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  • Writer's pictureSaumya John

Earth-friendly Self-reliance

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Parindey: Mandar Deshpande  

Alivelihood: Organic farming

Region: Wardha, Maharashtra

Mandar Deshpande (Photo: Saumya John)

Every drop makes an ocean,

Every step counts to a mile,

Every thought adds to a change…

And sometimes existing in one’s own being, contributes to a revolution. In a world of stereotypes, indifference and ignorance towards each element of nature, Mandar and his family stand testament to the opposite. The future demands altercations in the existing methods and ways of living to ensure that there is “some” future for the generations to come.

An engineer turned farmer, Mandar presently resides with his family in Wardha. They grow food mainly to meet the household kitchen requirements. They are passionate about using elements that already exist in nature; thereby contributing to their existence being as earth-friendly as possible. Their shift from the city to the village came as an act of desire to lead a slow-paced life, away from noise, pollution and adulterations. Also, their quest to explore what lies beyond has pulled them back to the village from the city adorned life.

Mandar’s mother adores the farm. (Photo: Saumya John)

It was around 10 years ago when the entire family underwent numerous discussions, thoughts and debates trying to comprehend their realisations- that the future generations would be compelled by stress, toxic mind and body. Mandar’s father set out to find like-minded individuals who too were looking for conversations in this regard and find alternatives. He was able to connect to almost 50 such families who became explorative spaces.

Their collaborative explorations paved the way for acknowledging that with their skill sets, social spirits, and farming knowledge they can easily guide people towards a nature-friendly lifestyle. Dilip and Poornima, a couple based in Konkan, Maharashtra have been working on this since 1983; they helped them understand that mainstream development is moving towards the destruction of humans, society and earth. Their books Samyak vikaas, Nisargaayan were essential to help them reflect on this. Interactions with them helped the family get more clarity about creating their own definition of development that is earth-centric.

After completing his education, Mandar continued the discovery (shodh) that his father had started. He felt that there was still a need for more participation from the community. Thus after a discussion with the 50 families that his father had connected to, 4 families agreed to delve into an earth-friendly lifestyle. Unfortunately, the younger generation in the families did not feel confident to move in this direction after a period of time. The idea of moving to a village, and enduring patience to reap farming benefits was something they couldn't align with. Mandar did realise by now, that absence of a familial or educational background in agriculture is detrimental to practicing farming by individuals. He wanted to fill in the gap in his knowledge, yet confident that instead of theoretical, practical knowledge would be more meaningful.

Mandar on the bullock cart used to plough his field. (Photo: Saumya John)

He connected with Dhirendra and Smita, a couple who too had adapted to the earth-friendly lifestyle. For almost 1.5 years, Mandar was part of their farm in Gujarat. The immersive experience expanded his understanding of the interlinking role of education, health, environment and society when living an earth-centric lifestyle. The impact on the life of organic farming in the form of improved health, diversity in food, cleaner environment, physical and mental health, and increased decision-making power leads to the holistic development of humans- a symbiosis of existence is felt on a daily basis. Once he gained more clarity about organic farming, he restarted farming but the group of families slowly weaned off completely from the farms. Since 2010, he has been practising organic farming at Amgaon (Wardha) alone.

In his context, he defines self-reliance (svav lamban) as the ability to meet one’s own needs using the resources available at a local level. At the individual and community level self-reliance, diversity and nutrition in food and access to it become important. Nature-friendly (Nisarga snehi) is understanding the relationship between elements of nature - trees, plants, animals, bacteria, pests, weeds and taking the learning to one’s own life. He further believes that it is reducing the use of any materials that could potentially harm the rest of nature.

The produce from the farm feeds the family for the whole year (Photo: Mandar Deshpande)

In this essence, he joined Beejotsav- a voluntary movement where the community comes together for conversations, ideas, and exchange seeds. For 5 years, before the pandemic infused lockdown in 2020- Beejotsav was conducted once a year from March-April, around the end of Kharif and Rabi season*. It was started as a means to build a community in Maharashtra; that meets regularly at a space for learning exchange and provides a market for organic farm produce. The daytime is reserved for the sale of produce directly from farms, sessions by experts and evenings are reserved for conversational circles at night regarding public policies, climate change, experiments, best practices, challenges and seed exchange. It also served as a platform for relation-building between the sellers (organic farmers) and buyers of the produce, and for assessing the market for organic produce.

Through Beejotsav outside of the Wardha district, he has been able to connect to people who are interested in and practising organic farming. Yet, at the local level conversations have not led to tangible changes. Discussions and questions revolve around the type of farming and lifestyle that Mandar and his family lead, yet systemic challenges and mindset have delayed the return towards organic farming among the farmers.

A family meeting for relatives based in the city to get to know life in the village (Photo: Saumya John)

Concerns for the future lay at the foundation of the move from Latur city where Mandar grew up, to a remote village in Wardha. Facing questions, accepting lacunae in knowledge, unlearning and learning, physical exertion and loads of hope for a better future guided the family. Mandar hopes to give forward the gifts he received in his learning journey by opening up his space to learn farming and practice community living. Researching and developing one’s own definition of nature, nature-friendly lifestyle, self-reliance and development took immense courage. Courage is often derived from the belief in one’s own ability to change one’s own life and one’s family.

Mandar can be reached at:

To know more about Beejotsav, contact:

* Kharif and Rabi seasons - Indian cropping season is classified into two main seasons- Kharif and Rabi based on the monsoon. Rabi crops are grown in the winter season whereas the Kharif crops are grown in the monsoon season.

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1 Comment

Prakash Sharma
Prakash Sharma
Jun 13, 2023

I know Mr. Mandar Deshpande & his family personally. This family is very pious family. Mandar hadn’t mentioned his work in Pani Foundation & also with other NGOs.

I wish the Grand Success to Mandar & his family for their efforts. Prakash Sharma

From Nagpur

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