Two things we really look forward to in the mountains are fresh air and fresh food.
Uttarakhand is also lovingly called Dev Bhoomi; the land of gods owing to the number of Hindu pilgrimage sites in these gorgeous mountains. What’s also heavenly though, is the food from this region. Every time you sample a home-cooked meal in the mountains of Uttarakhand, the head, the heart and the stomach experience a sense of pure joy. Ever wondered why? The farmer communities of these mountains are famous for cultivating traditional pulses, cereals, millets and grains, grown naturally without any chemicals. Growing and selling these pulses is one of the most important sources of livelihood for these communities.
While the production of pulses, millets and spices has gone up in the region over the years, it has also come with many challenges. Perhaps most significantly, it has led to a decline in local indigenous varieties being grown by the farmers.
Traditionally, different regions have different types of rajma, each with a distinct flavour, nutrient profile and many times different colours. For example, Munsiyari Rajma grows in Munsiyari and Harshil Rajma grows in Uttarkashi. And while it is essential to preserve and nurture these indigenous varieties, typical commercial supply chains tend to prefer popular varieties because it is more economical to ship in larger quantities. There are many more stakeholders in the supply chain (traders and middlemen), and they all want to buy standardised products in bulk. This leaves little room for small batches of local rajma varieties and over time, this leads to farmers moving away from native crops and towards the dominant crop.
In 2016, Tata Trusts and Himmotthan Society set up a farmer-owned enterprise in Uttarakhand called Trishulii, and started training and encouraging farmer communities to keep growing the local varieties. They also ensure that the produce is given due respect and identity, while marketing. The farmer co-operative also works on streamlining quality control and branding, marketing and packaging efforts. The organization works in 11 districts in Uttarakhand, and the project has successfully impacted the lives of more than 4000 farmers and their families by ensuring that they get a fair price for their products, get consistent income, and assured buyers.
They also help with improving farms’ productivity by providing relevant information about weather changes, reducing farm to warehouse cycles by implementing efficient supply chain techniques, and providing advanced equipment that leads to a sizable increase in production. It has also harnessed entrepreneurship potential among farmers with periodic training and business opportunities. In 2018, chefs from the Taj Group of Hotels prepared dishes using 25 products from Trishulii’s inventory and have since then continued to source products from Trishulii.
“The rajma from Munsyari is famous and people from all parts of India appreciate it. We work very hard to keep it that way. This crop is attacked by pests many times but we still don't use any chemicals to grow our rajma. We also work with women's cooperatives. We help them increase their income and savings and organize meetings for the same. We also help them with their day-to-day issues,” says Anandi Didi who has been working as a director at Trishulii for the past four years.
To buy the different varieties of Pahadi Rajma and Rice from Uttarakhand, directly from the farmers who grow them, please click here!