Nestled in the Malai Mahadeshwar hills of Karnataka, India, Soligas are one of India’s most remote farming communities that has remained cut off from the urban world. Local traders used to pay them a pittance for their organic and healthy produce.
The farmers grow five types of millets and rainfed paddy in small holdings. The nearest market is 60 km away in Kollegal town.
In February 2018, Honnur Prakash, one of Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha’s organiser and leader, roped in 30 Soliga farmers and 1,000 other marginal farmers operating in the foothills and formed a collective to set up the millet processing unit there.
While the 30 Soliga families could together contribute Rs 5,000, Prakash raised Rs 3 lakh with the help of the other farmers in the collective.
The unit, which procures millet from the farmers, processes, packages and sells them under the brand, Natural Millet of MM Hills, in Mysuru and Bengaluru.
“The product has been an instant hit as it is marketed as super organic food, which is produced in the pristine hills. We are selling it to major processing units who manufacture millet-based malts and biscuits,” he says.
The unit buys the grains for Rs 30,000 a tonne, which is five times the price farmers get at the local market and much more from local traders. Seeing the success, several other Soliga families want to join the collective.
“We are now in the process of turning this collective into cooperative and set up a bigger unit,” says Prakash.
This is an excerpt from an article by Jitendra that was published in Down To Earth’s print edition dated September 16-30, 2019. To read the full article click here