Background: Shamal Shinde of Kemadwadi village in Tuljapur block Osmanabad district used to take care of her house and also practice agriculture. She incidentally came to know about SSP and SSP made a big difference in her life. She founded an Self Help Group in the village and they named it as ‘Mauly SHG’ earlier no one in the village would value her efforts and women from the village also were not very keen to work in the village but eventually some women agreed to be a part of this SHG. Eventually, the SHG started functioning well and it has won 3 awards also. This gave the SHG recognition and appreciation from the villagers also. The women in the SHG gained a lot of confidence from this but the routine work of regular saving inter-loaning and loan repayment was not giving the women ample satisfaction. They wanted to do something else, something more meaningful. They formed a women farmer’s federation with help from facilitation from SSP’s local coordinator and under the leadership of Shamalatai in 2009. Lilatai and Godawaritai from SSP oriented and guided the women to start organic farming in small plots of land.
Learning and Experience: They also got training from the Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Tuljapur on organic farming its best practices and their economic and health benefits. Through the training they learned about soil and water testing techniques, making various organic fertilizers and pesticides and scientific seed germination techniques and systematic methods of organic farming. Through the training from KVK they also learned about the ill effects on heath due to use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and how soil’s fertility is reduced due to their usage.
Shamalatai had experience in traditional farming earlier therefore she first started farming on 3 Acres out of her 18 Acres of land and cultivated Soybean, chili, papaya and onions. The production was high and of good quality. Motivated from this the other women also started cultivating vegetables on their small plots. Shamalatai also went on her own to Delhi, Bangalore and Pune to further learn about organic farming. Inspired from her learning and expedited they decided to cultivate vegetables on a hilly wasteland of the village. When the women told this to other villagers all of them made fun of them and thought that it was a foolish idea to do so but the women were dedicated to cultivate on that land. With great efforts and dedication they irrigated the land removed stones and levelled the soil, after adding adequate amount of fertilizers as guided by the KVK the land was ready for cultivation. They then planted various green leafy vegetables and chillies and onions on the fields. They got a bumper harvest from this land. They used the produce in their houses, gave it to the aganwadi and also sold it in the market. Their hard work and dedication ripped fruits for them. Today the villagers respect their effort and they are able to grow various vegetables as a group in the wasteland of Kemwadi village.
Hinjewadi village is 17 km away from Osmanabad, here villagers were highly involved in sugarcane cultivation and would practice traditional ways of agriculture. There were a great need to introduce contemporary organic farming practices in this village and mixed cultivation so as to increase income of the villagers. SSP introduced this in the village and also explained that contemporary agricultural practices are a route to holistic development. It is beneficial in improving the soil quality, provides high yield and useful in self reliance and food security.
Women leaders Koshalya Katkare and Komal Katkate initiated organic farming in the village. They formed Krishi Sakhi Mandal of 20 women in the village and Koshalyatai is the President. When they started organic farming, there was a high reluctance from the villages and they would make fun of them, their own family members and their group members were both not convinced with the idea of organic farming.
Komaltai is a real experimental farmer and she first started with vegetable cultivation in one guntha and today she cultivate vegetables in one acre and practices organic farming in 10 acres of her land. Komaltai and Koshalyatai took training from the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and learned about several best practices of organic cultivation and their importance. Here the women farmers learnt about land and soil testing, vermi composting, making fertilisers and pesticides from natural products and scientific methods of organic farming and vegetable cultivation. They also learnt the ill effect of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Koshlyatai is today a supervisor with SSP and trains and monitors 64 Sakhi Mandals in nearby 60 villages with 800 women members. In their village when they started there were only 20 women farmers but today there are more than 50 women farmers in the federation actively participating in organic farming. Koshlyatai feels that nature and humans must live in synergy and a healthy relation with land lasts forever. Koshlyatai cultivates her own 3 Acres and shared crop 3 acres total of 6 Acres of land through organic farming and cultivates various crops like sugarcane, Jowar, red chilli, Mung daal etc. She makes her own fertiliser and pesticides and teaches other women on the preparing for cultivation and cropping. Today she is highly respected amongst the fellow sakhis and also members across the 60 villages where she visits and supervises the activities of SSP. She does not purchase anything from outside for her consumption needs and has gained immensely. She is a motivation for all the sakhis in the village and encourages all women to practice natural farming.
Tirth is a small village near Tuljapur in Osmanabad District. This village was progressive towards development and accepted the work of SSP as it entered the village. SSP team conducted meetings in the village and oriented the villagers regarding their work and organic farming and its benefits. They federated the women farmers in the village into a women’ farmers federation called “Nisarg Krishi Sakhi Mandal”. For successful functioning of any groups activities there is requirement of effective leadership. This leadership was found in Surekhatai and Komaltai. They oriented many other women in the village regarding organic farming, its benefits and hazards of chemical farming and ill practices in traditional farming that causing health problems as well as the soil’s fertility.
The women of the federation were keen towards practicing organic farming and vegetable cultivation. KVK’s facilitators Dr. Vilas Takhankar trained all the members several best practices of organic cultivation and their importance. Here the women farmers learnt about land and soil testing, vermi composting, making fertilisers and pesticides from natural products and scientific methods of organic farming and vegetable cultivation. They also learnt the ill effect of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Under the leadership of Surekhatai there was a new green revolution of organic farming in the village. They all now started practicing organic farming and soil and water testing. Women’s participation in farming increased immensely and their yield also had increased considerably. They produced several vegetables and these were used for consumption as well as selling them. By the end of second year of vegetable cultivation they realised that there was considerable improvements in women and child health in the village and their health expenses have reduced. Now the villagers were able to consume nutritious food easily and affordably available in the village. Earlier in three acres of land they could produce 7 to 8 sacks of Jowar but with mixed agricultural practises they could produce 7 to 8 sacks of Jowar and some vegetables in one acre of land. If one crop failed earlier the farmer was left with nothing but today the farmer yet has a second option in his hand for his survival.
Initially started with one Women farmers’ federation, today there are 15 such women federation working in the village. With due regards of Surekhatai the villagers have nominated and voted her as gram panchayat member.
Komaltai is another member of the Nisarg Krishi Sakhi Mandal and is an example of dedication and hard work. She had gained no formal education in agriculture neither had any earlier specific experience in agriculture but through experiential leaning and with help of KVK’s training she trains several other groups on organic farming in the village. She also initiated cultivation of Mung Daal and Onion and later many adopted the same. She gained knowledge through her efforts and dedication and has benefited not only her own but many other members. Her efforts are an inspiration for other members in the village.