Savita Gadre and Ramshila Kudape are directors on the board of an all-women, organic farmer producer company called COFE that links nearly 1000 farmers with urban markets and earn better.
Chhindwara Organic Farmers Enterprise has more than 900 women farmer-members across 214 predominantly tribal villages. Helped in its founding by an NGO called Srijan that ran a self-help group (SHG) for women, COFE works with women who harvest sitaphal or custard apple as a forest produce. Thanks to the power of collectivisation, the women who ended up selling 25kg of custard apple they lugged across more than 10km for as little as Rs 50, now make almost ten times more. COFE processes the custard apple pulp, packages, freezes and sells it to large ice-cream companies like Dinshaw’s in Nagpur at Rs 180/kg. With the experience of operating a cold chain, the company now also sells frozen peas gathered from local women farmers when custard apple isn’t in season. Also, it has a dal processing plant with a capacity of one tonne a day and supplies organic cotton grown by its members to local ginning mills.