Sowing Change Through the Wellbeing of Cows: Rishabh’s Changemaker Journey
This story was written by Rishabh and edited for length and clarity.
I am from a little village in the Etah District of Uttar Pradesh. I remember one day back when I was in my seventh year of school when my mother asked me to start feeding the cows flatbread in the mornings. We always assumed this is the food cows wanted to eat as we tend to our animals carefully so that they are happy and full of energy. Every morning, I felt rewarded feeding the animals and doing my part to help my mother.
Helping out my family was a huge part of my childhood. Growing up, I wasn’t the most social kid. Instead, I wanted to pay my time to my father rather than play games or watch sports with my friends. My father became my supporter and closest friend.
In the evenings, my father recruited me to help him in the fields. Although inexperienced at farming, one day I was steering around with my father, tending to the fields. Immediately, I sensed the pain in those fields. I saw abandoned animals, mostly cows, grazing in fields that were crushed and destroyed by famers.
After feeling discomfort from seeing the cows, I shared my frustration with my father.
“They are being crushed cruelly,” I exclaimed.
He said, “Once cows become useless to the farmer, many folks threw them out.” These cows were abandoned because they are non-lactating, which means they cannot produce milk, he explained.
“But why is this not happening to the goats and buffalo?” I asked.
The reason shocked me, -I freaked out when I heard it. He told me that they are either sent to the slaughterhouse or left to fend for themselves as stray cattle. I could empathize with these cattle. Animals are not at fault here – humans are causing the problem. I believe every living thing has an equal right to this earth, and I realized this was a turning point in my life.
Spending most of my time helping my father, I grew up with an extremely small circle of friends. My family and friends usually describe me as a person who cannot see others in pain without acting.
With this mindset, I went forward and started my own initiative to extend animal life and reduce animal waste. Today, I call it Anima Drive, with a goal of making it financially viable for farmers and animal shelters to take care of non-lactating cattle in my community.
When I was getting started with my venture, I spent a lot of time learning from my father, books, and the web through a mobile phone. I began to spread awareness about the issue, but awareness alone was not enough. I needed to do something bigger.
As I continued to go through my schooling, I learned more and more that could help me tackle problems in my community. That is when I discovered engineering – I thought it was a golden chance for me to grasp the issues and find the simplest solutions to solve them. In 2017, once I took my admissions test to an engineering school, I was burdened by books and studying. It took me a year to find myself and time for my venture, which I launched in 2018.
I built a team of young people to launch Anima Drive. Our first activity was coordinating a campaign where we produced and sold merchandise from non-dairy bovine (also known as cattle). We built relationships with local farmers to purchase and market their products on the weekends.
I am unable to see cattle in pain. From my childhood until now, I have seen loads of cattle. By adding a bit of joy to the lives of cattle, this is a steppingstone to creating a better society.
There was a time, however, where I felt helpless. I once was a hired hand, and I felt very restricted. We weren't allowed to travel. I eventually left, feeling very little control over what I could do. In school, I felt very demotivated because sometimes people used to taunt me and say that there was no resolution to the challenges that I see around me. My enthusiasm and zeal built back up when I took the admission test for engineering school. I could see myself designing solutions.
Initially, the volunteers who first joined my project were from my college. They helped me in this initiative as they had a keen interest in it. However, once they learned the skills and were trained, they fell quiet. Since I was managing a non-profit, they were not earning anything. Team building is crucial, but I needed to offer a salary of some kind. This is one of my challenges today.
Another member of my team is an adult ally who provides support, encouragement, and mentorship on my changemaker journey, Aakanksha. She always offers innovative ideas, her time, and motivation, especially when our team feels discouraged. She plays a very important role in our team.
Our whole team is putting their best effort to make this work a PAN India initiative (a project that spans across India). We will try to protect as many animals as possible along with offering adequate employment opportunities for farmers and changing people’s outlook related to the utilization of cattle. We want to focus on optimization and utilization, not the exploitation, of animals. Cattle are not meant for only yielding milk.
We have also launched a new venture, the Social Pathshala initiative, to promote ecological co-existence through interactive workshops and online challenges targeted towards children in rural and peri-urban areas of Uttar Pradesh. We offer online and offline activities for students to connect across schools and learn about ecology. We hope to inspire empathy and changemaking across school children because these young minds are our future, and they are the young leaders of tomorrow.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Problems are like waves. They are endless. It's up to us whether to surf or to drown."
Problems are like waves. They are endless. It's up to us whether to surf or to drown.”
I never consider a problem a problem, rather I take it as a blessing. So, whenever I face any challenge, I am set to face it with courage and find a solution to the problem. Opportunities lie in the problems. It takes one to recognize opportunity in adversity. I think coming up with solutions to tackle a problem is easy, the difficulties lie in choosing the best solution.
Day by day, social problems are growing. We need to prepare more people to be changemakers and we need to seed this idea so it can be sown into our minds. With this mindset, we are doing our part.