Changemaker Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma Co Founder of “Farm2Food”, India
“Changemaker Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma, Co-founder of Farm2Food, inspires children and youths to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their communities during the pandemic and beyond. We are very happy to support this great project through our Covid-19 Aid Program”, says Christiane Hölscher, Global CSR Manager at Beiersdorf AG.
Creating long-term perspectives for children and families
India’s northeastern region suffers from poverty, underdevelopment, civil conflict and a distinct lack of faith in political leadership. The agricultural sector, which employs over 70% of the region’s population, is characterized by low productivity, often attributed to its laid-back culture and lack of an entrepreneurial approach. Farming is unattractive to young people living in the region and there are a lack of positive agricultural role models. The younger generation increasingly migrate to other places in the pursuit of alternative livelihoods.
The non-profit organization “Farm2Food” leverages schools in Assam as entry points to influence the attitudes and skills of children and young adults. Here ‘Farmpreneur clubs’ are created, aimed at changing the way children approach farming, while developing their entrepreneurial skills. Members of these ‘Farmpreneur clubs’ create and take charge of school gardens. They learn how to cultivate crops, improve soil quality and manage pests using chemical-free farming techniques. Furthermore, because malnutrition is rampant in the region, produce from the school gardens is also used to supplement the free lunchtime meals provided in government schools with green leafy vegetables. This has improved the nutrition quality in the meals of some 6,000 students.
Recreating farming as an aspirational career for young people
Founder Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma has over 17 years’ worth of experience working with adolescents, young adults, teachers, and vulnerable minority communities. He has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s in Elementary Education and has been involved with envisioning exercises, designs, developments, and the implementation of various education initiatives on teachers’ development. He has also helped improve classroom processes and school development, as well as helping to build communities and community-based organizations.
In the past nine years, “Farm2Food” has established more than 5,000 School Nutrition Gardens — impacting over 100,000 young people across the country. In 2019, the Indian government adopted the School Nutrition Garden project for 1.2 million schools. Through mobilization by young changemakers, many families have adopted sustainable farming practices.
Fighting the nutritional crisis and offering new perspectives during and after the pandemic
Rural farmers and day laborers working on tea plantations rely on daily wages and remittances. During lockdown, they lost all of their income, which led to a severe nutritional crisis. Additionally, Assam witnessed severe floods. For immediate relief, Farm2Food identified extremely vulnerable populations and, in partnership with government agencies and community leaders, distributed food packets, menstrual health supplies, educational materials and vegetable seeds of local crops. Each beneficiary family was then encouraged to set up homestead vegetable gardens to safeguard their own nutrition security.
Furthermore, in consultation with local communities, new plans of livelihood were designed. The focus was on sustainability, as well as integrating returning migrants and helping to build dignified livelihoods. The program reached 3,500 households with 25,000 individuals. In addition, more than 2,000 children were engaged in a variety of psychosocial and educational initiatives.
One of the worst impacts of the pandemic has been on young girls in rural Assam. They are the least likely to go back to school once the pandemic is over. “Farm2Food” plans to engage with young girls in rural Assam more intensively. This would include building capacities around life skills, leadership, health and nutrition and child rights. This project will have a major impact on the condition of girls and on nutrition security during the pandemic and afterwards. It would ultimately pave the way towards cohorts of independent and successful women leaders in the community.
Deep Jyoti Sonu: “With the support of Beiersdorf, we are able to offer better help to our local population who have been severely hit by the consequences of the pandemic. We have been able to create sustainable systemic solutions for children, youths and especially young girls in their rural communities.”
Beiersdorf supports Ashoka to fight COVID-19 consequences
COVID-19 keeps hitting the whole world hard — and its ultimate socioeconomic consequences cannot be foreseen today. With this in mind, Beiersdorf launched its global “Care Beyond Skin” aid program with a volume of 50 million euros at the very beginning of the crisis. The program comprises two pillars: immediate aid, and long-term support to fight the pandemic’s consequences. Among the long-term initiatives, Beiersdorf has set up partnerships with international NGOs, Ashoka being one of them. With the Beiersdorf funding, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs is able to expand its “Changemakers United” initiative beyond Europe to Africa, Latin America and South Asia. The program promotes and supports social innovators whose ideas and ventures aim specifically at reducing the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19. Additional funding is provided to five social entrepreneurs within the Ashoka network, who contribute with their distinct and innovative approach to Beiersdorf’s mission and social focus area “Girls’ Empowerment.”
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