Archana Bhosale - A woman with a cause!
Archana comes from a very small village called Devsinga which is 5 kms. away from Tuljapur town in Maharashtra. Archana has four children- three daughters and a son. Her elder daughter is married and the other children are pursuing their education. Her husband is a farmer who works in his own fields. Like other communities in remote areas, Archana’s family was also dependent on traditional agriculture as a means of livelihood. Archana and the other women in the village were not allowed to work on the farm. They hired labourers from other villages. The farmers in this village faced a lot of problems due to drought and scarcity of water for the past 10 years. Market variation in product price, high investment and low return in agriculture, purchase of costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides, dependency on unexpected weather conditions, lack of information and training on new methods were the other problems they faced. Determined to make a change, Archana trained under an NGO called Swayam Shikshan Prayog. After her training, she understood the benefits of organic farming, organic seed processing, soil testing, water testing, organic compost and land preparation. She also learned about seed preparation and processing and preparing organic seeds, accurate procedures for mixing the bio- fertilizers and its storage, selection and preparation of quality seeds and the correct time for sowing the seeds. Her husband was not willing to try the new technology. Ultimately, he gave her one acre of land to practise organic farming. Earlier, she was sowing seeds two or three times without any proper plan but due to unexpected rain, the seeds got damaged easily. Earlier she got a profit of Rs.30,000 yearly from her 5 acre land. But after using modern methods, the profit from agriculture has increased to Rs.150000 yearly. She planted 100 fruit trees to get fresh fruits for consumption and also to improve their dietary pattern on a regular basis. In 2010, Archana started Krishi Mahila Mandal for vegetable cultivation and organic farming in one acre model. She led women from the front and encouraged them to contribute towards labour and seeds in the group. This paved the way to make the women more active and get recognition among men farmers who have concentrated on cash and single crops. She, with her women’s group, now cultivates vegetables in 3 seasons. They have introduced the method of rotation of crops that gives extra income and sustains in difficult weather conditions. They prepare vermi-compost to reduce the cost of buying from harmful fertilizers from the market and, encourage the use of bio- pesticides. The Gram Panchayat is very supportive of their activities and helps them in all possible ways like bringing them in contact with the local government, improving the infrastructure, inviting them to Gram Sabha meetings and sharing their knowledge. After her success to empower more women and expanding the Krishi Mahila Mandal membership from 17 to 50, in 2016, she started a poultry farm with a breed Kadaknath as their new agri- allied business with 10 women. They now have 1500 chickens yielding a profit of INR 11 lakhs from this business. In the initial years, Archana was often discouraged by people telling her that that the production and profit in organic farming would be low. She and her husband were growing only one cash crop. But through her hard work and initiative she convinced them about organic farming. Due to this method, intake of nutritious diet has increased. Since the past 3 years nobody in the family has fallen sick. She now has a better understanding of differences between organic and chemical farming and therefore she is more involved in crop sowing and planting process. The village people also come to her for suggestions in agriculture and business. She reuses the agriculture waste for compost preparation. She has prepared and processed local seeds to reduce the cost and improve the quality of the produce. Recognition Archana Bhosale was awarded, “Sarva Utkrushta KrishiSamman Puraskar 2015” organized 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. As 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.