Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007
Lok Sanh


This profile was prepared when Shahid Zia was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Shahid has created a seed bank, with the accompanying technical and management back up support systems, for small farmers in Punjab, to help them establish organic farming as a means of economic and environmental sustainability. The technical and management support, including early-stage help with marketing their organic produce, are provided to farmers’ groups through regional offices. The technical support also includes agro-technology such as water conservation techniques, pest management, seed development, and so on. Management support includes assistance with storage of seeds and produce, and time and plantation management.
Shahid founded Lok Sanjh to organize farmers into groups at the village level and then bring them together in the form of Dehqan Assembly. Shahid supports the assembly’s work on key issues and helps them lobby for governmental support. The assembly also works as a focal point for farmers to take decisions and coordinate their activities. Lok Sanjh regularly disseminates knowledge and information about organic farming to assembly members.
Lok Sanjh works in arid and barrage areas. In arid zones, small farmers often do not receive an adequate return from the farm and so leave to work as off-farm labor, with the women in the household doing the farming. Shahid has developed an integrated farming system that helps such women farmers to phase-wise increase the yield and, in the meantime, they are provided with loans in the form of seed, grains, and goats, to continue farming until a level of sustainability is reached.
To help small farmers in barrage areas move towards organic farming, Shahid is developing the infrastructure to help them market their organic produce locally and internationally. For the international market, he has acquired the license to certify the produce as organic. He has developed systems to help farmers package and distribute the produce in the local market. Indeed, the Lok Sanjh office at Sheikhupura operates as an organic produce outlet as well.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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