Neha Upadhyay grew up in Delhi; she was encouraged by her parents to follow her passions. “I come from a family of freedom fighters and agriculturists, and always wanted to work for the nation. Even as a kid, I’d volunteer and I was also a part of various rotary clubs.”
After completing her Masters from King’s College, she worked as a R&D officer at Mossbourne Community Academy. “Although I was away from India, I was well read about the plight farmers were facing here. I’d get disturbed when I’d read about farmers committing suicide.”
So she did a short course on organic sustainable agriculture. She then returned to India and enrolled in another course at Navdanya Beeja Vidyapeeth in Uttarakhand.
“I invested money from my savings to conduct workshops for farmers about organic farming, and eating eco positively in villages of Haryana, Maharashtra, and Delhi.” This became the foundation of her social enterprise, GUNA Organics.
After a workshop in a Ladakh village, she discovered that the region was hit by flash floods in 2010 and was trying to revive itself by following organic and sustainable livelihoods. “So I decided to adopt Takmachik, a small village which would be the first eco-model village of India.”
But it cost her double the resources to set up this venture. There were times when her colleagues said, ‘We should stop working as there's no substantial outcome’, and ‘You should stop.’ Amidst all this what kept her going was the love that was bestowed upon her by the locals.
She worked with over 3000 farmers from 5 villages. “Soon, all my hard work paid off! Now, Takmachik is known as one of the very few eco-model villages in India.”
Villagers who’d migrated elsewhere due to lack of employment, reverse migrated. This led to an increase in the number of households there from 29 to 75, which enhanced the livelihood by 33%. Guna Organics–Vishwadeep Trust has received funding from the Ministry of Environment, and Forests & Climate Change Dept. of Science and Technology for their efforts.
Mahindra Salutes the challenger spirit of people like Neha who remind us that with grit and determination, we can change the world and help the people around us. #Rise