Ruins to Roses
Can a rose be more than just a transient symbol of everlasting love? That's the question we are trying to answer through our special Rose Project in Uttarakhand.
About 12 years ago, our partner NGO had set up an Ayurvedic processing unit in a picturesque location on the banks of Ram Ganga river. The unit was set up to process (clean, sort, grade and powder) herbs that were being cultivated by local farmers for SoulTree.
It was a simple but clean and hygienic unit with enough open space around it for herbs to be either dried in the sun or the shade as need be. There was also a nursery where plants were being grown to be given to farmers. All in all, it was the perfect place to produce Organic, Ayurvedic products.
Tragedy struck in September of 2010, when Kumaon was hit by massive floods. Overnight, the river Ram Ganga swelled and breached its banks, flooding areas in the valley. The overflowing river not only brought water but also sand and stones with it.
Within a few hours, the unit was turned into a field of slush and some of the walls had collapsed. When water dried up, it left behind sand and gravel that was a foot high. The unit could not recover and had to be abandoned. It was a very sad occasion for everyone, including me, as we had hand-built it with care. It also turned out to be a big setback to our work in Uttarakhand.
Life must go on and so should business. In a couple of years, a new unit was built up and work started again. However, there was a lingering feeling of loss and sadness whenever the local team saw or passed by the ruins of the old unit.
Couple of years ago, during our annual meeting with our NGO partner, we were deliberating on how to expand our cooperation and create new opportunities to benefit. That's when the idea struck us that why don’t we organically grow roses and use it in SoulTree products.
Our sales of products like Rose & Vetiver Shower gel were growing and soon we would need more rose petals. However, the farmers would not be able to do this by themselves and would need help. A nursery would be needed from where cuttings would be taken and given to different farmers for growing in their fields.
The NGO would need to find a place to create a nursery large enough to grow 10,000 plants. That’s when we came up with the idea of utilizing the space of the old unit which was not suitable for any other activity. We gave our partners the confidence that we would support this project and buy back the produce from the farmers. The project was rolled out last year and a horticulturist from Pant Nagar University was engaged to get nearly 10,000 rose cuttings grafted.
Now, as spring approaches, the first buds are starting to appear. Soon, the plants will be delivered to the farmers and we expect the first full blossom to appear in late summer. The roses collected will be dried and shipped to our manufacturing unit where they will become a part of our products such as Rose Face wash, Rose Toner and Rose & Vetiver Shower Gel. The roses will bring a smile not just just to the farmers who will benefit from the additional income but hopefully also to all our consumers who will use these products.