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.


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