Experience of working in Jhabua
The questions around the purpose of life brought me to Jhabua in the third year of my college. Since then, I have worked in Jhabua with Shivganga — a social organisation working on Holistic Rural Development. Here I shared my experience after working for two years — originally published on the Facebook page of Shivganga in May 2020.
Two years ago, when I first came to Jhabua, Shivganga was initiating the concept of Incubation Centre. I was part of the two-day program, which hosted people from different backgrounds like academia, corporate, social work, entrepreneurship and, of course, students. Then it felt like a distant dream. After all, in a practical sense, we were talking about not one start-up but a series of start-ups. And unlike start-ups, here the team was supposed to be 1320 villages of Jhabua.
Today when I see where we stand, I couldn’t have imagined the pace if I were not part of this process all along.
Putting in crisp points today:
- The Incubation Centre has three social-entrepreneurial ventures — Jhabua Naturals, Jhabua Crafts and Jhabua Tourism.
- 560+ youths from 56 villages are now part of the team. — 5 IIT alumni as full-time fellows, working on the marketing part of the ventures. — The team of mentors, or as we say ‘Hand-holders’ (Astitva-Mitra), include expertise from IITs, TISS Mumbai, SGSITS, as well as experienced heads from corporate and governance. — The unfolding model has been a subject of learning and research for students institutes across the nation. Studnet groups like GRA IIT Bombay, RISE IIT Bombay, Enactus IIT Delhi, Enactus NITIE Mumbai, AINA IIT Delhi have worked with the team to learn and understand things or two about rural entrepreneurship.
Today, what I see is a new ecosystem in the making. An ecosystem where professional skills and traditional tribal wisdom work together. A model that seems so apt for Livelihood Generation in rural India.
From the inception, I have been part of all three ventures — Jhabua Naturals, Jhabua Crafts and Jhabua Tourism.
For Jhabua Naturals, we connected to the farmers and the customers on the urban part. This gave me a wide range of exposure and some most piercing and insightful experience.
Once, Nitin & I visited a village to evaluate coming up crops. The village was Kheda, and the house was of Ramsingh Katija. His wife, the house’s mother, took care of brinjal plants. As it was a transition from chemical to organic fertilisers, the plants had caught some insects, which was also when baby brinjals were showing on the flowers. It was harvesting all the labour the family had put in the crop. Seeing the crop, we felt our heart wrenching, and we asked the mother to that for this time, she should use some insecticides and save the plants. The mother denied it. Although I have grown these plants from saplings like my own child, she said I would not use chemicals; I will no longer poison my Jamee Mata (mother earth). We felt like bowing down to the mother — the spirit of the family’s mother to the mother of the world. While working on the farmer’s side was full of such experiences, the consumer’s side, too, wasn’t less.
One of our regular customers, the family’s mother and in her 50s. She said,
my children are reminded of the taste of vegetables they had in their childhood. Some vegetables — like cabbage lauki — which has the highest chemical residue reportedly, we stopped having them. But now, we can have them.
Going through all these, in two years in Jhabua Naturals:
Farmer’s Training camps organised: 11
Farmers trained: 350
Farmers who received a loan from Bank: 22
Revenue generated: ₹ 17,53,706
Total amount received by farmers: ₹ 11,56,033
Every week there’s a moment of immense pleasure when our farmers receive their hard-earned money. I believe that we have a model where the farmers will be free of the clutches of the vicious debt cycle and lead a life of pride and respect, something they have been denied for long.
Jhabua Craft is the first project that we initiated. The project aims to create a livelihood for a handful of youths and revives the bamboo cottage culture, where every family is associated.
The spirit of young trainees learning not for self but the village intrigues us. I had a leaf of such ‘Anubhuti’. Deepak Bhuriya, a 10-year-old kid, is a young student of the Jhabua Craft’s learning & training centre at Meghnagar. After a month of training, he crafted a delicate bamboo lamp on his own. When warned that he might fail in carving such delicate design, he replied, “No worries! I will try again.” Later that day, I asked him why he wanted to learn the bamboo craft. His reply made me rethink all the motivations of my life. He replied, “ I am learning so that I can teach others in my village, and they don’t have to go to cities for earning.” In those days, I was wondering about my career after graduation. One thing in mind was ‘IIM’. In that one instant, it flashed to my mind, I have spent 16 years making a promising career and yet another 2. 18 years for what? So that I can earn some good enough money (package). And that too for self! I wondered what Deepak would be if he spent 18 years learning the bamboo craft. I could imagine him as a virtuoso who would be eradicating the migration problem from Jhabua. I could imagine the impactful youths Jhabua Crafts would create.
From 7–8-year-old kids to 17–18, working with Jhabua Crafts is full of such inspirations. And in two years, the team has made significant progress since its inception as an e-commerce website — jhabuacrafts.com :
Products delivered: 1438
- States covered: 16
- Revenue generated: ₹627348/-
- GST paid to govt: ₹112922/-
It is a new beginning that rural tribal India is making such a direct contribution to the national economy.
Jhabua Tourism is the latest venture in Jhabua Entrepreneurship Incubation Centre. Jhabua tourism bridges the gap between rural tribal population and urban counterpart and breaks the perceptions in the form of Image vs Reality. It also presents a unique opportunity to experience our country’s rich tribal and rural heritage. It lets us relive the essence of our roots.
Jhabua Tourism has signed MOU with Madhya Pradesh Tourism to develop two villages — Chhagola and Kheda for eco-cultural tourism.
It brings me to the completion of sharing my experience of two years of working with three social-entrepreneurial ventures right from the beginning. I can’t think my two years would have been more experience-rich anyway.