Seva Mandir is committed to improving the lives of rural communities in southern Rajasthan. The Dal Mill (lentil processing) project aims to increase the incomes of 3,500 poor farmers and their families by giving them a fair price for their produce. In the process, the farmers are also being trained to become co-owners of the mill.
Pulses are grown extensively by poor farmers in pockets of southern Rajasthan. The farmers sell their produce unprocessed and normally through a chain of middlemen. As the dal is unprocessed and the middlemen charge huge cuts, farmers receive a tiny fraction of the price paid by the consumer. Moreover, since the farmers are scattered and not unionized, the middlemen and traders are able to dictate the prices, causing further loss to the farmers.
By cutting out middlemen and operating to ethical standards, the mill provides a fair price to farmers. It also acts as a rate equalizer, as other traders are forced to buy at a higher price, thereby benefiting those farmers not selling to the mill. Since the mill is located in the village, it significantly cuts transport costs. Finally, farmers who are part of the cooperative are able to control the process of dal making and selling and will receive a share of any future profits.
The low incomes received from pulse cultivation have led to many farmers cultivating genetically modified cotton, which damages the soil and uses child labour. The mill is creating a fair market for pulses, increasing cultivation of pulses and reducing that of GMO cotton. So in addition to increasing the incomes and well-being of poor farming communities, the project will lead to ecologically friendly and sustainable agriculture.