Rukmila Wankhade: learning and doing

Rukmila is an active women leader who does different type of agriculture in her own land shows other community women that if we control resources and gain knowledge, it is possible to change our mindset and implement innovative ideas.

She belongs to Paardi Arsha village, well known for agriculture products. The entire community involved in farming. Their products go to various cities like Hyderabad, Chandrapur, Ahmedpur etc.

Rukmila Wankhade is an ordinary woman like others in this village;  is a member of  Yakvira SakhthiSHG. But what makes her different now is that she is a frontline leader who implements innovative ideas and practices in traditional agriculture.

How did she start?

When SSP visited this village, they mobilized  the community to do systematic farming activities that reduce chemical fertilizers, pesticides and increase more production to sustain in difficult climatic conditions.

Rukmila was part of the team of women who participated in an awareness programme organized by SSP. The team went on a field visit to Thurnala village where farmers have started producing vermin compost. Rukmila became interested to make this natural fertilizer and to try it in her own land. When she came back from the visit, she started small vermi compost in her compound. She has produced three quintals of vermin compost three times since March 2010. It took three months for the waste to turn into manure. She used it in half an acre of land where she was cultivating tomato. When she harvested the tomatoes and consumed it, she saw the difference in quality.  Motivated by the result, she has increased the area  from half an acre to one acre and also enlarged the size of the pit to increase the production of such compost. She has 10 acres of agriculture land. But she has started organic farming in half acre initially and has increased it to an acre now. She plans to cultivate Soyabean and thoor dal and to convert larger area into organic farming.  Except marketing, she does all the other agricultural operations.

There is a traditional marketing system in the village. The people call different markets over phone to find out the rates and assess which city has good rate on that day. They take the product in vehicles and go to that city  and sell the product directly. There is no middleman in between, so the profit is directly shared by the producers.

After this success more women came forward to start the organic farming from this village. Many people from neighbouring villages visited Rukmila’s farm and were motivated by her effort. She encourages the community and urges them to join in this initiative.

Earlier her husband was not supportive for this venture as he presumed it will not  yield much profit. After seeing the result of good quality of product, and the increasing demand in the market for organic products, he also wants to start organic farming in other varieties like cauli flower, cabbage etc.

– Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012


Rajeswari: becoming leader in organic initiatives

Nochikkadu is a disaster-prone seaside village with 350 households close to Cuddalore old town. The village is surrounded by river and sea. The 2004 tsunami had severly affected their livelihoods, shelter and agricultural lands and it was severely affected by 2006 and 2010 heavy floods.

SSP is promoting eco-friendly practices in agriculture among poor families in order to cope with the impacts of  climate change. Most of the people are agricultural labourers or small farmers. Rajeswari is an inspiring lady for many villagers and community. Like other woman in the village she was farming her small piece of land. She got an opportunity to visit Allivilaham village near Sirgazhi in March 2011 through a learning exchange organised by SSP.
During this learning exchange, she has learned how the community in Allivilagam and Athamangalam started the organic initiatives and converted those villages into a total organic community. They are model villages. She was determined in trying out some of the learning and collected mobile numbers of women farmers in the village. When she came back to the village a meeting was held with SHG members and she explained about the activities in Allivilaham village and the benefit of organic farming and allied activities. Initially most of SHG members were not convinced about its success but a few leaders took interest in starting the activities. The Federation supported more women to go on study visits to the model villages for learning and motivating leaders. They learned vermin-compost production and they are selling it locally and also using it for their own vegetable cultivation. They are lobbying the Government to buy from groups. They continue to interact with the leading farmers of the model villages. They discuss technical inputs, benefits and market over phone.

Good start

Not waiting for the community support without wasting time Rajeswari started with two vermi compost beds in her land in a simple way. Since it was the first time, she used the compost that she produced on her own land. After seeing the good result, other women members were eager to take to this initiative.  During this period six women members from the same SHG took to vermin compost production. They visited Allivilagam village again to get more technical details from vermin compost experts. These seven women built a separate shed for compost production which has 10 compost beds.

Respect and recognition

Earlier, Rajeswari was just one of the women in her village. People assumed that she is doing something different merely to to earn some money for herself. But now they hold Rajeshwari in high regard. She explained the process of vermin composting and by pointed out how if they adopt this innovation, they can help to clean up the village, get manure for one’s farm with only a fraction of the cost of fertilizers, produce healthy vegetables, and reduce their dependence on outside market. She convinced them that if they do the work collectively, they will get good result and impact. Now she encourages women in the group to learn all the activities related to vermin composting and practice by themselves.

Organic vegetable cultivation

The women in the group are not only produce vermin compost and sell it but use it for  their own vegetable cultivation  which has a good demand in neighbouring villages and Cuddalore town. They do not use any chemical fertilisers and pesticides. They got further training from CEAD from Thavalakkuppam on makng bio-pesticides. The cultivated organic vegetables are in good demand in the market and sells smoothly.

Creating Demand

The success of this initiative lies in recognition given to Rajeshwari’s skills and capacity by the government authorities. One day she got a call from Block Development Officer asking her whether she has enough compost to sell to government. Rajeshwari suddenly got into action and managed to deliver 500 kgs of vermin compost to govt department which she got marginal revenue. She attends NGO fairs to sell this compost. She contacts farmers and sell the product locally.  Government has also subsidised programme with community to promote farming activities. So they collect organic waste to distribute to needy community related to govt scheme.

Teaching other communities

She is a thorough leader in every sense. She has understood her own capacities and uses them effectively, she is getting a good income through her venture, she has set an example to other women to follow and has gained the recognition of the local government. Recently, she has visited  six other villages in Cuddalore district to teach communities. She attends SHG and Federation meetings to prmote organic farming and activities. Now the groups want to involve more members in this initiative and expand the number of pits to increase the production due to demand.

Scale up

After this success, they are exploring new areas of using organic waste. They are planning a visit to Panrutti to learn about flower cultivation which has a huge demand in the market.  Due to the Rajeshwari Impact, now there are  five more vermi compost units and cultivation of organic vegetables has started in different parts of Cuddalore. Each initiative has six or seven SHG members.

Partnership with local government: The Case of Paardi village, Nanded, Maharashtra

Pardi village has a good learning in local development due to strong partnership within the  women’s group and local Panchayat. The Panchayat President Mr. Tikle is one of the main supporters for women’s initiatives; he understands and respects their skills and knowledge.

Mr.Tikle has been the President for the last 10 years showed other villages that major involvement of women groups in development activities makes  a difference. He respects women community and involves them in decision-making in local development.

Mapping and follow-up actions

When women groups conducted hazard and vulnerability mapping in May 2011, they identified several problems and issues that can be solved by local Panchayat. During the mapping local Panchayat members were also present. The groups listed their priorities with local Panchayat to solve the issues. The Panchayat and women’s groups discussed the problem one by one and found solutions for most of them.

The village has improved in toilet construction activity leading to a 30% increase in the number of toilets in the last one year thanks to SHGs which created awareness  on the issue in the community and mobilised BPL families to access the government subsidy for the purpose. Now 80% households have a toilet attached to their homes and they use it. They are working towards transforming their village into a cent percent free of open defecation in the coming year.

Women’s group also identified the risks students face because of the roads that are running on both sides of the school causing accidents. They solved this problem by shifting the students to one side of the road. They also constructed humps to slow down the vehicles.

Electricity: They have identified 37 houses which do not have electricity connection in one pocket. The groups discussed with Panchayat.  Their plan to get connection for the all households  is under progress.

Wells: By accessing Government programmes the community got 43 wells for the village. 17 wells are already constructed and 25 wells are waiting.

Cremation ground: There was no cremation ground to bury the dead. In MREGA programme ground has been sanctioned.

Meeting hall: A Meeting hall had been sanctioned by the Zilla Parishad (district level elected body) but the budget was low. So the Panchayat has re-submitted the plan with revised budget and the people are waiting for approval.

Non formal education: Women’s group noted that the 20 odd boys are working in hotels in Loha do not attend schools and decided to provide them non-formal education in the evening time with support from local educated youths.

Social Marriage: The Panchayat organise collective marriages to reduce the costs and time significantly. They hire a marriage hall in same day for marriages that happens on the same or consecutive days.  People cooperate without any caste barriers.  Since the participants for the marriages are mostly the same people, it is a good example set by local Panchayat.

Old houses: They also identified four dilapidated houses which are threat to villagers as they may collapse at any time. They asked the owners to demolish them and they agreed.

Tree plantation: The number of trees was decreasing day by day in the village. To find a solution to this problem, women’s groups in partnership with the local Panchayat planted 2500 saplings using the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) under which job seekers  are paid irrespective of gender Rs.100/-  per day’s work. Thus this group is making an effective contribution towards mitigating climate improvement using available resources.

Water conservation: They did not get enough water for 12 months for farming and so the yield of Kharif  (monsoon) crops was less  were affected. Now they are planning conservation of ponds and other water bodies by improving and maintaining by community.

Organic initiatives: Due to high usage of chemical fertilisers the agricultural productivity has declined and the fertility level of the land is low. Now the community is planning to start organic agriculture after getting training from Krishi Vigyan Kendra. Twenty five women are ready to use this method to cultivate jowar, thur and vegetables in one acre each.

Since the year 2008 itself there have been a few SHGs who doing organic farming for vegetables. They want to expand their acreage after obtaining further training and accessing more resources. Taking advantage of a Government scheme, they also want to purchase cows, goat and ox for income generation which will also give dung to generate compost for the agriculture.

In Paardi village, 43 women are engaged in vegetable cultivation and marketing including  10 landless women. Earlier these landless women used to purchase vegetables from Loha market and sell in neighbouring villages. After becoming members of the agriculture group, these women  purchase vegetables from 33 women who grow vegetables organically and take a share in the profit the next day. They do not travel to or buy from the market.

Ring Road: The unique success of this Panchayat is the construction of a ring road that connects all 8 villages in the Gram Panchayat using MGNREGS. You will never find a ring road in other rural areas. But due to community cooperation and will power of the Panchayat President, with manual labour contributed by women’s groups, this road became a reality and many people are admiring it. It helps to speed up the development of the village.

Bund and drainage: The Panchayat constructed a nine kms. bund to prevent water flowing out of village and use for agricultural  purpose.  So the water can be used for agriculture purpose. For this, a 70 hectare drainage was straightened to allow free flow of water to their agriculture fields.

Teaching other villages and community: Many people including Gram Panchayat members from within the district and from several other districts (Hizoli, Parbani, Washim, Osmanabad, Yevatmal),   and Government officials visit this village to see the working of Paardi Gram Panchayat and community cooperation for development.  The President of Paardi Panchayat, Mr.Tikle  has also given training to Panchayat Presidents at Collectorate.

– Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012

Learning exchanges: women’s groups lead the way

As a part of resilience initiatives in Bihar, grassroots women leaders organised learning exchanges in Darbhanga district in November 2011. These learning platforms provided opportunity learn from each other, understand their capacities, explore the possibilities of replication, how to the solve problems in partnership with local government, and what are the challenges to overcome.

The learning was more focused on new agricultural practices of the villagers, toilet construction
for BPL families, drainage, health and infrastructure. More than 100 women participated in two  such exchange events.

In Shiso village on Nov. 27, a learning exchange was organised by women’s groups. A total of 51 women were participated from 10 villages of Shivdaspur, Harichanda, Fulwaria, Rampurdih, Shishodih, Haripur, Jamalchak, Maulaganj. Alinagar, Karhatia.

The learning exchange started with the transect walk in the village. The learning community understood what problems villagers face and various measures taken by women’s groups at Shiso village.  They visited a low lying area where flooding is a major cause of worry year after year. They also discussed with the community about issues they face in their daily lives.

Then the community visited agricultural farms to learn about natural vermin compost, details of cultivating potato, radish, chilly, water melon, cabbage, beans and tomato etc.

Village mapping

When they came back to the village, women leaders facilitated the group to draw the map of the village. Women from all villages participated in this process. They identified the following hazards and vulnerabilities of the village: open defecation, water logged low lying area, disruption of children’s schooling after the floods, impact on agricultural production due to changes in the pattern of rainfall, problem in waste management that cause environmental pollution, lack of remunerative price for agricultural products, health care services for pregnant women, children and the aged etc.

They have concluded that this village is very much in need of a Primary Health Centre (PHC) to cater to the healthcare needs of five villages 5000 population. To bring the PHC to the village they formed a special team which is slated to meet district district officials this month to urge them to establish a PHC here. Since there was no public land available for the PHC, the community identified a private land to establish centre. They met the owner of the land and he agreed to donate the land. This is a great victory for women and a proof of their organisational and resource mobilization capacities.

The community also decided to access government subsidy for BPL families to construct toilets, and urged APL families to do the same towards achieving 100 % open-defecation-free village.

Waste dumping and school reconstruction at Siso

Dumping waste in school compound and damaged condition of the school building were the other identified problems of the village. Accumulated rubbish in the school leads to disease among children and degrades environmental hygiene. To solve this issue, women’s groups from the village met the Head Master of the school and told him to remove the rubbish and to prevent such dumping immediately. Moved by the appeal by such a large number of women guests to the village, the Head Master took quick action to remove the waste. Within two weeks the task was accomplished and he made an application to higher authorities to reconstruct the school building which was in dilapidated condition. The crucial victory for the women’s groups came as the reconstruction started without any delay.

Monitoring by women’s groups

Earlier teachers were not attending on time and left early. This was noticed by women’s groups and discussed in the SHG meetings. They began monitoring the attendance of teachers regularly. They also raised this issue with the Head Master when they met him regarding waste disposal. Since then the teachers are reported to be attending to their work on time. This is a victory for women group, children and entire families.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012

Women bring changes in agriculture

Krishi dooths (agriculture information assistants) are making small waves in agriculture villages in Washim.

The SSP survey of the selected 5 villages in 2010, found that there is a need to usher in a set of new agricultural practices in order to increase the production and reduce investment. Therefore, SSP facilitated partnership with Agricultural University, Akola to train community on new practices and techniques in agriculture.

After the training, SSP started agriculture information centres in villages that provide information to farmers. There are a total 18 dooths based in 25 villages in Washim district.  Each dooth targets an average 500 households. They are slowly changing the mind set of the farmers to adopt a more sustainable and environment friendly practices and are attempting to convert the farming community away from the existing harmful practices that impact the environment.

Krishi dooths instil confidence among farmers on the benefits of new farming practices. These messengers are real agriculture practitioners who teach the other farmers, benefits of friendly pests, use of bio-pesticides, steps in seed preparation, soil testing, timing for sowing and ways to reduce the use of  chemical pesticides and to optimize the efficient use of appropriate chemical fertilizers and give them information on available government schemes. Sangeetha and Varsha are women Krishi dooths who started their work in February 2010. They organise weekly meetings for the above purpose.

Now the community knows about pesticides and fertilisers that are cost effective and less harmful.  This kind of consumer education will prevent the shop keepers cheating people for more profit. Farmers now demand specific products from the shop keepers.

Krishi dooths also organise exposure visits to villages and agriculture extension centres to learn more advanced practices. When they did an impact survey after 6 months in villages, it found that atleast Rs 5000 reduction in expenditure in farming by per farmer from one crop.

– Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012

Women’s Federation in Nagapattinam, Tamilnadu

When women joined together and think for the community make a good impact in their lives. This is a success story of women’s Federation from Nagapattinam that shows us grassroots women can make significant contribution in creating safe villages. They address sustainable livelihoods, disaster preparedness, climatic risk and local development.

Women’s Federation for Community Development and Disaster Management (WFCDDM), henceforth referred to as ‘the Federation’, was registered in 2008 at Nagapattinam. The Federation facilitates risk reduction activities in more than 20 villages.

The Federation mobilises SHGs at cluster to taluka and district level, negotiates with local government on various schemes and programmes, assists SHGs to link with banks and financial institutions, conducts learning exchanges, develops new women leaders as resource persons for DRR.

Facilitating hazard mapping and follow-up action

Federation facilitate vulnerability and hazard mapping in Nagapattinam district. Federation leaders visit villages and organise mapping with women leaders from the same village. After the mapping they help the village community to hold a dialogue with local government authority. If there is any that needs to be taken up with block or district level authorities the Federation leaders take women from the local village and negotiate with authorities for a solution.

They prompt the communities to review their mapping in every two to three months. If any new issues emerge or any issue that has not been solved, the Federation helps women’s groups to work with local authority or to start working it out  by themselves.

Resilience Initiatives

Women’s Federation supports SHGs to build resilience of their communities. They monitor the related activities of women’s groups, guide and support them in creating safe villages. They also organise learning exchanges to see and learn from other villages new practices in agriculture, sustainable livelihoods and income generating activities that benefit the whole community and environment.  Federation now supports women’s groups in starting vermin compost, organic vegetable cultivation, coir making etc.

Fund Management

The Federation has developed a system for monitoring the fund flow and activities of women’s groups. The Federation’s team at the cluster level has at least one women leader from the village in the monitoring committee. They visit the village to monitor the activities and train SHGs in maintaining resisters and accounts. The monitoring committee organises meeting every month and report back to villages.


Developing partnership with local government is important in building resilience at village level. The Federation organises dialogues with government officials, NGOs and other stakeholders in development at village, cluster, and district levels to highlight women’s initiatives in creating safe village as well as to point out the problem faced by community.

Creation of Community Resource Persons

During the mapping and focus group discussion they identify good leaders who have potential to become trainers and resource persons in DRR. They give training to by sending them to neighbouring villages to teach new communities and develop them as resource persons in DRR.

The Federation facilitates women leaders training by creating calendar, identifying emerging leaders, and scaling up the initiatives and base of leadership.

Learning Exchanges

Training and learning is an important capacity building measure for women members. Federation takes up this activity as a priority. They identify innovative initiatives in disaster risk reduction; visit such habitats and identify the potential for replication. If they find it useful, they select women leaders and send them for learning. Most of the changes in the villages have occurred after learning from other villages and their women leaders.

Learning exchanges produce more leaders, new initiatives and innovations that grassroots communities can practice and scale up.  They conduct inter village, inter district and state learning exchanges. Last year most of the learning exchanges were focussed on organic farming, vermi compost, market, Federation network and local partnership.

Local Advocacy

When local partnership improve and women get a space in decision making Federation organise local dialogue workshop with government officials and civil society organisations. They highlight the success stories of women groups, problems and challenges they face during their initiatives, kind of support required form government and financial institutions and how these good initiatives can be promoted.

They use this forum to build strong relationship with local panchayat. So they get space in airing the views in Gram Sabha, participate in implementing MREGA and other government programmes, etc.

Grasroots Network

Federation has a grassroots network across India. They have formed Groots India Network in 2009. The network is active with grassroots leaders from Maharashtra Bihar and Tamilnadu. They conduct inter state learning exchanges, share their experience, organise state and national dialogues with government in resilience building, participate in workshop and conference to height women’s involvement in DRR etc.

– Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012

Partnership with Krishi Vigyan Kendra,Tuljapur – a success story

 The leading force of Krishi Vigyan Kendra of Tuljapur Dr. V.G. Takankhar was amazed to see the work done by women’s groups.  He said “Usually the centre gets enquiry and assistance from male farmers. This is the first time women farmers through Tuljapur Women’s Federation approached us for innovative learning on organic farming.

Godavari and Leela were and are the leading force of Women’s Federation to have dialogue with KVK and facilitate training with women community.

KVK provided training for selected women groups in six villages on organic seed processing, land preparation, compost from agricultural waste, marketing. This training led women leaders to start organic vegetable cultivation in selected areas of their land. Slowly they are introducing more varieties and expanding the areas as well. The women members who do the activities are increasing in all the villages. After a good start and response from women groups, KVK is planning to do more advanced training on organic farming  and to reach to more villages.

KVK is a government institution doing research on local crops and cropping patterns. As part of their extension service to the farmers, they provide information on government schemes, new agricultural practices, new varieties of seeds and skill building needed to achieve higher productivity. When they met the women’s group, KVK was surprised by the interest and involvement of women in agriculture.

Women’s Federation has also provided the Innovation Fund obtained from SSP to implement their plan. Women who generate new ideas for reducing vulnerabilities of their communities are given this Fund for them to translate their notions into practical projects and implement it with full control over the Fund given to them to use it as they see appropriate and in the process learn accounting etc.

Training and capacity building

The Krishi Vigyan Kendra provided training to women’s groups on preparation of the land, soil testing and preparation, selection and timing for sowing of seeds, the benefits of organic farming, production of organic compost and pest control.

Land preparation is important before sowing the seeds. In the training conducted by KVK, 25 women farmers from 10 villages took part to learn the importance of internal mulching, use of water and selection of seeds according to the land quality.

In the training module on soil testing, women learnt how to prepare the soil, which soil is good for various type of vegetables and how to take the soil sample to send to KVK for testing. KVK would analyze the content of the soil and indicate which nutrient is high or low and based on the findings, it will advise the community to use specific organic fertilizer to increase the fertility.

The farmers were sowing seeds two to three times without any plan. Due to erratic rain pattern these seeds did not often germinate.  Through the training women have learnt how to prepare organic seeds, which are the appropriate bio-fertilisers, how to preserve the seeds till the time of sowing and when and how to sow the seeds.  This way, they are saving seeds, labour and money.  They are now aware of effective nutrition supplements like Cruz, acetobacter and PSB to obtain good result. They themselves are preparing  seeds for their own cultivation which saves cost, reduces dependency on the market and increases the production.  They have prepared seeds of green gram, millet, black gram, Bengal gram, wheat, chilly, onion, coriander and garlic.

The community has a large number of cattle and so plenty of dung was available. Besides,  agricultural waste was not put to any use and was merely dumped around the village. KVK advised KMK women to prepare organic compost, using the agricultural waste mixed with appropriate quantity of cow dung. Now they are using this compost for cultivating vegetables in own lands.

Pest control workshop was organized by Agricultural University for 40 farmers.  The participants learnt that if the pests are in early stage they should do some treatment with help of organic pest control.  If farmers are not able to identify the pest, they should contact the University.

With this set of comprehensive farm management training inputs, the KMM launched their farming. One of the members, Mahananda Bhosle, has undergone various training programmes on organic farming organized for the group; started vegetable cultivation in organic manner in one acre of her own land. She prepares her own seeds, uses organic fertilizer and bio-pesticides. Bhosle took a loan for starting farming, took to inter-cropping, makes three crops a year; and makes a profit of Rs.10,000 to 15,000 per harvest.  She was a key motivator and with the other members of KMM to start this eco-friendly approach. Ms.Bhosle led from the front and encouraged women to contribute labour and seeds together in the group. KMM was active in bringing new knowledge and partnership with specialized organizations. This paved the way of to get recognition among male farmers who have concentrated on single cash crops. Since Ms. Bhosle was successful in preparing seeds for her own farm according to the methods taught by the KVK, the latter has made her an offer  to buy seeds from her and promote it if her seeds are good and yield more. Ms. Bhosle was interviewed by All India Radio and by describing her experience, requested the listeners to adopt her way of farming and marketing.

– Swayam Shikshan Prayog, February 2012