“Celebrate the Feast of Harvest with the first fruits of the crops you sow in your field.” – Exodus 23:16
Neeraj is 21. He loves to play cricket and soccer, but most days you will find him singing away while working in his garden.
Neeraj was born blind in one eye and with low vision in the other which made it very hard to join activities with his peers, he was rejected because he tripped over a lot. He started school, but was told by his teachers not to bother continuing to secondary school as he couldn’t see the schoolwork. Rejected, Neeraj set out to find employment. He wanted to become a farmer but once again was told that it wasn’t possible because of his impairment. Without close friends and a livelihood Neeraj felt isolated, lonely and discouraged.
A few years ago Neeraj met staff from a cbm partner in India. Together they made a rehabilitation plan and Neeraj started exercises to strengthen his vision. After sharing his life goal to become a farmer, they identified the barriers that were getting in his way. Neeraj completed a year of business training where he was taught techniques for organic farming with reasonable accessible methods. His father provided him with a plot of land to set up a net-house and cbm provided materials for building, water collection and irrigation. The large seedling house was completed in just one week. Objects that could be tripped over were moved, garden plots were raised, and seedlings were labelled in large print so he could read them. Neeraj used a small model of the plot to learn his away around.
The training taught Neeraj how to make nutrient rich soil without chemicals. Despite a difficult start in life, his father is proud to say that Neeraj embraced the opportunity wholeheartedly with a strong work ethic. Neeraj now runs a very successful agricultural business growing and selling seedlings, vegetables and organic compost. Neeraj has a competitive advantage over other suppliers because his seedlings grow earlier in the season from the techniques he has learnt and the equipment he has. He is using his savings to build a hut near his garden, giving him the opportunity to live by himself for the first time. Neeraj no longer feels discouraged, instead, he is full of smiles and has plans to develop his business further with a business plan. With a new found confidence, Neeraj participates in local farming meetings and has found a great group of friends and a flourishing social life.