Peepal Farm Products
Peepal Farm is an animal rescue organisation and an organic farm in Dhanotu Village, Himachal Pradesh, with the primary objective of rescuing and healing animals. There are more than 1 million followers associated with it on social
The quest to reach out to more people for spreading their message and getting them to join in the cause gave birth to Peepal Farm Products. Starting with farm-grown herbs, the product line gradually evolved into a vast range of categories with a major goal in mind - to generate more employment for women.
Shivani, Peepal Farm's co-founder, believes that the best way to empower women, especially in rural India, is by making them financially independent.
Women in rural India already know a few basic skills like knitting, embroidery, crocheting, etc. Leveraging this fact, Peepal Farm started employing local women. It provided them with regular workshops to not only fine-tune these skills, but also to equip them with more skills to make use of in future.
One of their most important projects is the unique "Reclaimed Project" that seamlessly unites two major causes -
women empowerment and sustainability.
Pine is a natural resource available in abundance in and around Himachal Pradesh. Without disturbing or exploiting nature, only the fallen pine leaves are picked and cleaned and then meticulously handcrafted into unique pine-needle jewellery and decor products.
Women employees not only handcraft these products but also do modelling for their own creations. Coming from humble backgrounds, such an exposure has given a huge boost to their confidence.
Apart from the pine-needle products, there are a wide range of food products made by the women of Peepal Farm.
They have even put out all their recipes on social media and openly discuss their business model, so that others can replicate or innovate with it to start their own business. Abiding by their philosophy of reducing suffering footprint, all the proceeds from the sales of these products go towards giving employment to more women in and around Dhanotu village and funding animal rescues at Peepal Farm.
However, it's just the beginning of a long pilgrimage. Shivani's mission in life is toemploy at least 100 local women in her lifetime. But she also hopes that even with her gone, the project will live on - and so will the number of lives impacted everyday!
A Sit-down with Peepal Farms' Cofounder- Shivani
How many women are currently working under you?
It started with just me, and then I employed one other person with me, and I now have 9 women working with me. They are all local women.
So what exactly inspired you to work and start this organisation?
When we started 'Peepal Farm' the idea was just to work for the animals. I am an animal lover, but that didn't feel like the thing that felt that close to heart. So I was looking for a cause that I could work for. And since the beginning, I have wanted to work for women, like since my 20s. And when I came to the farm, and started seeing women around me with a lot of skills I wanted to employ them to do something.
So, how did this journey for women empowerment begin?
When we started the farm, we didn't have a strong social media or local presence. At the time we had a couple of plants that were growing at the farm like mint, lemongrass, herbs. We started drying them and started using these products to get out in the market and to capture a larger audience. We are close to McLeod Ganj and have a lot of tourists that come and visit the site. So we were hoping that when these products get in the hands of these tourists, they would want to come and visit the farm.
This was the initial thought for the products. What happened gradually, when the products reached people, like the herbs and stuff, I thought like I am already making peanut butter, so why don't I just add these to the product range and see what kind of reaction I get. And then slowly it picked up. Because people were not only satisfied with these products, but they were also coming to the farm and were supporting the cause with the animals and working with the volunteers at the organic farms we have. Gradually it took a life of its own. So I wanted to hire more and more women for making the products and providing them with training and giving them employment and full-time positions at the farm itself. It's no longer about the products but about providing employment to women.
Since most of the women working under you are locals, how hard has it been for them to come away from their families and work at the farm?
This is a very small village. Like only around 4000 people live in this village. In the initial years, people didn't know what this farm was. Since we are outsiders, from Delhi, it was hard to convince the locals about the farm and about animal rescuing and everything. As we started growing, people started understanding what Peepal farm was doing, and it wasn't only about rescuing and healing animals, but also about teaching people about compassion. So in the initial years, we started including locals. We started rescuing and treating cows and animals around the local area. We made a connection with the people and they started trusting us more.
It was then that they started coming to us for jobs for their daughters and even the other women, started coming and as we started increasing the range of the products it gave me more opportunity to hire local women. The local women love working here, they are learning new skills, and are not away from their families, like Mamta, who is my cook, lives right next door. And all the women live around us only. Since we are building new products daily, inventing, innovating, they are learning all sorts of new things. Specially, since they get a chance to meet and talk to so many different kinds of people, because these women don't really have great exposure to the outside world. They were born in the village and grew up in the village and they get married in the same village. So by coming to the village they get a chance to meet foreigners and volunteers from all walks of life. They are making money and are becoming independent and self-reliant.
For this project, did you get or take any assistance from the government?
No. Me and my husband Robin, privately funded the operation in the beginning, and now we are at the stage where the products generate money. We get donations online, initially from friends and family, and now from people on social media and other places.
So, with all the amazing progress you've had, where do you see the organisation in 5 years?
Currently, we are trying to expand to a sanctuary, and we are also trying to expand to build a school, that would not only be like a regular school, but would also include ethics and practical-based education.
My products are expanding and with more products, I am trying to include more women in the process. To hire, train and empower these local women. Because once they get inspired, their families will automatically get inspired. We also try to expand and find new work for these women, so we can get more and more women involved, specially local, because that allows us to grow together, as a community.
We at Giri are very excited to collaborate with you, and since we too believe in the same goal as 'financial empowerment of women' and the great importance it has. And so consequently we have a lot in common. What is your opinion on this?
There are many overlaps between your organisation and mine. The primary one being, that Giri is not just giving a skill set to women, they are also finding work for these women. Thirdly, their vision is to employ more and more women, who can become independent. This overlaps with my story completely, because I too want to teach girls new skills, and to give them a completely new skill set. Like if I teach them how to make tofu or earrings, they learn a new skill. They don't have to work with me forever. When they go back home, or get married, they will always have that skill, they can make it at home and sell it, without working for somebody, without going out of the house, which is not a possibility for many of these women. So this way, not only will they learn a new skill for life and be empowered, they will be able to empower their entire family.