“How has Naandi changed your family’s life?”
A broad, and largely obscure question that both Emma and myself have asked almost 20 different coffee farmers and their families. Although we have asked many other questions during our interviews, this one best represents the true meaning of our work here in the Araku Valley. How has this farmer’s life been altered by the presence of a foundation who has cut out the middleman? How has the higher yield of quality coffee cherries which increases the income for a farmer and his family actually affected their lives?
For some, an increased income means more gold jewelry for their wives, or maybe even a television if the yields have been especially high, but for the majority of the farmers their increased income means so much more. With prices at 45 rupees per kg of quality coffee cherries, farmers who have partnered with Naandi have been given a new outlook on life. The children of these farmers now have the opportunity to seek higher education. In fact, Emma and I have met several sons and daughters of farmers who have bachelors in education, masters in engineering, or even have the qualifications to practice medicine. We have been told many stories of success from the mothers and fathers of these children, who are understandably overjoyed to tell us what the coffee money has done for their family. Do you want to know the even greater thing about these stories? The children always come back. While waiting for the next big thing in their academic careers, we have encountered many sons and daughters who have come back to their home village to help their parents on the farm. Remembering the people who gave them their careers in the first place, many of the farmers’ children come home to work alongside their mother and father in the coffee plantation, grateful for the life the coffee money has given them and their families.
Outside of education, the income received from their coffee farms has given some farmers the opportunity to build new homes or renovate their existing ones. Many use the money to purchase new seeds for planting, new tools for cultivating, or even new shoes for trekking to and from their farms everyday. Whatever the money buys, the coffee farmers have consistently been able to show us how their lives have changed financially since Naandi’s inception. However, an increased income is not the only thing that has changed for these farmers. Before Naandi, farmers and their families were forced to travel long distances in search of labor work in order to have enough money to make ends meet. During this time, coffee was not a popular crop and many farmers did not want to cultivate the coffee cherries only to receive a few rupees for all of their hard work. By providing the farmers with a fair price and training them in organic methods for quality production, Naandi has given many farmers and their families a new way of life; one that allows them to stay at home and build a community with their fellow villagers.
As I have said before in my previous blog post, simply being here in the Araku Valley and playing even a small role in the mission of this organization has given me a fresh sense of hope for this world. Our planet is filled with people who are actively making a difference in the lives of others without seeking any sort of compensation for their efforts and they serve as great role models for people of all generations. Of course we all are not meant to specifically carry out the mission Naandi has set for themselves here in India but instead we all have our own personal callings towards change, no matter how big or small. Finding your own mission in this world might be made easier if you were to ask yourself this question:
“How have others changed me?”