Apple growers in the state of Uttarakhand in India are looking at a future that promises prosperity and growth. This is happening due to a unique, Dutch-designed social enterprise model that comprises six small enterprises and about 4,000 farmers.
The success of this social enterprise model began unfolding in a small hill town in the state last year, when a CAS (controlled atmospheric storage) facility started its operations. CAS is a system that helps store produce in an environment that regulates oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide concentrations as well as humidity and temperature.
This facility has been created with a storage capacity of 1,000 tons of apples, and the produce can be preserved here for six to nine months. Stichting Het Groene Woudt (SHGW), a Dutch foundation, and a Dutch enterprise, Fresh Food Technology, invested about three million dollars to set up the facility.
A local non-governmental organization called Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS) provided the logistics for the project. The entire business is based on a social enterprise model. The shares of all the companies created as a part of this model will eventually get transferred to the farmers.
SJS helped in the creation of four companies of farmers from different apple producting areas of the region. Another company called the Himalayan Fresh Juice Private Limited was set up to utilize lower grade apples to produce juice.
The head of SJS, Laxmi Prakash Semwal, says: “This is entirely a social model for doing apple business, where farmers are getting a better price for their produce. Moreover, we have effectively removed middlemen.”
One of the main guiding principles of this entire project is that it does not view farmers as mere beneficiaries, but they are provided equal business partnership in each of the six companies created for the project. Semwal says about the project, “This is the first cold storage exclusively for apples in the entire Garhwal region.”
The project includes four decentralized apple collection centers in the region. Local farmers are encouraged to participate in the project to help them sell their produce jointly at better prices. Procurement of apples from different parts of the region is conducted by a joint venture company that comprises local apple farmers and the Dutch business partners.