27 June 2022
Dharani Case study
Dharani: Nurturing the Earth, Fostering Farmer's Livelihoods is a case study that won the first prize in the Oikos Case Writing Competition 2017. This case study has been written by Joseph Satish V (University of Hyderabad, India) and C Shambu Prasad (Institute of Rural Management Anand, India).

It was another beautiful morning in ‚ÄúTimbaktu‚Äú, a rural abode located in Anantapuramu district in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Mary Vattamattam and Bablu Ganguly stood atop a hill and looked at the vast stretch of lush, green land they helped rejuvenate. They knew that this day was noteworthy in their life together in Timbaktu. The previous day had marked the conclusion of three days of festivities in Timbaktu. Over 8,000 people from all over India and beyond had joined the couple in the 25th anniversary celebrations of the founding of Timbaktu Collective, a not-for-profit development organization they founded with their friend John D‚ÄôSouza (Exhibit 1). In 1990, Mary, Bablu and John had decided boldly to purchase 32 acres of barren land in a chronically drought prone region and regenerate it. Calling this land ‚ÄúTimbaktu‚ÄĚ they then registered Timbaktu Collective as a community-centric organization to help ‚Äúrural communities take control of their own lives, govern themselves and live in social and gender harmony while maintaining a sustainable lifestyle‚ÄĚ1 . The couple began with an experiment to revive the surrounding hilly terrain, its flora and fauna. In 1992, they began working with the local families in Anantapuramu - under two programs ‚Äď Chiguru2 (to address needs of children) and Swasakthi3 (financial empowerment of women). In 1997, the Collective started experimenting with organic farming on the dry lands in Timbaktu. Inspired to create a holistic outreach covering human lives and environmental sustainability, the Collective launched several other programs - for rural self-governance, for differently abled people, for community management of natural resources and to create livelihood opportunities for the landless (Exhibit 2). Each program saw people coming together as cooperatives because collectivization strengthened their shared capacity to engage with and overcome their common challenges. As Timbaktu Collective (henceforth, TC) continued its work with the communities, Mary and Bablu realized that the small farmers in the region remained marginalized in a fiercely competitive market dominated by large players. It was at this point that TC, a non-profit organization, decided to promote a for-profit business enterprise for procuring, processing and marketing the organic produce of farmermembers in Anantapuramu. In 2008, TC established Dharani Farming and Mutually Aided Co-operative Society Limited (henceforth, Dharani4 ) as a farmer owned, cooperative enterprise that procures and sells the members‚Äôorganic produce. TC works as the promoter agency, helping farmers move towards organic agricultural practices, and Dharani helps those farmers with the post-production processes. Dharani directly connects farmers to the external market through a range of organic value added products under the brand name ‚ÄúTimbaktu Organic‚ÄĚ.


Mary and Bablu had won several awards and recognitions over the past three decades; but they had special reasons to celebrate that day (Exhibit 3). From a lone couple working on barren land, the number of staff in TC had now risen to 80, Dharani had a committed team of 50 staff and there were dedicated staff working in the other cooperatives that TC promoted. Together, they had helped rebuild the lives and livelihoods of at least 20,000 marginalized families in 172 villages in four mandals (administrative units) in the district of Anantapuramu5 . Mary and Bablu were particularly happy with the performance of Dharani. Since its launch, membership in the cooperative had increased from only 70 in less than a dozen villages to 1800 in 35 villages in 2015. It broke even in 2011-12, within three years of its launch. Dharani recorded net profit of over Rs. 15 lakh in 2014-15, despite repeated droughts in 2014 and 20156 . The cooperative had performed even better in 2015-16 achieving total revenues of Rs. 2.04 crores, a growth of 18% over the previous year and earning a net profit of Rs. 5.22 lakh. Dharani‚Äôs board of directors had decided to celebrate this success by declaring a collective patronage bonus of Rs. 3.68 lakh to the farmermembers and Rs. 62,670 as incentives to the daily wage labourers7 . Besides financial benefits to members, land fertility had also improved substantially: acreage of certified organic land had grown from 80 acres in 2005 to 7500 acres in 20158 . With a network of 246 retailers, bulk buyers and direct consumers, Dharani‚Äôs brand of products, ‚ÄúTimbaktu Organic‚ÄĚ has also been firmly established in 40 towns and cities of South India9 . In less than a decade, Dharani had not only developed external markets for small farmers‚Äô organic produce but also articulated a profitable cooperative model of social entrepreneurship that contributed to sustainable development in the region. Mary and Bablu were proud of pioneering a business enterprise based on natural resource management that offered a credible alternative to poor farmers. But the couple realized that Dharani now needed a blueprint to scale its impact in a sustainable manner. How could Dharani continue its growth as a business enterprise while remaining a socially responsible and ecologically sensitive, famer-owned cooperative?

ISEED is incubation division of IRMA institute.
Copyright © ISEED - IRMA 2022. Designed by Rebelify Technologies