Story of Change
Bringing a natural farming revolution to the Northeast
Diagnosed with throat cancer, Rama Tewari’s life came to a standstill in 2004. Holding a doctorate in botany, this brilliant scientist was fighting choices. Having tried and exhausted many forms of treatment, she decided to come to The Art of Living International Center in Bengaluru for Ayurvedic treatment in 2005. This was, in her words, the point of transformation in her life.
Rama did The Art of Living Happiness Program at the center. Among other things, the program involves learning breathing techniques (pranayama) and the Sudarshan Kriya, a rhythmic breathing process. Learning the Kriya, says Rama, got her rid of stress and gave her the courage to continue her battle with cancer. On hearing about her predicament, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar took her to the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital in Delhi. This time around, they found no trace of cancer in her body.
A natural farming revolution
What started off as volunteering for The Art of Living’s social initiatives, soon turned into a full-fledged initiative as Rama went on to lead a natural farming revolution in the Northeast. The project generates employment for over 4,000 farmers, including surrendered United Liberated Front of Assam (ULFA) insurgents, helping them integrate into the mainstream.
She, now, helps others tap into their inner repository of strength, and has made leaders out of many youngsters. She helps youth to channelize their energy for productive work. These people would have, otherwise, joined outfits that use violence to fight for their rights. Many ceasefire groups are now engaged in this project.
“I was involved with extremists engaging in violence in Assam. After the ceasefire, I got involved in organic cultivation, but I didn’t have a proper channel to sell my crops,” shares Amolya Gogoi from the Dibrugarh district of Assam. “It was tough for me to go on with life after I had given up arms. Sri Sri Ayurveda (SSA) and Sri Sri Natural Farming came to my rescue. They surveyed my farm and gave me seeds along with technology, manure, and organic pesticides, along with the guarantee of 100 percent buyback. Natural farming has given me and my community great hope, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for our youth,” says a relieved Gogoi.
A unique collaboration
Sometimes, a brainwave can create a new reality. This is what happened to Deepak Sharma, an Art of Living faculty member, while working on projects in the Northeast and led to a partnership with a difference. A joint venture between Mumbai-based Omni Actives and The Art of Living envisions large-scale cultivation of marigold, turmeric, chili, and ginger. This project fits a very key requirement, Lutein. An extract of marigold, lutein is used to prevent ocular eye cell degeneration. The project was limited to six months since Omni Actives’ produce would come from Karnataka. However, the project is now operational all the year round in the Northeast.
- Help generate employment for over 4,000 farmers, ceasefire groups and surrendered militants in the northeast areas.
- The northeast areas have large-scale marigold cultivation.
- 100% buyback of crops will be given to farmers by The Art of Living.
- The Art of Living will also operate as B2C to help farmers sell products directly to consumers.
Lighting the lives of others
Swaraj Gogoi from Aamguri in Assam is very grateful for what has been done for them. “I was working in Delhi, but I returned to my hometown because I wanted to do something for my people. My father was engaged in natural farming, and I joined him, but it never took off. When I was on the verge of giving up, Sri Sri Ayurveda came like a ray of hope. They gave us seeds for rice, pulses, and marigold, conducted training programs and helped us get our lands organically certified. I have also started a farmers’ cooperative,” exclaimed Aamguri.
As Rama narrates the timeline, her own life and that of the project, are closely interwoven. Each has given impetus to the other. And, in turn, touched the lives of hundreds of people. Indeed, sometimes fate, hard work, and collaboration create a revolution. A natural farming revolution.