Not that there was ever any doubt, but Uttarakhand is pristine and incomprehensible. It offers longings for a different life to an outsider and exudes a charming calm. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the endless winding roads, minutes within the start of your journey, offer a glimpse of what it has to offer. Aside from the spectacular myriad of rooftops that span the slopes and climbs, perhaps what stands out is the rapid transformation taking place in the state with regard to agriculture.
This is what constitutes the soul of the state. Over the years, with an increasing number of attempts to turn the state into an agricultural powerhouse, the efforts are now bearing fruit. This is where Coca-Cola comes into the picture. The multinational beverage company and its interventions in water, sustainable agriculture and waste management aim to fulfill the mission of the Indian government ‘aatma nirbhar Bharat’.
One of the key priorities is the Fruit Circular Economy initiative. The mission here is to improve agricultural efficiency with advanced and modern technologies to improve the livelihood of farmers. As a brand, its portfolio of fruit drinks continues to be very popular with the masses. It is therefore not surprising that the multinational giant is India’s largest fruit buyer.
Understanding this aspect of the brand is important because it extinguishes two burning questions that are currently on people’s minds. The first is the issue of migration and the second is the need for agricultural technology advancement. “When we introduce a new technology, it is important to gain the trust of the farmer. This is his/her livelihood we are talking about. If we fail, he/she will never go back to experiment. That is why we only step into the fields with conviction after extensive and tireless research,” says Dr. Aditya Panda, Senior Manager-CSR and Sustainability, Coca-Cola INSWA.
This trust was strengthened by their collaboration with Indo-Dutch Horticulture Technologies. The work of Indo-Dutch, a private company, is aimed at bringing change in the fruit industry for a better and more advanced future. These advances are critical to halting migration from the hills and preserving the youthful exuberance that could potentially turn small towns into agricultural powerhouses.
“It is important to have young people in every town or city. The curiosity and experimentation they want to bring to farming help revolutionize the field as a whole. What used to happen was that these talented peasants would move to the big cities and be forced to do working-class jobs. That was a huge loss of talent,” says Sudhir Chadha, director of Indo-Dutch Horticulture Technologies.
Especially when it comes to apple production, the state should have played a pioneering role. According to data collected by the company, the country’s average apple productivity is almost half the global average. Uttarakhand has a productivity of 3-4 tons per hectare per year, despite the favorable climate and the huge available land for apple cultivation. Here’s how the Unnati Apple project (launched in 2018) came about. The ultimate goal is to make India self-sufficient in apple production, ultimately leading to a favorable climate through import substitution.
The unpredictability factors are minimized in the initial phase itself. Drip irrigation technology is introduced, placing the pipelines in height, eliminating the possibility of rats tampering with them. Second, the trellis system ensures plant stability. And finally, hail nets provide further protection.
The ultra-high-density plantation initiatives are beginning to provide answers to many of the questions plaguing citizens. It has led to a significant increase in the quality of their products, improved productivity and thereby created a profitable environment in which they can thrive.
Thanks to this project, the income of the farming community has increased to 8-10 lakh per year. After nearly a decade of extensive research, by implementing the lessons of visiting countries such as France, Italy and the Netherlands, the project has catapulted the future of the farming community into an ambitious future, far from despair, as is perceived by many.
The Unnati project is broad: Unnati Orange (launched in 2016), Unnati Mango (launched in 2011), Unnati Grapes (launched in 2019) and Unnati Lichi (launched in 2019). Currently, with apples, the popular varieties favoring Uttarakhand as a producer include Delicious, Scarlett Super, Gala and King Roat.
These are exciting times. If this cooperation can match this success in the state of Himachal Pradesh and the territory of the Union of Jammu and Kashmir, this revolution may well be the answer the country is looking for. The project has expanded to 11 other states benefiting nearly 3.5 lakh farmers. The aim is now to improve the livelihoods of 5 lakh farmers in the next 3 years through the necessary training and support.
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