If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
|“Food should be traded only in the farmers market, not on the stock market, if we want to keep the price of food affordable and the management of the food between those who make decisions from the farm and not the boardroom.” – Kamla Vishwas|
“Act Naturally is a non-party direct action international network who promote non-violent biodiverse, and independent agricultural practices to solve problems in health and food security. We partner with farms and communities, and other N.G.O’s to provide debt relief, seedstock, backyard poultry facilities, livestock and fodder, bag gardens, and organic and indigenous farming workshops and education.”
Though our primary focus is on the effects of globalization and privatization on traditionally agrarian communities we also strive to facilitate understanding on other issues of privatization.
Our organization has six main goals:
Vigorous campaigning through online social networks, fundraising events, neighborhood mailing and door to door campaigns; through workshops and events sponsored by Grown Your Own India; from acknowledgement of our successes in increasing productivity while decreasing production inputs on Act Naturally transitioning farms; through the marketing of local organic products with an emphasis on shifting consumer focus toward organics; and by encouraging the international community to take part in volunteering both on Act Naturally assisted farms on Act Naturally’s Ashram Farm and Community Garden project and; and partnering with established N.G.O’s and non-profits already providing assistance to Indian farming communities.
Act Naturally encourages all of its members who visit India, and those in India, to report their experience through blogging, video submissions, photo galleries and forming their own local chapters to assist in fundraising.
Reduce reliance on external inputs into the farming system by working with local farmers, volunteers, and national and local governments and panchayats to transition from conventional to organic genetically-modified-free farms and save seed. These turn-over sites require a minimum four year process of remediation to: detox the soil from a toxic build up of salts, nitrates, chemicals, etc.; build fertile soil and restore habitat diversity by promoting practices that increase beneficial soil organisms, insects, plants, and trees; build continuous on-site soil amendment systems such as compost, vermiculture, biomanure production, and; strategizing water usage solutions depending on accessibility.
Seed saving is an important component to reducing yearly and costly inputs. Act Naturally will donate money and volunteers to established seed savers all over India. Through our Sponsor a Farm program we provide indigenous seed stock for free and educate the farmer on how to save seed for the following season.
Act Naturally also provides relief packages to farmers through the Khet Jyoti Fund that pays down unmanageable debt, and provides financial assistance during the transition from conventional to organic agriculture.
Organize participatory campaigning to shift government policy toward national promotion of organic agriculture and to secure financial and technical resources to reduce hardships caused by a reduction in yield rates during the three to four year interregnum required of transitioning sites that aren’t mediated by donations from the Khet Jyoti Fund. Many of the same strategies for educating the public outlined in our first objective, also applies to shifting government policy.
Create linkages between the farmer and the consumer by: creating organic markets through public awareness initiatives, including Grow Your Own India; face to face sales to popular food stores; information booths at “green” conventions, events and open air markets, and; generating advance pay agreements/contracts and community shared agriculture structures in those communities with participating Act Naturally farms.
It is with these sentiments that Act Naturally will launch a branded volunteer and locally managed “organic” certification that adheres to Act Naturally’s guidelines called Village Republic Organics. Products branded with this label will be sold online, at farmers markets and in Indian-owned shops. A percentage of the profits will directly benefit the village farmers who grew and produced the product. This percentage will be determined after analyzing how much investment Act Naturally made in transitioning the farm to organics, and any additional cost therein.
Act Naturally recognizes that many of India’s village farmers are already using organic techniques, however, the food produced is largely used to feed members of the family and extended family, or fill niche markets along side conventional vendors in very specific locations. We recognize that mainstream India can’t benefit from what they don’t know about or have access too. The more organics are demanded, the more it will be seen as profitable to transition land already under cultivation to sustainable organic farming practices.
Village Republic Organic certification aims at creating a focal point for bringing more attention to organic not only as a label but as a method for living; redirecting urban reliance on agribusiness networks of growth and distribution to sustainable models adopted from the village.
To implement Village Republic Organics, Act Naturally will create a community, organic certification process that is available to new farmers and poorer farmers who can’t pay the national and international certification fees but are committed to Act Naturally’s organic standards. While we understand that the absence of mainstream certification has never disabled villagers from selling their products to a small market, it makes their products, and the importance of their production method less known. This disables them from the national Organic market. The intent of the community certification will encourage community involvement with the farmers and further promote organic awareness.
Our certification process is the first step in preparing them for mainstream organic certification (USDA) (if that is their final goal)as our standards build from existing certifications, but are enforced at the local level. The community insures that organic standards will be practiced. Act naturally volunteers and staff will provide ongoing education and bi-yearly inspections.
How it Works : An Act Naturally select farm that has met the organic criteria (please see organic criteria list) will then produce one or more products (i.e. organic millet, channa, organic honey from bee-keeping, organic dehydrated vegetable chips, chutney etc.), specifically for Village Republic Organics. The farm has to have successive and consistent yields that meet the needs of their own family and local market first before they will be a Village Republic Organic producer.
Raw materials, i.e. millet, is then sent in bulk to a minimum processing facility for packaging. We envision that this will be available occasionally on site. After packaging and labeling, Act Naturally will work with a third party distributor that has been screened for quality. The distributor will have a main warehousing facility. Distribution will take place based on store and online orders from this facility.
Running parallel to the process of certification is the creation of a model of local distribution similar to a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture model) that is a way of managing risks within the first few years of transition from conventional to organic. In this way farmers are paid for a share of food in advance. Customers assume the risk of “act of god” problems associated with weather, insects etc. in order to have a fresh in-season share of food that is of a greater portion for their investment than what they could buy for the same amount at conventional markets. Food is delivered either bi-weekly or once a week to a central drop off location or a farmers market.. There it is sorted and ready for pick up.
Promote urban gardening, community gardens, bag gardens, kitchen gardens, seed saving and gardens for clean air through our Grow Your Own India campaign.
We encourage volunteers already participating in some level of Grow Your Own India, and Indian members of the Act Naturally network to volunteer and learn on one of Act Naturally’s transitioning farms or on the Act Naturally Ashram Farm and Community Garden. In this way volunteers seeking to learn farming and permaculture techniques, learn skills to benefit their own personal gardening projects while providing much needed help on a farm. Act Naturally’s Grow Your Own India initiative will present demonstration workshops led by innovative and leading agricultural specialists on production techniques specific to India’s environment. We will post gardening tips and tricks soon on actnaturally.org and copy them in our monthly newsletter. A portion of Grow Your Own India will go into supporting the seed saving efforts of already established projects like Navdanya.
Act Naturally has six key programs that are member and donation supported in order to achieve our mission:
Sponsor a Farm is a program that presents five quick ways to help India’s marginalized farming communities. This program assists villagers who are considering selling off their land because of economic hardship and are having trouble meeting their daily needs. Often times the man of the house will seek work in the city to earn an income because the land has been divided between successive generations of sons and is too small to produce enough food for their family, let alone an income to live on. In this way donations that increase vegetable production on such a small plot of land, such as bag gardens, can make the difference between further hardship and starvation, or a healthy meal and food to sell at the market.
In the case of livestock or poultry facilities, the donor is also paying for a years supply of fodder and/or feed, and basic infrastructure to house the cow or chicken.
Sponsor a Farm is a way for the donator to link their generous contribution directly to a practical on the ground solution. On donations over $150, they will receive Act Naturally logo’d merchandise, a Farm Sponsor membership to Act Naturally, and a personalized portfolio that is a photo essay of the farm and family they have donated to.
The Sponsor a Farm donations will not always be directly relatable to only one individual portfolio. At times, Act Naturally must rely on an aggregate of funds to meet a Sponsor a Farm objective. For example, if a workshop assessment for a community shows that interest is high, logistical costs may require us to “pool” donations to cover expenses. Donations in this way are harder to correlate to a single individual as several donations maybe necessary to meet the budget demands.
Act Naturally has set aside three different funds for three specific needs:
Khet Jyoti Fund, or the Farm Light Fund is set up to provide debt relief to dire cases in India’s suicide belt. Sometimes this money is paid to private money lenders who are threatening to take over the family’s land by force, or who are posing physical threats to the farmer and his family. Often these debts are no more than $150 U.S. dollars a month, but is enough pressure that often the farmer will commit suicide by drinking herbacide. Over 200,000 farmer suicides happened in the last 15 years.
Once the principal balance is paid down to an acceptable level where the farmer can pay back the loan without hardship, or the debt is paid off completely, Act Naturally will work with the farmer to provide future non-GMO seedstock, and encourage the farm to transition from conventional agriculture to organic, thus Khet Jyoti Fund will provide additional support through during the four years needed to transition.
Heartwood Fund. Heartwood is the old and central woody core of a tree. Without it, the tree would fall. Heartwood is a central solid pillar. If it decays, the tree will weaken, lose its shape and fall. In this way Act Naturally has set up the Heartwood Fund to cover administrative and operating costs. The fortitude of our Heartwood Fund is proportional to our fiscal ability to give and carry out or necessary programs.
We believe in transparent reporting. We will publish an annual report that shows the amount of money donated to each specific program or fund. It will also report on how that money was used to support the stated purpose. A copy of this report is sent to donors who contribute to the Heartwood Fund.
Act Naturally Ashram Farm and Community Garden Fund. This fund goes directly to the procurement of land to build our farm. Please see the illustration here.
Members of Act Naturally qualify for two nights free stay here when they visit India. Volunteers can come and help create a living example of organic values in action. We will also provide workshops and training on how to construct bag gardens, lean-to’s, vermiculture and compost facilities, permaculture and organic farming techniques, set up and use of chicken tractors, and much more. Organic food grown on-site will feed our many visitors who stay in the guesthouse. Tent facilities and volunteer accommodations will be available as well.
Revenue generated from the guest house will go directly to maintaining the grounds and be put into the Heartwood Fund. Come stay with us and Act Naturally!
Monthly and annual membership fees.
Please notify us of your travel plans ahead of time so we aren’t over booked!
Volunteers are the lifeblood of any non-profit. Act Naturally relies on volunteers for every level of our operation. We work with volunteer placement organizations, colleges that require students to perform community service as part of their curriculum, Craigslist, social networking, community list serves and other non-profits set up to help source volunteers.
A Note on Our Perspective
Act Naturally believes that to increase India’s food security, the export of India’s soil fertility to other countries must stop. The structured water and nutrition in the food itself and the resources used in producing the food such as water, soil, labor and energy move from local peoples who would otherwise benefit and grow their community from the activity of farming when food is exported. Because the mouths that eat the food, and those in charge of distribution decisions are often times thousands of kilometers from the hands that produce the food, the conditions and needs of the farmers and producing community are often overlooked. The generational environmental & human impact increases in order to meet export demands by further putting an unnatural demand on the environment and simultaneously shifting the focus from internal food generation and security into profit generation. We do not discredit all the benefits of exporting however we believe that all countries, be it India, Africa or the United States, should feed their people first, and the rest of the world second.
Act Naturally is in the process of setting up an e-commerce fundraising website at www.actnaturally.org. This website, along help from our friends at Z2 Neon, will provide a secure environment for Act Naturally to take and process donations, memberships subscriptions and merchandise sales.
Neon provides a fully web-based constituent relationship management tool known as a CRM that will provide Act Naturally with critical back office database support and help us leverage member and customer tracking so that we are consistent, efficient and informed at all times, thereby reducing our overhead costs.
Our organizational costs and program implementation depends on generous donators who become lifetime supporters and enthusiasts of our mission. It is critical to manage their concerns with courtesy and professionalism.
We recognize you recognizing us. Thank you.
Palagummi Sainath | Indian Journalist
Secure Donations to Act Naturally. Thank you for your kind support.
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