“A tree stands strong not by its fruits or branches, but by the depth of its roots.” Similarly an economy cannot upgrade to a developed one unless the deepest root (lowest class) at the bottom of the pyramid rises.
Social entrepreneurship in modern society offers a philanthropic form of entrepreneurship that focuses on the benefits that society may reap. Just as entrepreneurs change the face of business, social entrepreneurs act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss and improving systems, inventing new approaches, and creating solutions to change society for the better.
‘Happy Roots’ is one company that believes in fair trade practices and delivers transparency in every link of the food value chain, from farm-to-consumer. It believes that business should be used as a means to deliver & inspire positive change in the world.
Reema Sathe (Founder and Director, Happy Roots)- A social entrepreneur passionate about rural development & women empowerment. Winner of Nari Shakti Puraskar (2016) by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Phoenix Leading Lady Award for excellence in the social enterprise sector and Digital Women Awards 2017. She has also been featured in Business Today’s Most Powerful Women in Indian Business List 2017.
Every year, farmers toil to grow the best food for us but fail to earn more than $2 a day for their families. Lower market rates for farm produce and lack of modern processing skills, lead to lower incomes and never-ending debt cycles.
“We decided to change this”- SATHE
“We want to become the largest healthy snack food brand in the country that represents small and marginal farmers”– Sathe.
Reema’s rural journey started with a stint that involved working with tribal farmers in Akola, Maharashtra, where, distressed farmers’ committed suicides. She built a community of poultry farmers with the help of the state government and an NGO, Chetana Organics, to build sustainable alternate livelihood in cases of natural calamities like draught. Every morning, the farmers would give her fresh eggs that she delivered to restaurant chefs in Pune. The chefs loved them and this rose the farmer’s income by 100% per cent within a short period.
A chemical engineer with a degree in management, Sathe, who has worked with Mahindra Holidays, Sodexo and Ecolab, spoke to nearly 100 people to understand the gaps in the food lifestyle of urban areas. The response and a chance meeting with an NRI threw up the idea of starting a healthy snack food outfit. Initially, Sathe pumped in Rs 10 lakh from her savings to set up the venture.
They bought raw material from farmers, cut out the middlemen, and paid farmers 50 per cent more than market rates to assure best supply as generally farmers do not earn more than 15-20 per cent of the end-consumer’s rupee. Reema realized she had impacted the middlemen gravely after she received threats. That did not stop her from continuing this social cause. Happy Roots has generated a revenue of Rs 3.5 lakh since its launch in 2016, raised grants from UnLtd India & The British Asian Trust and has raised an angel round of funding.
They partner with farmers for pre-harvest (seed conservation and contract farming of indigenous grains) as well as post-harvest management (primary processing & value-added manufacturing of healthy snack food) and this has worked wonders for the nation as well. Happy Roots has contributed immensely in the nation’s development by providing employment opportunity to debt ridden farmer, empowering rural women, increasing the famer’s income by 150% and skills enhancement of rural population making them employable.
Happy Roots’s Happy Results:
- Promote fair trade practices (pay 50% higher than market rates to farmers). Building a food value chain that gives 50% ownership to small and marginal farmers and rural women.
- Skills development- Empowers marginal farmers, even those without own land, with sustainable income. Happy Roots is on a mission to conserve and revive indigenous grains & millets, which are either endangered or on the verge of extinction. Their team constantly works on innovating food products from local ingredients and giving them a modern twist. Their snack food is handmade by trained & certified rural women’s groups which are trained by Happy Roots in Maharashtra. Every time you purchase their product, a part of your money is invested back in training & skills development of your local marginal farmers.
- Happy Roots also impart skills to their network partners. They have partnered with over 25 FPOs (Farmer producer organisations), Government bodies, Women SHGs (Self-help groups) and non-profit organisations to design, develop and implement livelihood programs across Maharashtra.
- Local employment or rise of rural micro entrepreneurs- Employment of rural women and tribal farmer. Happy Roots’s agri-related activities in the state has positively impacted 15,000 farmers and 2,000 rural women in Vidarbha, Ahmednagar, Kolhapur and Pune in Maharashtra, with land access of 30,000 acres and a pool of 200 indigenous varieties. Many of the farms they work with are in drought affected areas.
- Happy Roots initiated farming of some lost grains in Maharashtra, which have turned into successful farming projects for our communities viz: BARLEY PROJECT – AKOLA, MAHARASHTRA : Barley is a hardy crop, which was once farmed in dry, hot regions of Maharashtra. Barley slowly lost it’s charm and became a wild crop which is now grown as a cattle feed in the Nasik and Gadhchiroli region of Maharashtra. In Yr 2017 Happy Roots partnered with 1,200 small farmers from Akola (Maharashtra), Chetana Organics and Brewcrafts Microbrewing (popularly knows as Doolally) to revive this crop in Vidarbha. The project demonstration has been successfully completed and is transitioning into a commercially viable project to cover 100 acres land. Team Happy Roots has put together a delicious sweet snack made from this homegrown barley, which was launched in October, 2017.
- BUCKWHEAT SEED CONSERVATION & REVIVAL PROJECT – AHMEDNAGAR, MAHARASHTRA: Buckwheat is a pseudo-cereal or fruit seed which is usually found in Himalayan regions of India. Buckwheat is rich in digestible protein, antioxidants and minerals. This seed is also gluten-free. Knowing the world popularity of Buckwheat, they initiated a dialogue and partnered with 50 tribal women farmers from the region, to grow this crop. Last year they did their first pilot farming of Buckwheat in association with Lokpanchayat and Baliraja Krushak Producer Company. They created their delicious Buckwheat Gingersnaps from their first harvest. The gingersnaps went on to become their highest selling product and gave the much deserved success to their farmer’s hard work.
- Contract farming of the indigenous Buckwheat has increased the income of tribal women farmers it works with in Ahmednagar by 300 per cent.
- Protect crop biodiversity by using locally grown ingredients, which often involve endangered crops & seeds (Kalbhat, Ghansal, Wheat 2496, Kodo millet are some of the indigenous grains used in their products)
- Empowering rural women:. By involving rural women in food processing, Happy Roots aims to focus on skills development and creating rural entrepreneurs. There training and capacity building has helped rural women achieve financial freedom and gain an equitable social status within their community. The social enterprise has a network of 2,000 rural women. Happy Roots rural women’s group in Ahmednagar (Maharashtra) is building a first of it’s kind food processing unit, which will be owned, run and managed by rural women. This facility will become a symbol of rural women empowerment in the state and will guide generations to come.
Aarti Mardhekar Kagwade