Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya
Co-founder and CEO, EkGaon
According to data, more than 600 million - or nearly 50% - of India’s 1.25 billion people are mobile phone users, living mostly in urban areas. While use of mobile phones has increased in rural parts of India in recent years, it has failed to add value to the standard of living and lifestyle of people in these areas - many of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihood. These farmers continue to employ outdated farming techniques and barely manage to make ends meet – impeded by factors like non-existent irrigation facilities, unpredictable weather conditions and dishonest middlemen linking them to buyers / distributors.
EkGaon - meaning One Farm - is a social enterprise that connects farmers with distributors using mobile phones, to help them reduce crop loss and increase productivity.
The social entreprise provides mobile subscriptions to farmers for farm advisory services. The farmers on the plan get regular advice on the best crops to sow, ideal harvesting time, weather updates and crop-maximising techniques.
“The aim is to reduce crop loss and enhance farm productivity,” says Vijay Pratap, Co-founder and CEO, EkGaon.
Another aspect of EkGaon’s work is to create and establish linkages directly between the farmers and the various distributors and aggregators of farming produce at township and district levels. This helps the farmers obtain a fairer price for their produce.
EkGaon’s operations cover many parts of India and the services they provide are translated to various regional languages. Their regional offices are connected to non-profit organisations already involved in working with farmers in the respective areas.
“We survey the lands and identify which villages would benefit the most from the farm advisory services provided by EkGaon,” says Surendra, who heads the Mandla office of EkGaon.
“There has been an approximate 20% increase in harvested crop in nearby villages and an average 25% decrease in the input costs that farmers put in for crop sowing.”
In Mandla alone, 14,000 farmers are registered to EkGaon’s services.
Being a link between farmers with village level and cumulative aggregators, it was essential for EkGaon to have safeguards in place for their farmers and producers.
iProbono helped EkGaon do this - by connecting them to Probir Roy Chowdhury, and his team of associates from J. Sagar and Associates (JSA). JSA formed the agreements between Ekgaon and the farmers who subscribe to their services, so that the farmers remain in full control of the price of their crop. JSA also created a legal framework within which the dynamics of the multitudinous relationships that EkGaon has fostered can thrive without them and the farmers having to deal with fraudulent partners.
“We are trying to create a sustainable marketplace with this initiative – enabling a sort of ecosystem like Flipkart or Amazon, where the farmers would have a more direct link with the buyers. Small farmers are usually not able to sell directly; hence this platform would enable them to be on a more equal playing field vis-à-vis the buyers,” says Vijay.