was working as a software engineer in Europe at the time.
Pawaiter called home often to find out about the conditions of the farmers in his homeland. He soon realised he wanted to return home and contribute his bit to the betterment of the farmers. After learning about the death of a farmer during a protest, Pawiter discussed the situation with his cousin, Harjap Singh, who was also in Europe at the time.
We both decided to come back to India and start working on a solution to this problem. It took us 18 months of ground work with farmers to educate them, build trust and connect them with Farmer Friend. We then registered it as a company and launched it as a website. Harjap and I founded this initiative for a social cause with no profit motive, says Pawiter.
Fight against irregular pricing
Farmer Friend, a bootstrapped initiative, has one major cause at heart, fighting against the irregular pricing as they believe that the cost and effort involved is way higher than the price set as Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).
Farmer Friend’s aim is to educate the farmers of the practices in the market, so they are informed and equipped to sell their produce at the right price.
Our team teaches them how to get registered and explains the working model and they are smart enough to judge the advantages and disadvantages.
“Initially when we approached farmers they scepticaland doubted our motives, but they did not have any other option either. When theyrealised that we are doing this without profit, the farmers started registering themselves.
We had about two-four farmers in every village, and once theystarted seeing profits, the wordstarted to spread. More farmers voluntarily approached the team and joinedus,” says Pawiter.
Eventually the registered farmers began to reap profits and started enjoying the benefits of getting associated with Farmer Friend. Till date, the team has been able to provide solutions to around 31,000 farmers across the country.
Pawiter shares the experience of one such farmer who has benefitted from Farmer Friend. Tejpal Singh, a fruit farmer from his hometown, earlier sold his fruits to the local market for Rs1-2 per kilo but for the past one year he has beentransportingthemto other states at a price of Rs 5-6 per kilo. Tejpal, aided by Farmer Friend is now collectively selling his produce along with other farmers to other states, thereby reducing the cost of transport as well.
Farmer Friend is not just linking individuals to farmers, but factories as well. It has helped the mango farmers of Punjab get a fair deal from a pickle factory in western Uttar Pradesh.
With many such success stories, Farmer Friend plans to connect and help at least one lakh farmers across the country by the end of the year.