We Indians follow old traditions, rituals, Hindu rites but does anyone like to follow old Indian practices? Yes I am talking about farming: practiced before the Indus Valley Civilization. Nobody wants to, everyone strives to be successful but they don’t see farming is one step towards success. When everyone was running after modernisation, his footsteps reached old traditions and practices. Chetan Raut: founder of Cowism, became a farmer.
While studying in YCCE, Nagpur, Raut heard the tragic story of farmer suicides in Vidarbha. He didn’t know what was wrong. Was it high input cost, or less resources? To know the exact situation he joined Vidarbha Youth Organisation. At that time he also came to know about the upliftment of farmers in western Maharashtra, that’s when he visited both the villages to get the real picture. In 2011, Chetan Raut with his colleagues resided in the villages for 1 month and got to know the major difference in the farming of both the villages, that was integrated livestock farming. Talking with the farmers, and listening their problems one thing was clear in his mind, something was wrong.
Discovery of the idea:
Raut knew the problem but he couldn’t find an optimum solution. To know the solution he took the help of books. Raut joined the Social Entrepreneurship programme at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai in 2011. He learned how a village can be sustained and transformed into an ideal village. But the bookish knowledge was not enough. His mother’s words rang in his ears, ” Solution to your problem is always around the problem”. So he went again to the village. He forsook his whole life and settled in the village of Maharashtra to find that solution.
Then he heard it, the cowbell ringing. The cow was the answer to all the problems of a farmer. It gives us milk which adds an extra income, fertilizers like manure and urine, cow dung as fuel. And they got all these from a harmless animal that could survive on the leftovers of their farming yield and was, therefore, very affordable.
Now he knew the problem, he has the solution, all he had to do was implement the idea. Thus, in January 2015, Raut decided to launch his startup with a unique name: ‘Cowism’. This startup was all about sustainable integration of indigenous cows in Agriculture in order to reduce input cost of agriculture and to have sustainable low-cost farming practices. The whole concept of ‘cowism’ revolved around organic farming, using one source: Cow.
But it’s easier said than done. Convincing the farmers to opt organic farming was a herculean task. After all the startup was for farmers. If they didn’t opt it who would?
One more problem came in the sight, funds. One cannot see persistence with limited funds.
This is when DBS bank came for the support,
True potential can never be hidden. In 2014, Global Indian Entrepreneur, ‘Cowism’ won the award worth Rs. 50,000. That’s when DBS bank came forth to fund this new innovative startup.
Indigenous/Hybrid Cow Milk:
While Raut was researching, he came across an amazing and benevolent fact. A book titled as ‘Devil in the Milk‘, written by Dr. K. B. Woodford helped him understand the difference between the milk of a Jersey cow and an indigenous cow. The indigenous or pure Indian breed cow provides amino acids, beneficial in digestion and is good for the kidneys. A good source of Vitamin B2, B3, A, it helps in strengthening of immune system and reduces the chances of Peptic ulcers, and colon, breast and skin cancers.
While, milk from a Jersey (hybrid) cow contains additional BCM-7, an element associated with pediatric diabetes, autism, and metabolic degenerative diseases. Moreover, as the hybrid cows are basically from cold regions, they are more prone to diseases in the Indian climate, are less mobile, and require high maintenance.
With this knowledge, Raut started to emphasize the rearing of indigenous cows through his Cowism project. He started his venture from Chandrapur.
Chetan Raut started his venture ‘Cowism’ under the aegis of the Arunokalp Social Organisation for Rural Development (ASORD) in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. It educated the farmers about the natural pesticides and fertilizers made by cow dung and urine. They aware the farmers how rear indigenous cows for various farming activities and thus lowering the input cost. Laying emphasis on integrated farming and livestock farming, ASORD’s core activities include awareness generation campaigns and free training programmes on sustainable agriculture for farmers, and operating an agricultural input and cow resource center.
The Major emphasis of ASORD is the production and sale of A2 milk at reasonable rates, the revenue from which funds its non-profit activities. At its milk collection centre, ASORD sells milk produced at its farm. It also supports farmers rearing native cows by procuring milk from them and marketing it through its supply chain. The centre also freely distributes 10–20 liters of buttermilk a day to villages in the vicinity.
Cowism is an initiative where it demonstrated to other farmers the feasibility of rearing native cows, multi-cropping, and organic farming with cow-based inputs. In the process, it is building farmers’ confidence and changing their attitudes to chemical-based agriculture.
Watch the story of Cowism: