For the past 6 years, Profugo’s Organic Kitchen Garden (OKG) has been providing a crucial program to support and empower local farmers. Marginal farmers in Wayanad face ongoing farming challenges, such as climate change, flooding, high input costs, poor productivity, and low market prices. In addition, many farmers still use pesticides, in spite of its detrimental health effects. We aim to create awareness surrounding organic farming and mobilize members at a community level. With monsoons that ravage crops each year, OKG’s objectives of educating farmers, championing organic farming practices, and increasing access to nutritious vegetables are more important than ever. A keystone arm of the OKG program is the distribution of subsidized vegetable saplings and grow bags. While the community members greatly appreciate this program, it previously operated at a significant loss to Profugo.

Earlier this year, we formalized a farmer producer company (FPC) where we are engaging 2600 member families through our 154 corner groups, and counting. We have a responsibility to provide benefits to the shareholders of our FPC. A main incentive for members joining is the access to subsidized vegetable saplings and grow bags. In addition, customer demand for our organic products is steadily increasing, week-by-week, as we collect orders and deliver our quality farm products to customers in surrounding towns. Previously, the distribution of saplings through our OKG program occurred once or twice a year. However, with the increased demand for vegetable saplings and grow bags, both on the supply (our farmers) and demand (our customers) sides, warranted these distributions to occur more consistently. As a result, our previous model of subsidizing saplings and grow bags, but at a great financial loss, was not sustainable.

The Profugo team is thrilled to report that the OKG program has been transformed from a subsidy-based program to a cost-recovery model with potential for revenue generation!  Some key components that made this a reality:

• Eliminating intermediary entities where possible

• Finding wholesale suppliers with the best rates

• Increasing volume of orders to receive best supplier rates

• Engaging Community Resource Ambassadors (CRAs) as key service managers

• Profugo nursery to produce saplings on site

Compared to October 2020, we increased our volume of saplings distribution by 50% (18,000 saplings in October 2020, 32,290 saplings in March 2021) and grow bags by 340% (2,000 grow bags in October 2020, 8,815 grow bags in March 2021). The reason we were able to expand quickly is due to the work of our Community Resource Ambassadors (CRAs). Each CRA oversees several corner groups and is responsible for collecting orders and managing the distribution of saplings and grow bags for their respective community members. Without their invaluable work, we would not be able to operate the program at this significantly increased capacity. Stay tuned for future updates as we continue to work with our farmers for a more sustainable and healthy future!

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