Friday 21 July, 2017

A Paradigm Shift – The Evolution of WWOOF in India  Organic agriculture concept is not new to India , Mahatma Gandhi pioneered organic agriculture through constructive programs in several locations in India. A protagonist of self-reliance, he taught his fellow workers about composting and farming based on local inputs.

In hilly regions, tribal areas and other marginal regions, many small farmers are de facto organic producers. Out of necessity they have turned degraded lands into productive organic systems that meet local needs. Growing environmental consciousness and fears of health hazards of conventional food has spawned domestic consumption of organic food. Expansion of domestic markets is leading to the surge of organic producers attracted by premium prices. In India to ensure rural development Society for Employment Welfare and Agricultural Knowledge ( SEWAK) in Uttrakhand( formerly part of U.P) state was established in 1992. Punjab, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh states then dominated in agriculture production figures through adopting chemical farming methods. Conventional technology development being expensive, farmers of Uttrakhand working in an agricultural context of extreme marginality could not afford or buy. Agricultural approaches emphasizing technology packages which generally require resources which most of them had no access. Thus SEWAK focused on such farmers and convinced them to preserve their rich heritage of agricultural traditions. They were found suitable for designing model organic production systems for whole India because their traditional crop rotation in or mixed cropping patterns could easily facilitate the management of pests, diseases and nutrient recycling. Could its strong high quality production base of vegetables, tea, some spices, rice & ayurvedic herbs be exploited for exports as organic products ? To find answers to such questions, SEWAK in Nainital is involved in training programmes and documentation of indigenous agricultural practices.

This year (2007) SEWAK ngo envisaged to set upWWOOF India. Mr Andrews of WWOOF New Zealand provided the start up pack, host list and help in developing Indian website Mr Carl of WWOOF Independents ( provided the host list. Last but not the least Mr Regmi gifted the Indian website to SEWAK. The website was officially launched on 19th August 2007 by Shri B.D.Bhagat , Minister of Environment, Forest & Transport Uttrakhand State , India. With in a period of 4 months there were more than 8000 hits on our site. It shows the tremendous demand from WWOOFersas well as organic farmers. Regarding wwoofing sadly people world over have a strange opinion about wwoofers as one who just beats the buffalo at host farm .The so called volunteers do not know anything about organic farming and they come as back pack tourist looking for cheap stay / food as analternate. To take up this as a challenge and break the bad image of buffalo beating. WWOOF India started working on a system that would provide a platform giving opportunities regarding organic agriculture knowledge, attract volunteers to work at organic farms and cultural exchange through WWOOFing in India . Earlier the volunteers were just handed over the host list pack upon receipt of the membership fee. There was a risk since there was no identity of the volunteer. WWOOF India made it mandatory to fill up membership form and attach a copy of passport , so thatin case ofemergency or some untoward incidentthe identity of the volunteer could easily be traced. To find out the real interest of volunteers questions were framed in the membership form and a brief study about the profile of such volunteers was made. The statistical details of the WWOOF India memberships is given below :1 ) Volunteers registered with wwoof India

15 – 31 August September October November December
8 18 21 25 30

2) Gender

Females Male Couples
36 28 13

3) Country Representation

European countries EU USA and Canada NewZealand and Australia Asian Countries (Japan , Korea etc) India
63% 24 % 6 % 5% 2%

4) Volunteers profile

University Students To learn and start organic farming back home Researchers and Writers Farm workers / labourers Others
51 %, 19% 13 % 7% 9%

5) Total number of hosts 39 and 2 farms under process of registration 6) Number of hosts added after formation of WWOOFIndia – 9 The above results of the study shows that the highest number of volunteers come from EU. Many young Indian volunteers wanted to learn organic agriculture through WWOOF India. The number of female volunteers was more then the male volunteers and very few couples. Females are more serious about environmental issues and they want to learn from Indian farmers. The volunteers just do not come for fun they come for training , research and writing books and articles. Our future plans are to engage volunteers in promoting organic products from host farms and also give feed back about the host. This would lead to check the authenticity of organic products and shall prevent fraud in organic industry. This study could be an eye opener for those who take WWOOF in a lighter sense and also guide those potential volunteers who are interested or thinking ofWWOOF ing in future.

Harish Tewari  WWOOF India Director



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