Story of two women farmers from Masala- Khurd village, Maharashtra

Masala Khurd village is 10 to 12 km away from Tuljapur in Osmanabad. The community in Masala Khurd were benefitted from various government schemes and programmes and in the lead of various innovative ideas and practices. Earlier community from this village were using chemical pesticides and fertilisers in high dose. Due to high use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in the field, fertility of soil and quality of production came down. This lead to high investment in agriculture and less income. To address these issues, SSP intervened in this situation to mobilise grassroots communities in sustainable agriculture practices. SSP educated community in shifting the current practice to innovative sustainable agriculture initiatives. The focus was introducing organic agriculture and address food security and nutrition. .

This initiative of introducing organic method was taken up by two Sakhis Mrs. Shila Shrikant Narwade (Shilatai) and Parvati Mauli Narwade (Parwatitai).  When they initiated this task there was high resistance from the men of the village as women had earlier never involved in agriculture and in decision making at home. They only worked as labourer in the field. Informed women community did not get discouraged from this action, but continued their activities.  They mobilised 41 women from the village who were keen to initiate organic farming in their respective farming field and formed a ‘farmer women’s federation’ in 2005. Each member would save Rs. 200 per month with the federation for effective functioning. Shilatai selected as the president of this federation. The federation was facilitated by SSP and technical support was provided by ‘Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK)’ Tuljapur. SSP’s field co-ordinator organised the first meeting of this federation and oriented all the women farmers about how this federation would function and importance of organic farming and related activities. Scientists and experts from Krishi Vigyan Kendra trained women members on several best practices of organic cultivation and their importance in sustaining the agriculture. In these trainings, women farmers learnt about soil and water testing, vermi composting, preparation of bio pesticides, Amrit Mithi and Amri Jal. They also learnt the ill effect of chemical fertilisers and pesticides on their body and soil and realised that if the soil is nutritious, it produces good vegetables and food grains thus leading to a healthy community.

After being trained, the most difficult task was to convince the men in the village, but with efforts of Shilatai and SSP’s coordinator Leelatai, the men agreed to let women practice organic vegetable cultivation in one gunta of land. The input cost decreased almost 30% whereas their total production increased considerable. Last year 2012-2013, their production accounted to almost 34,000 whereas this year their production almost accounted to 74,000. As their vegetable cultivation benefitted for their household consumption and also improved the land’s fertility eventually. Today many of the women farmers are cultivating vegetables on almost an acre of land. KVK’s Varsha Marvilkar also trained the federation members on soya processing and many women are manufacturing soya products and selling them in the local market.

Shilatai cropped Brinjals through organic cultivation and has been consistently getting a bumper yield. The demand in the local market for her Brinjals is very high and people buy Brinjals from her in the village for marriages and other social functions. She has also represented with her Brinjals in various exhibitions in Parbhani and Pune. Shilatai had six buffalos and one cow. With these six buffalos and one cow, Shilatai has started a dairy business and earn around Rs. 300 to Rs. 350 per day from it. She is very keen on experimenting various adaptive practices on her fields and show them to other Sakhi’s to motivates them to practice them.

Today income levels have improved in the village and villagers know that healthy soil leads to a healthy community. Efforts of Shilatai and Parwatitai to initiate organic cultivation in the village with SSP and KVK’s facilitation and training have found laurels among community and outside.  . The soil’s fertility has increased and yield has doubled. Women and children are being able to consume nutritious food in the village and men in the village today respect Shailatai’s suggestions.

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