There was no “eureka moment” that catalyzed Under The Mango Tree. Rather, combining the realities that prevail in rural India with the objective of diversifying livelihoods and improving rural incomes lead to Under The Mango Tree.During Vijaya’s work with rural farmers over the course of two decades, she helped them search out potential livelihood options, develop village-based business plans and gave them the confidence and training to organize themselves and explore micro-finance options for better business options. However, the biggest problem was finding sustainable and long-term markets that empowered, rather than exploited, these farmers. Thus, Vijaya was determined to find a viable solution to markets that desired quality organic certified, all-natural products but had a limited and inconsistent chain of suppliers.
A key problem for a primary Indian producer is access to markets. The current value chain for agricultural commodities – from plough to the plate – is long and tenuous, with many intermediaries. Farm gate prices available to Indian farmers are often only 25% of the retail price. Finding remunerative markets is an acute problem for small farmers. Agriculture supports more than half of India’s population.
One key problem she confronted was that small beekeeping societies across India produced various flavors of honey that never reached urban markets. While India’s diverse flora led to production of orange blossom, cardamom, litchi, sweet clover and various regional honeys, the urban consumer was only given a single kind of uniform tasting honey. Furthermore, the typical value chain for agricultural commodities–from plough to plate–is long, arduous and unprofitable: farm gate prices available to Indian farmers are often only 25% of the retail price. As bees play a crucial role as pollinators in increasing agricultural productivity, a powerful idea began to take shape: what if farmers were trained to add bee boxes on farms to facilitate cross-pollination and provided markets to sell the honey collected?
When choosing the name of the organization, we wanted to highlight our mission of supporting marginal farmers in an environmental-friendly and sustainable way. In Indian villages, especially those located in dry, semi-arid regions, a mango tree often stands out in the open space. Under its inviting shade, farmers rest after a morning’s harvest, children catch their breath after playing under the sun’s rays and women share stories on their return from the local well. A community bonds. Wandering traders eyeing a potential sale stop by to offer their wares…villagers learn about the changes in the world outside their own…traders discover the needs of the rural producer. Each group–-rested and more learned–-moves on. Yet, each individual will remember the respite offered by the mango tree’s shade. Thus, “Under The Mango Tree” is a metaphor calling to mind the areas we work in and the people we work for.
Under The Mango Tree is committed to sustainability, from which all our other values take form. Sustainability means many things to us: from investing in long-term relationships with our partners–-farmer, customer & supplier–-to ensuring our practices benefit the environment, evidenced by our pledge to work with the indigenous bee, the Apis cerana indica.
In order to fulfill our commitments, UTMT has a symbiotically linked hybrid institutional structure, which guarantees a sustainable source of revenue and ethical & caring business practices to our farmers.
Through our for-profit, Under The Mango Tree Naturals and Organics Private Limited, we
- Establish a fair-trade market for locally produced honey that is natural, organic and sustainable.
- Source high-quality organic honey from farmer cooperatives.
- Package the honey for direct sale to customers.
- Under The Mango Tree Society: a not-for profit that trains farmers to beekeep with the Apis cerana indica on their farms to addresses livelihood diversification, agricultural productivity and improved income.
- Through our non-profit, UTMT Society, we
- Train and equip smallholding farmers to use bees to increase their incomes by as much as threefold.
- Implement a buy back arrangement for honey produced, which increases farmers’ income by another 40% from the sale of their own honey.
- Realize the goals of our Bees for Poverty Reduction (LINK) and our Urban Beekeeping Programmes. Engage in research and policy advocacy to advance sustainable community-based beekeeping with the indigenous bee, the Apis cerana indica.
At UTMT not only are we committed to improving the lives of marginal farmers, but also advancing sustainable community-based beekeeping with the indigenous bee, the native Apis cerana indica. Inspired by the first National Commission on Agriculture’s (1976) recognition of the impact beekeeping has on increasing agricultural productivity, our team conducts research on the role of indigenous beekeeping in crop production. Through community outreach programs, advocacy and policy recommendations, UTMT reaches out to citizens and politicians to ensure the prosperity of our farmers and our ecosystem.