Ideally, one unit of crop land requires six to seven units of forest land as support area in the mountains. The Gagas river basin, within which most Umang shareholders reside, currently has an abysmally low ratio of 1:1. Overexploitation of forest resources has led to environmental degradation, which in turn has adversely impacted, on family farming systems resulting in reduction of crop output and food insecurity. Further, a lack of alternative economic activities in the Himalaya has resulted in increasing out-migration of males to urban centres, evidenced by the increasing numbers of female headed households. Attracted by the promise of available work and the chance to send remittances home to their families, economic migrants are often forced to live in over-crowded and unsanitary conditions further swelling the proportion of urban populations living under the poverty line.
Umang strives to engage its farmer members to improve farm productivity by encouraging:
- Revival of cultivation of traditional rain-fed crops
- Introduction of suitable value added crops like chamomile and strawberries
- Providing good quality seeds and rootstock of indigenous crops and fruit trees
- Providing training regarding organic farming practices and improvments in soil fertlility
- Introducing upland minor irrigation systems
- Promoting Participatory Guarantee System as a certification process for organic foods and establish bridges between farm-gates and urban consumers. The PGS system of certification is based on peer review process which enables
small farmers to aggregate small farm outputs collectively and engage directly with markets with a greater sense of confidence and dignity.
Umang brands of HimKhadya and Kumaoni have been attempting to establish linkages with consumers in various metros in the country, through direct e-sales as well as selected stores. The idea is to fetch the gretaest share of the consumers ruppee back in the hands of the small and marginal farmers in the mountains.