Leadership of Leela Devi and collective action in Maulaganj

Community in Northern Bihar, one of the most flood prone state, heavy rains in Nepal cause flash floods and breaking embankments putting the population at risk. One woman in Maulaganj village in Darbhanga District has emerged as a dynamic grassroots leader taking initiatives in disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation initiatives.

This is the first village where SSP entered in 2009 with community resilience initiative in Bihar. Kanchan Seva Ashram, NGO based in Muzaffapur facilitated the initiatives in Maulaganj village. Formation of women led task forces, development of training manual and teaching other community was the initiatives in the beginning. Slowly the community has shifted their role in addressing issues in climate change and agriculture. Leadership of Leela Devi, Manju Devi, Shruti Devi and America Devi were proved and yielded good result in changing the village with better facilities and initiatives.

Leela Devi and her group Shivam Mahila Samuday identified and marked highland areas which people could move to one month before the anticipated flooding. “We created disaster management plan with an eye on getting pregnant women, children and senior citizens to safer areas,‘ Leela explains. The group was recognized by Government of Bihar as one of the best groups with sustainable savings and got an award for their work. The groups has 2.5 lakhs in their savings and utilize the savings in agriculture and livelihoods. Women group accessed government programmes to construct bridge to prevent flood in the village as well lot of development measures like drainages, roads and anganwadi while lobbying with government.

Our emergency kits, prepared ahead of time contain medicines, lentils, dry foods etc. these efforts have been scaled up and extended to neighbouring villages on a continuous basis,, including a training manual on disaster task force thaw we share. “My dream is to enable women to be self-reliant”

She realize that her community have not extended their initiatives beyond disaster preparedness. While mapping of risk in the village, we found issues that need to be addressed. Health and hygiene, education, road and drainage got our attention. She says. “We now have access to solar lamps and there is awareness about the hazards.”

Similarly we refrain from using pesticides on our farmland and notices how our health has improved. With these efforts women leaders from these villages are addressing climatic while doing agriculture using less chemicals and pesticides. They learn how to prepared bio pesticides, vermin compost and use in own land.

With leadership of Leela Devi, women members jointly created a Community Development Plan with five critical development activities that they demanded the local government authorities to undertake. Of these, actions on four issues were sanctioned by District Authorities and requisite steps were taken. Appreciative of the enthusiasm and rigour that these women have displayed, the local MLA has put the women in charge of auditing and monitoring fair implementation of the demanded construction work in the village. Also, schemes like Bihar Government’s Mukhyamantri Kanya Surakhsha Yojana that had not been enacted in the village were enforced post they spoke to the Child Development Protection Officer.

Earlier, there was no money for doing agriculture. After joining the SHG, members demanded money for cultivation. Now they are doing vegetables like Sag, wheat, kheera, matter, green chilli etc. America Devi got Rs. 1000 profit just from Sag cultivation in 1 khatta of land this month.

Manju Devi is doing good business in 12 khatta land of Potato (4 khatta), Bindi (6 khatta) and Kheera (2 khatta) cultivation. They are accessing free seeds with full subsidy from government. They got seeds of moong, dhaincha, chena and pumping machine from government recently.


Eco-Friendly Farming Pioneer – Sheela Devi

Shila Devi lives in Godiyari village in Darbhanga district. The village is a severe flood prone area and affect their livelihoods and agriculture. When KSA entered in this village in 2013 with facilitation from SSP, Sheela Devi was the leader who mobilized community in resilience building initiatives. She was doing small kind of farming with low inputs.

She was selected to provide training on preparing bio compost she never thought that will make changes in her life and environment. She got training on making bio compost using local materials called Kanchan Amrit from Lucknow. She has learnt how to prepare bio-compost using local leaves which has power in controlling pests in natural way. When she started the bio pesticides in her home after training, the result was very encouraging as the pest attack was reduced and the yield was increased. This has motivated her to prepare larger quantities of Kanchan Amrit and started selling to neighbouring villages and communities apart from using in her own land. Shila Devi has four cows and one acre of agricultural land cultivate mustard, wheat, onion and vegetables. She own 5 Bhiga land for cultivation. Sheela Devi use only vermin compost for her agriculture.

This bio-pesticide is the best alternative to chemical pesticides buy from the market which is costly, damage crops and environment and affect our health. I save around Rs 15000 per year from fertiliser and bio pesticides.” – Sheela Devi

She is recognised as innovative leader in the panchayat. About 1000 women visited her village and learned her practices. She is visiting other villages and share her experience in of agriculture practices using organic methods and income. There are 10 such women leaders who are making Kanchan Amrit in her Panchayat. All of them are groomed and developed by by Sheela Devi. As a leader of Ahalya Mahila Mandal (Self Help Group), Shila Devi has been encouraging community to take small steps to address issues relating to the impact of climate change and floods.

The production cost of the bio-pesticide is Rs. 10/- per litre but Shila Devi is able to sell it for Rs. 30. In six months, she has been able to purchase one buffalo mainly in order to use its urine to meet growing demand for the pesticide. She earns Rs. 1000/- per month by selling bio-pesticide and Rs. 6500/- per season from vegetable sales.

Changes: Reduced illness after consuming good food, increased the production and income.

She is saving Rs 10000 per year from fertilizer expense. She says “We are eating good food, treating earth and environment as our mother while not harming our land we are protected.”

“You can watch other land and see the difference. See the colour, healthy crops in my land. You feel it. This is why I encouraged and do more work and experiments in agriculture. She is cultivating Maize, potato, matter in 15 khatta of land.

Sheela Devi is the leader of Gram Vikas Mahila Mandal, women federation formed 2 years ago to mobilise community in sustainable agriculture.

Indigenous practice in agriculture

Adivasi Tola in Pratap Ganj is a hamlet where indigenous community from Jharkhand migrated and settled centuries ago keeping the tradition of natural farming a way of life. The village is flood prone and face lot of problems during rainy season. There is no proper road or bridges to connect to nearest hospital and schooling for children.

Finding a way in making the life better, with the facilitation support from SSP, BALSK the local NGO mobilized community in groups, started savings and address the problems in common. They now work closely with panchayat and learn how to access government programme.

The tribal community consists of 120 houses started cultivation in shared cropping system (production and income will be shared with the owner of the land). There is not a single family owns land here. They are mainly cultivating vegetables, Wheat, Pulses and Jute using organic methods. All the members are using bio compost and cow dung for natural farming.

Manju Devi who is ASHA worker taking the lead in empowering the community. Manju Says “If we don’t unite for good things who else are going to help us?” unity and cooperation is important in making our life better.”

The village is flood prone and affect agriculture in every year flood. To overcome this problem they have started early varieties and mixed crop in their land. The group which has nine members doing mixed cultivation in 20 khatta land. Marketing is not a problem for them as neighbouring villages are their market. They mainly cultivate Bindi, green and red leaves, moong and bori).

Krishi Samman Puraskar 2016 – Archana Bosle

Archana Bhosle, resident of Devsinga village, Osmanabad district of Maharashtra was awarded, “Sarva Utkrushta Krishi Samman Puraskar 2016” organised by Media Roots and supported by Indofil Industries Limited on January 16, 2016.

Archana was awarded for her exemplary work in the field of agriculture. President of Women’s Farmer group of her village, she has been engaged in sustainable agriculture practices on her 5 acres of land for over 10 years now. She continues to share and demonstrate her successful sustainable initiatives and cultivation methods to other farmers in her village and three other villages across Osmanabad.

With the organisational support from Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) and technical support from Krishi Vigyan Kendra, till date, she has reached out information, trainings and awareness on water efficient methods, low cost inputs for cultivation and fodder preparation to 500 more women and men farmers across 4 villages in Osmanabad district.

Archana shared, “Our village is one of the drought hit areas and each year we face shortage of water for cultivation and consumption. Earlier, together with the family we only focussed on cultivating Sugarcane every year and buy vegetables for daily meals from the closest market – Tuljapur market which was around 15 kms away.

With the interventions of SSP, the team started mobilizing women to organize themselves in Self Help Groups (SHG) mostly for financial assistance. After a couple of years it was observed that most of the loans taken by the members were to meet family health/ medical expenditures or for supporting agriculture.

It was then, SSP established women’s farmer groups in each village. Archana, as the President of the farmer group in her village provides information and support – starting with soil testing by directly linking the farmers to the KVK for soil analysis. She provides awareness on need for shift from traditional cash crop cultivation with focus on food security, health and well being. She provides information around sustainable farming techniques – cultivation of water efficient crops, adoption of organic method – use of vermi compost, biospray and bio fertilizers. Archana, shared that preparation of alternate fodder such as Azolla and Hydroponic has proved to be very useful for the farmers.

The women farmers in the group and three other villages have now started growing Jowar, Wheat and Vegetables in the land allocated to them with full discretion by their families. At present Archana’s group has over 25 acres of land all controlled by women where all these sustainable cultivation practices are followed.

Archana shares, “Now the women not only take care of their families health by cultivating vegetables in their own lands and use it for consumption but also have started understanding the composition of land and accordingly take care of it too!“

She also encourages farmers to diversify their livelihoods and focus of agri – allied activities to ensure some alternative flow of income during drought situations. Few of the women have graduated further and have started selling vegetables in their village itself – making it accessible in their own village and also extended to other cluster markets where much better price is ensured. Other women farmers have also started local businesses around poultry, goatery, dairy, dal mill and more villages.

Archana, is one of the role models across the network of farmer groups of SSP. She has addressed farmers in her own village and surrounding villages and shared her experiences in large village gatherings.

Archana shares, “Earlier in the village, we could not get wage labourers easily during the harvest season, grains would go to waste and face loss. Now, the farmer groups have brought women together. We share each others resources – animals, tractors and human resources as well. Women together work in each other’s farms when required support and results in timely completion of sowing or harvesting without any losses.”

She finally shares, “The teams from SSP, KVK and ATMA, have supported us in all ways and have provided information and awareness through trainings, exposure visits, exchange learnings, demonstrations, access to basic tools and equipments. With the interventions, contribution of women farmers now started being recognized by their families and in the village. We have gained more knowledge and confidence than before. Also, income has increased. Being a part of the farmer’s group network, we have received a platform to share our challenges, experiences, success stories and help encourage more women and men to adopt sustainable farming practices.”

Partnership with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Tuljapur

Severe drought and scarcity of water for the last 6 years had affected the community badly in Marathwada region. To overcome the climatic risk and its impact on livelihoods where the community mainly depend on agriculture, SSP and women federation in Tuljapur has developed a long-term partnership with Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Tuljapur.

This is a real life struggle story of poor community for bringing back from zero to recognition and handful of experience in resilience building. Today many women groups and community visit these villages and learn the good initiatives implemented by women farmers and leaders.

For the last 5 years women groups in Osmanabad has developed one of the best partnership in sustainable agriculture related initiatives. Strong leadership from KVK and Women Federation further strengthened and growing into many areas.

Role of KVK and women groups involvement

Now women leaders as farmers are recognised across Maharashtra due to their innovative approach that received from training and learning events from KVK. They are appearing in All India Radio discussion on organic farming methods, providing training other villages organised by KVK, participating in state and national exhibitions and workshops to show case their skills.

The partnership with KVK brought new technologies and knowledge for the community. Dr. Takankhar, Programme Coordinator, KVK has impressed the way women groups are committed and taking part of training initiatives and testing. There are many new information and technologies focussed on integrated farming approach accessed by women groups. Azola, Hydroponic fodder, Kadaknath chicken breed, seed germination test, soil and water test, mulching of land are some of the new area of knowledge acquired by women groups through KVK partnership.

Dr. Sindhulkar, a leading lady from KVK focuses on Dairy technologies. Dr. Sindhulkar mobilised women leaders and provided training on many aspects that improve milk production, nutrition and additional income. She was part of the initiative for introduction of Kadaknath Chicken breed, training on Azola and Hydroponic fodder. She said transferring sustainable practices technology simply to farm field.

Dr. Sindhulkar feels that subsidy should go to women and they utilise it properly. According to her, landholding is high in Osmanabad but resources are less.  Due to the efforts by women leaders and their involvement show us that women farmer are capable of showing small but innovative initiatives that could be replicated to many communities.

“Women are always takes feedback and correct it. But in the case of men farmers, you need to push them to do any innovative approaches. They leave the work half way and focus on cash. Women are different; they take care of environment, agriculture like her family”, says Dr. Sindhulkar, KVK Osmanabad.

Innovative techniques and practices should reach out to more communities and women leaders should spread the word thru training and exposure visits.

Due to the partnership with KVK, leaders Vaishali and Archana are promoted to district level Scientific Advisory Committee (SAD). KVK has recognised 15 leaders who can teach other communities in integrated approach in farming.  Women leaders stories have been appeared in local TV channels boosted their confidence and recognised by other stakeholders and community.

Partnership with institutions like KVK and other agriculture universities brought women with knowledge and practices and establish a network across Maharashtra.

Accessing technology and information: changing the way of agriculture practices

It takes a while for community to shift from traditional way of livelihood practices to bring more income and changes in the community in a sustainable way. Efforts by Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), Women Federation and Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) and Agriculture Universities paved the way for villages in Marathwada region to implement adaptive practices to sustain in severe drought and climatic risk conditions.

This is the success story of drought affected villages in Marathwada on how women are mobilised in agriculture groups, equipped with knowledge and resources and implemented climate adaptive practices. Women groups are actively involved in mixed and intercrop farming, accessing technology like drip and sprinkler, focus on household food consumption, testing small part of land with nutritional food crops and creating awareness and knowledge among communities on sustainable agriculture and livelihood practices.

Adaptive farming

Members of Krishi Mahila Mandal have taken minimum half acre to one acre land for cultivating food crops for local consumption. These women groups accessed training from KVK and SSP on drought resistant varieties and options for sustainable livelihood. The villages faced scarcity of water for irrigation for many years. Due to the efforts by women groups in partnership with local government have accessed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment  Scheme (MGNREGS) to recharge water sources. New wells are constructed and ponds are revived thru collective effort. Desilting fertile soils extracted while recharging the water sources and deposited in the farm land which gives good production in agriculture.

Pushpa Basule, a leader from Wolgud village said, she had shifted to vegetable cultivation due to Krishi Mahila Mandal’s mobilsation of groups and accessed training from Krishi Vigyan Kendra. She has cultivated Pappaya and Onion as inter crop and got profit of Rs. 6000 on using drip technology in this season.

“This is a big change. Earlier we used to cultivate only cash based crops. Now we are convincing our husbands and families to shift form cash based agriculture to food crops that needed for the family.” says Pushpa Basule.

Azolla and hydroponic fodder cultivation has changed the life of many people in this area. This has happened with partnership of KVK where they provided training for women groups, organised exposure trip to Agriculture University in Parbani. Trained women leaders came back and started cultivation of Azola and Hydroponic which are highly in demand in the market. In the beginning they cultivated azola and hydroponic fodder for feeding their own animals and Kadaknath chicken. Leaders like Vaishali have already started selling Azola and Hydroponic in the villages. Due to this initiative, they get additional income, good yield of milk from cows and eggs from chicken.

Accessing new information 

Introduction of Azolla, Hydroponics and Kadaknath breed chicken are slowly changing the life of drought hit regions in Marathwada.

The motivated and emerging women leaders who implemented best practices in drought situation are teaching other communities. Women leaders participate in various training and learning events organised by KVK and SSP. They learn new adaptive practices in agriculture and try to implement to demonstrate and scale up to other communities.

As an example, women groups started poultry farming with Kadaknath breed of chicken which is very popular among the Adivasis in Jabua, Madhya Pradesh, mainly due to its adaptability to the local environment, disease resistance, tasty meat quality, texture and flavour and high medicinal value. Protein content in kadaknath is higher than 25% in an ordinary bird it varies between 18-20%. This species has lower cholesterol (0.73-1.05%) than white chicken (13-25%).


Women federation facilitated training on Azola and Hydroponic making in partnership with KVK and ATMA at Tuljpaur in February 2015. After one day training women groups organised a learning visit to Buldana district in Maharashtra to see Azola, Hydroponics and Kadaknath chicken breed. Ten women leaders were participated in the learning visit and they learned the benefits of business opportunities in preparation of Azolla, Hydroponics and Kadaknath varieties. They were impressed with health and nutritious aspects and business opportunity in starting this initiative. Encouraged from this visit, they brought 100 Kadaknath variety breeds and came back. Now women groups have started poultry of Kadaknath varieties in many homes. They are selling chicken and earning additional income.


Archana Bosle, a leader from Devsingha made a profit of Rs. 20,000 only from sale of egg of Kadaknath Varieties within 6 months.  Now she brought 50 more chicken to expand the business. She says, “Drought situation brought me to do something different to earn income. So I started this chicken breed which gives me good income.”

“Now I want to expand my small business such as Green house in half acre, chilli and haldi powder packing and marketing,” Says Archana.

Vailshali another leader from Andhura village have started her community initiatives 9 years ago. Now she is a recognised leader among many villages and provides training on community entrepreneurship. Vaishali has trained more than 3000 women members across many villages in Marathwada. She is marketing and selling Azolla at rs. 30 per kg and earn a good income.

“Earlier I was not aware about what to cultivate to get income from agriculture. After accessing trainings and learning visits I am fully confident of implementing sustainable practices and teach other communities” Vaishali.

She says “Life is difficult due to climatic changes and it affects our daily earning, but we should not run away from it, we should face it with new knowledge and courage”.

Sustainable Agriculture practices by women’s groups in Drought hit Marathwada


Drought ridden villages in Marathwada region are seeing a gradual change in addressing water scarcity and agriculture practices. Women leaders across the villages are taking the lead in introducing and scaling up innovative initiatives in sustainable agriculture livelihood focus on nutritious local foods for local consumption.

This is evident when you visit villages like Wolgud, Tirth, Savargaon, Sindhfal. Women Agriculture Groups are implementing less water varieties, locally `developed drip irrigation systems, prioritising local food security and promote vegetable as mixed and inter crop, discouraging farmers to give away cash crops like sugar cane and cultivate soyabean, pulse varieties. Recharging water sources to increase the ground water level in many villages are taking place while accessing govt scheme.

One acre model (mix, intercrop, drip, sprinkle, water efficiency crops)

This initiative is catching up in many villages at faster pace. Women groups who are members of Krishi Mahila Mandals are taking half acre to one acre land either or lease or own land to test, experiment and innovate various methods of agriculture that sustain in drought conditions.

Women groups are trained in different agriculture practices facilitated by Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP). Linking with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Tuljpaur, taking them to Agriculture University, Parbani, Organising Exposure visits to model villages and farm field, identifying their demand and need for local innovations and are some of the initiatives facilitated by Women Federation with the help of SSP.

Initiatives in Savar Gaon

Savar Goan is located near Tuljapur in Osmanabad. This village has a lot of local innovations and strong women leadership skills that demonstrate sustainable practices which can be transferred and scale up to similar villages.

Savar Gaon like other Marathwada region is reeling under severe drought for the last 4 to 5 years. Drought situation is becoming bad to worse every year. Less rains and scarcity of water led women groups to start thinking differently to tackle the issues.

Krishi Mahila Mandal was formed in this village with active participation of 50 members 2 years ago. The purpose of formation of Krishi Mahila Mandal is to learn new practices and implement the innovations in drought conditions as a group. The success of KMM initiatives is due to good women leadership and accessing training from Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Agriculture Universities and learning from peer groups. To address the situation, KMM groups discussed the problems in the meetings and decided to work with women federation to access training and resources from various institutions. This led them in partnering with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Tuljpaur. The groups accessed training on Azola cultivation, poultry farming based on Kadaknath chicken variety etc.

There are about 10 to 12 women who are landless doing agriculture on onion, chilly, bindi and pulses like Tur and Harbara. Most of the members are taking half to one acre for cultivation.  Women members focus on local food consumption and the rest only will go for sale out of the village.

Waste water for irrigation

Prabhavathy Mali is an inspiration women leader who took innovative way for addressing water scarcity. When there was not enough water to cultivate the land she identified that lot of waste water from kitchens were flowing and accumulating at the end of the village. She started thinking how to use this waste water for her land. It was a stunning experience. When she channelized the waste water into her farming land with the help of her family members, she got enough water to cultivate various food crops. She is doing this practice for the last 4 years and other members took these initiatives in their own field also.

Prabhavathy has 10 animals and cultivated fodder in 7 gunte land. Using waste water she irrigates 2 acres of land and cultivated vegetables and onion. Her experiments continue in difficult circumstance and she shown the way for other communities to think for local innovation to address water scarcity.

Learning from neighbour and innovate it further

Taking a leaf out of it, another neighbour farmer Uttampal has taken one step ahead. He is a keen learner and innovator and utilised the waste water to irrigate his 2 acre land but he introduced a innovative way for filtering the waste water.

When he irrigated the land with waste water the crops was damaged due to the waste component. He thought of how to filter the waste from water and for irrigation. He tried various ways and succeeded in using a bathroom shower attached to the water pump and filters the waste water. Now he purchased a good shower from market and uses for filtering. He cultivates onions in one acre in drought conditions and demonstrated best methods that has to be learned by other groups and communities.

Kamal Vittal Pawar an active women leader utilised Rs 5000 from community resilience fund that transferred by Women Federation, Tuljapur.  After getting the CRF Kamal used the money for cultivation of Moringa, Tomato, Mirchi and Bindi in one acre land. She uses mixed cultivation and introduced drip methods to save water and good productivity. She got Rs. 4000 as profit from one acre cultivation. Moringa seeds are purchased from Solapur and she is expecting to get a good crop after the harvest in few months.

Leaders like Neeta Tanwade, Gangabai and Megha are very active in KMM initiatives and teaching other neighbouring villages to scale up the best practices.

The innovations and initiatives are taking ground and these practices are scaling up to neighbouring villages. Many women groups from other village shave visited here and learned the initiatives taken by community in addressing drought and water scarcity.

Meena Dange from Sindhfal village

Meena Dange from Sindhfal village own 2 acres of land. Meena belongs to Nisarga Krishi Mandal formed 3 years ago. She cultivated Onion in one acre and vegetables as mixed in one acre. She innovates and test various practices in agriculture in her land. For onion she use the traditional way of sowing the seeds spreading by throwing in the farm without any line or pattern. This practice is successful in her experience and gets good profit.  She cultivates vegetables that are good demand in teh market like Karela, Behngan and Kothambir. After the success she took 2 more acre on lease to cultivate more varieties.  In onion and vegetables she use sprinkler and drip.

SSP provides information on various technologies in meetings and KVK give training based on the need. She visit neighbouring villages and teach other communities and more than 100 women visited this village and learnt the practice.

Pest Trap (Madhi Sapda)

Another innovative approach is a yellow colour pest trap attract pest and trap inside. The use of this trap has marginally reduced spraying of pesticides and it keeps the product healthy.  She got the information from fellow farmer and purchased the pest trap from the market

Meena got 80,000 profits in 20 gunte cultivation of Karela while selling in the market of Nanded, Aurangabad and Latur. Meena sell the product directly to the market in cities and avoid middleman. She call and enquire the price in various places and sell where she get the maximum price.

grassroots initiatives in India