Stories from Grassroots Women

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Ranjana Devi is an Inspiration for many !

Ranjana Devi is a grassroots leader in Malkoskapur village in Bihar. Coming from a poor family, she struggled to reach a new level.

Her husband, Naresh Paswan is a local singer and elected ward member. She has three children and lives with her in-laws.

Status before the intervention: Malkoshkapur is a model village showing how a vibrant leadership can change their community through women’s leadership and leaning strategies. Located in a remote place near Nepal border, Malkoshkapur is 13 kilometers away from the nearest town of Birpur in Supaul District of Bihar. This village has a history of flood and its impact among communities, environment and livelihoods. In the changing climate and recurring floods, women leaders are showing the way of implementing sustainable and innovative initiatives in this village. Sand deposits after the Kosi flood 2008 have destroyed the fertile land, soil and the environment. This led to decrease in income from agriculture and difficulty in running the family.

The initiative: When the women group conducted vulnerability mapping in the village it was an eye opening for them. They identified weather changes, flooding, poor infrastructure, sanitation, drinking water, health and livelihoods are the main problems they face. To address the issues in agriculture and livelihoods, women’s group decided to start collective vegetable farming on leased land. The group received Rs. 15,000 as Community Resilience Fund (CRF) from Swayam Shikshan Prayog and bought three khatta land initially to start vegetables under the leadership of Ranjana Devi. The first experiment was a success and they got Rs. 4000 profit from the cultivation. Motivated by the good result, the groups bought another 5 khatta of land on lease. This time they cultivated maize and wheat which again provided Rs 8000 profit.

“When we cultivated vegetables last year we got good profit of Rs. 4000. If we expand to more areas we can get much better profit.” says Ranjana Devi, women leader from Malkoshkapur.

After success in agriculture and livelihoods, they showed their leadership skills in demanding community infrastructure and facilities from government. Women groups are active in Village Development Committee and developed a community plan and submitted to panchayat. The panchayat included their plan in the Panchayat plan and submitted to Zilla parishad and the community so far got 6 hand-pumps, 32 houses raised the platform and strengthened with earthquake resistant features, 12 toilets for houses.

Ranjana Devi says “Whenever you do any good work in the village think about development”
Impact: Now the group members are recognized as leaders and change makers in this village. They are visiting local panchayat and block level offices to demand for new schemes and programs, seeds and vermi beds etc. Women leaders started attending meetings and workshops organized by various organizations. Ranjana Devi has been elected to Panchayat Local Body in 2016 due to her hard work and commitment to the society. The election shows her recognition as a community leader in Malkoshikapur village.



Sudha Devi, the change maker !

Sudha Devi hails from Ghospurvillage in Basant Nagar block in Supaul District of Bihar.

She was an ordinary village women like others before 2008 flood. In 2008 heavy flood badly impacted their life, their crops were destroyed and their 3 cows died and her life became miserable. It was not easy to run the family with meager income from daily wages of her husband. The flood deposited huge amount of sand on their farm land and it took some time to fertile again. Apart from her husband’s earning of little more than Rs 150 daily, Sudha Devi’s contribution from her agriculture work was not adequate for the needs of the family, children’s education, health expenses etc.

The Model: This was the time Swayam Shikshan Prayog SSP began to work with women in Ghospur village with local NGO partner GPSVS together and trained 20 women members in leadership development, decision-making, new methods in farming, local seed preparation and flood-resistant crops. In the year 2014, Sudha participated in an exposure tour to the districts in the districts of Maharashtra where SSP has mobilized women as farmers and leaders. She learnt how SHGs are taking collective lead and action in agriculture in difficult climatic situations. This opened her eyes and went back to her village with a determination of organizing women’s groups in innovative agriculture practices.

Sudha took lead in forming Gayatri Self Help Groups with other members in her village. “While intervening in agriculture, we also looked at other issues” says Sudha Devi.

After several rounds of training and learning, Sudha adopted the use of local seeds, line sowing, vermi compost and short term crops. Her family income has increased and Sudha is able to support her husband, sends children to school, purchases uniforms and books. Taking a leaf out of from her initiatives, more women leaders came and learned her practices. Now ten women from Gayatri SHGs are doing collective and individual farming which ensure food for the family and local communities.

Impact: She travels to other villages to teach community on the benefits of sustainable and collective efforts by women groups in sustainable agriculture practices. So far she taught 10 villages with more than 200 women members. She is also participating in various learning and dialogue in the grassroots network across State and national levels.

The commitment and interest shown by Sudha Devi in changing her family and community is commendable. Her life and work show that hard life and vulnerable situations can be transformed to make life easier and safer if you work with commitment, have the passion for learning, be a part of the network and an attitude of “do it yourself”. These attributes made Sudha to become a change maker in sustainable development. To recognize her initiatives in sustainable agriculture practices, Sudha Devi has been selected as a Core committee member at Groots India Network at the National level.



Sangeeta Kumari from Gaya

Sangeeta is 27 years old and is a graduate. Her husband is a contractor and does not have stable/regular income.

She has a family of six members with her in laws and two kids. Being an educated girl, she wanted to work and joined the Government of Bihar’s Rural Livelihoods Project (locally known as Jeevika in 2010.

When she got to know about the clean energy program, she invited SSP team to explain the opportunity to her in-laws and husband. She wanted to increase her income and established her worth. As in Jeevika, she was only dealing with women members. After getting their support, she launched her business. Firstly she used the products herself to assess the quality. Once she was satisfied, she talked to communities about solar lanterns and clean energy.

Once, when her sister’s husband who runs a clinic in the block, came running to her one late night, asking for the solar Lantern. He was operating a patient and suddenly, in the middle, there was a power cut. There was no alternative solution available at that time. The solar lantern saved the patient’s life. He was thankful to her and keeps the lantern always in front of the clinic and also recommends other patients. This has given her a lot of motivation. What she likes being a Sakhi, is that her identity and recognition she has received. She has now expanded her sales in market areas and other villages. She says, she gets to learn a lot from here and now when she has been awarded the title of a Super Sakhi, she is more committed towards the new role.



Women leaders address good food in mid-day meal scheme

Latipur village is located near Ganga River in Naugachia, Bihar. Incessant rains lead to floods and impact badly on agriculture and daily lives.

To address this problem, women groups were mobilized and enhanced their capacity in risk reduction practices by Naujan Lok, SSP’s resilience partner in Bihar.

During the vulnerability mapping in the village, it was found that they are spending money on buying vegetables from market which contains chemicals and pesticides. Ma Sunaina SHG with 13 members has decided to start collective vegetable cultivation. They have taken 10 khatta land on lease and utilized Community Resilience Fund (CRF) Rs. 15000 provided by SSP based on their community plan.

Women leadership has produced tomato, coli flower, cabbage, ladies finger, green leaves in the last season. With their collective contribution in labour and money, they had a good profit of 18000. Motivated from this profit, women groups acquired more area to cultivate more varieties. They are doing organic methods with green manure and preparing bio pesticides from local leaves and cow urine.“It is important for community to understand the benefit of doing organic vegetables and consumption at local level” says Bavita Devi, Sachiv, Ma Sunaina SHG.

Organic vegetables for Mid Day Meal Scheme
After the success in vegetable production, Ma Sunaina group took the lead in campaigning for organic practices at Panchayat level. A meeting was called with communities from Latipur, Bhagwatipur and Latipur Harijan Tola where Sarpanch and ward members were also participated to discuss the importance of eating behavior of local food. They discussed about how foods and vegetables that are available in the market and produced by villages are harmful and the benefit of organic vegetables and pulses for own health and safety.

In the meeting, when the leaders heard about the bad quality of meals are served at school and anganwadi, the SHG decided to meet the principal of the school and caretaker of anganwadi. They organized a meeting with the teachers of the school and anganwadi and convinced the authorities for ensuring quality food for children. It was decided that women groups from Ma Sunaina will cultivate and deliver quality of vegetables for mid-day meal scheme. An informal agreement was made and now members from Ma Sunaina groups are delivering required vegetables every day for Anganwadi and primary school in the village. Shoba Devi, Bavita Devi and Ranju Devi took the leadership in setting the example for others. Now women groups deliver vegetables in schools under Mid-day meal scheme and sell in the village as they don’t have to market their products outside. These initiatives are recognized by local community and panchayat and they started teaching other communities in the neighborhoods.

Impact: After learning from Ma Sunaina SHG, many other women groups are encouraged and started the cultivation of vegetables in neighbouring two villages. Women groups also organized meeting in October last year and conducted a short survey on school to monitor the activities. It was found that the children are getting quality and food according to the menu in anganwadi and school. Women leadership is also ensuring that school environment is cleaned; teachers are attending school on time and teaching them properly. The women leaders from seven SHGs in the village are visits and monitor the school and anganwadi activities everyday on rotational basis.



Women leaders address good food in mid-day meal scheme

Mrs. Vanita Sahebrao More is 60 and received her LMV driving license last year. Why?

She wants to transport her farm grown crops from Nanded to various parts of Maharashtra.Her zeal and passion for agriculture is infectious. Starting off with half an acre she now manages 3.5 acres of land using 100% organic inputs. Let us revisit her inspiring journey.



Transition journey of implementation of One Acre Model

Meet Mrs. Rekha Satish Shinde who transformed One Acre of her farm- land ensuring food security for her family and integrating livestock man- agement to implement a financially sustainable farming model.


Impacts of One Acre Model on Ghurband Family

Since 2015 Mrs. Kamalbai Ghurband from Nanded, Maharashtra has been practicing agriculture on a leased land of 2 acres adopting the salient features of One Acre Model.

In addition to the tremendous economic benefit Kamalbai experienced a complete health transformation from doctors suggesting a knee replacement to an active and regular engagement on her farmland without any medical help.



Changing Climate: rural women lead the change for better food and farming

Maya is 38 years old, belongs to a marginal farming household in the drought hit region of Marathwada in Maharashtra, India.

She made big changes, by taking small steps in farming and linked agriculture to allied businesses. Maya could not complete her schooling but that was never a barrier to learning agriculture. Through training and exposure visits she gained knowledge on adaptive agriculture practices. “Any dream can come true if you are committed to your goal and work hard”, says Maya.

Maya’s parents cultivated a single crop and Maya had seen that lack of knowledge and resources restrained them from trying out new things. She got married in 2004; and the couple had four acres of unirrigated land in Gandhora village in Osmanabad district.

Promoting women’s leadership initiative for climate smart agriculture
SSP team mobilized grassroots women from several villages to form Sakhi Farming Groups. Around 2012, Maya joined a farmers’ group in her village, as over 15,000 women have done. By becoming a member of this SSP’s initiative, Maya could make important shifts to transform farming into a viable occupation and she ensured good food for her household. She gained from the exposures of Farmer Field Schools.

The trainings exposed Maya to the numerous long standing problems in agriculture. High use of chemical fertilizers and dependency on mono-cropping topped the list and in turn reduced soil health, increased costs and led to shortage of local food crops.

Besides running a low interest Community Resilience Fund to practice climate smart agriculture, Maya decided to improve her farming methods. She explored several agriculture practices that she learnt in class. She accessed funds from a women federation for the purpose. Maya focused first on ensuring that she used seeds produced on her farm. Next, Maya made sure that there was food security, for her family. Of the total food crops, half the pulses and millets were kept for family consumption and seeds for next season. Unlike many other women in the area, Maya goes to the market to sell her farm produce, and decides on the spending plan. “This farming model is good for the farm, good food for my children, and good income for my family” says Maya.

“My dreams motivated me to do something new in order to bring changes in my life”

Maya started focused on buying livestock. She bought a goat by investing Rs 3000 from a group loan. After six months this goat gave birth to two male goats. She then sold all the three goats after few months and purchased one buffalo worth Rs. 26,000. Further she began production of bio-manures and pesticides which are important for sustainable organic farming.

Maya’s earnings from selling farm produce and dairy products have increased by 40%. She is planning future investments for children’s higher education and health. “My dream is to develop my land with better water conservation and add horticulture”. Maya is now a missionary; her mission is to spread her learning to small farmers who believe that agriculture is not viable.



Conserving traditional seeds across generations

District: Malkangiri

Jamuna Kirsani, an Adivasi Woman and Seed Mother hails from the Malkangiri District of Odisha and embraces her culture proudly.

There are more than 70 adivasi Seed Mothers working in their locality to collect, conserve and propagate local traditional seeds. To her, these seeds mean her life and identity.

She has more than 161 varieties of Paddy seeds and 123 varieties of pulses, tubers, oil seeds, domesticated wild food, vegetables and greens. “As a Seed mother, we exchange seeds with other farmers instead of buying them.. Our seeds were evolved through our intense resilience efforts across generations.”

Her husband helps her in bringing about sustainable changes to their farm by setting up low cost vermicompost unit, the organic liquid to protect crop from the pests. “When I collect a new seed from other villages, my family helps me grow these on our land. We have layered cropping where creepers are grown above the tuber crops on traditional trees. This inspires other farmers to adopt in their lands also. Farmers from neighboring villages do come to exchange their seeds and discuss about the cropping methods.”

The emergence of market seeds are spoiling their land and forests. These chemical inputs are costly and the crop is not suitable for their food. They do not like the market seeds and produce enough for their family consumption using own seeds.

“Being the Seed Mother of my village, I facilitate the Annual Crop Plan of my village.This plan is being done on the basis of the types of land and other resources, the food needs of the families and of course the the need for cash as well.”. Families are encouraged to exchange seeds they need with their surplus seeds among villagers and with farmers from other villages.

The community led by Jamuna promotes low cost farming and retains cultural identity and makes all families including the landless ones, to turn food secure.

The annual seed fairs are the new face of their cultural identity. Seed mothers improve the stock of seeds and its knowledge to this fair and exchange it. “I feel really inspired looking at the dignity associated with our traditional farming wisdom” says Jamuna.

This food sovereignty campaign has helped young generation of farmers in adopting and retaining this traditional wisdom. Farmers have also regained the skill of identifying the beneficial pests in our crop as well as preparing natural organic repellents to control the damaging pests.



Building community resilience through women

District: Maulaganj

A community in Northern Bihar is one of the most flood-prone states. 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. Leela Devi and her group identified and marked highland areas which people could move to one month before the anticipated flooding. “We created a disaster management plan with an eye on getting pregnant women, children and senior citizens to safer areas”, Leela explains.

The women group accessed government programmes to construct a 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 that we share.”

“My dream is to enable women to be self-reliant”

She realize that her community has 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. We now have access to solar lamps and there is awareness about the hazards.”

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

Under the leadership of Leela Devi, women members jointly created a Community Development Plan with five critical development activities that they demanded the local government authorities 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 their conversation with the Child Development Protection Officer.



Leading a community in eco-friendly farming

District: Godiyari

Sheela Devi lives in the Darbhanga district of Godiyari village. The village has been adversely affected by unexpected weather changes and floods that impact agriculture production.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog was facilitated with Kanchan Seva Ashram (KSA) to mobilise the community in sustainable agricultural practices in climate affected and disaster-prone communities in this village. Sheela Devi was one among them and learnt eco-friendly farming practices with low inputs.

As a leader of Ahalya Mahila Mandal (Self Help Group), Sheela Devi has been encouraging the community to take small steps to address issues related to the impact of climate change and floods.

Sheela Devi has four cows and one acre of agricultural land where they cultivate mustard, wheat, onion and vegetables. She is trained in making a bio compost called Kanchan Amrit from Lucknow. She learnt how to prepare bio-compost using local leaves. The result was quite encouraging as pest attack reduced and in turn, the yield increased. She was motivated to prepare larger quantities of Kanchan Amrit and started selling to these to neighbouring villages. “This bio-pesticide is the best alternative to chemical pesticides which is bought from the market which is costly, damages crops and the environment and affects our health.” Sheela says. She saves around Rs 15000 per year from fertiliser and bio pesticides. She is a recognised leader in her panchayat. About 1000 women visited her village and learnt from her practices.

She also visits other villages and shares her experience in getting good production from agriculture using organic methods. She has trained 10 other women to make Kanchan Amrit in her Panchayat.

The production cost of the bio-pesticide is Rs. 10/- per litre but Sheela Devi is able to sell it for Rs. 30. In six months, she has been able to purchase one buffalo mainly 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.



When women taught a village to survive floods

District: Supaul

Supaul District “Whenever you do any good work in the village think about development” (Ranjana Devi).

“When we cultivated vegetables last year we got good profit of Rs. 4000. If we expand to more areas we can get much better profit.” (Ranjana Devi)

“We contributed money and work in field together. We want to take our community forward.” (Lalita Devi)

“We need unity and strength in collective work. We also have to empower with information from meetings and learning visit.” (Lalita Devi)

The model village of Malkoshkapur, located in Supaul district near the Nepal border, regularly experiences flooding, thanks to the frequent climate change. Sand deposits from the Kosi floods have destroyed the fertile land, soil and the environment, considerably reducing family income. Here, women leaders are paving the way for implementing sustainable and innovative ways to deal with floods and are motivating other communities to follow suit.

Prior to 2008, there were no Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in this area. After the floods that year, a Madhubani-based NGO, Ghoghardiha Prakhand Swarajya Vikas Sangh (GPSVS) entered this village and mobilised the women into SHGs in 2011. This cooperative effort brought significant change to their lives. They learned that they could mobilise around local risk linking with development.

At a learning exchange between the Malkoshkapur SHG and women’s groups in JagirAraji village, the women conducted vulnerability mapping in the village and identified priorities for action. Some risks identified were weather changes, flooding, poor infrastructure, sanitation, drinking water, health and livelihoods. The mapping and dialogue processes engaged ward members and community leaders as well.

The SHG decided to start collective vegetable farming on leased land. This is where SSP came in. The group received Rs. 15,000 from SSP’s Community Resilience Fund (CRF).

The 11-member group bought three khatta land initially to start vegetables under the leadership of Lalita Devi. The first experiment was a success story and they got Rs. 4000 as profit. Motivated by the good result, the group took another five khatta on lease. This time, they cultivated maize and wheat which again provided a good profit. It was a success again and the group plans to cultivate paddy this season.

Following this success, the women of the Malkoshkapur SHG demanded community infrastructure and facilities. These women are active in the Village Development Committee; they have even developed a community plan and submitted it to the Panchayat. Their main priorities were raised hand-pumps, strong houses, proper roads and drainage, toilet scheme and water for drinking and irrigation. The Panchayat included their plan in the Panchayat plan and submitted it to Zilla Parishad. The community has so far got 6 hand-pumps, 12 toilets for houses and 32 houses with a raised platform and earthquake-resistant features.

“Earlier we were not sitting in front of men. Now we are more organized through meetings and talks with the Panchayat Mukhya for solutions. We will increase our strength in the coming months.” (Lalita Devi)

The Malkoshkapur SHG women are today recognised as leaders and changemakers in this village. They visit the local Panchayat and block level offices to demand for new schemes and programmes, seeds and vermin beds etc. They have started attending meetings and workshops organised by civil society organisations. They learn and share their knowledge, thereby inspiring other neighbouring villages to develop safe communities in disaster and climate change situations.



Raising a village through women empowerment

District: Supaul

“If we won’t, then who will? Many people also compliment our determination and that we have been able to build a relationship with local government.” (Renuka Devi).

“We got orientation and awareness from women leaders from other villages on how to work together to improve our village through mapping, identifying problems and solutions.” (Ganga Devi)

“Earlier we used to only worry about our own families, but through this initiative we know that we can do a lot for the community.” (Kausalya Devi)

Ghospur village is vulnerable to recurrent floods. There were no proper roads or infrastructure and the community was living in difficult conditions. This village is far away from the nearest town, Birpur, and it was difficult to carry patients and pregnant women to take to the hospital. There were about 100 households dependent on agriculture. Over the last two years, changes in vision, attitude and leadership are visible and women are in the lead making this change.

Two years ago, SSP facilitated with Ghoghardiha Prakhand Swarajya Vikas Sangh (GPSVS) to mobilise women groups in resilience building in Ghospur village. Kausalya Devi, Ganga Devi and Shanti Devi took the lead in learning how to organise and mobilise women members, the need of conducting vulnerability mapping, attending training on disaster preparation and looking for sustainable livelihoods.

More than 30 women participated in the mapping exercise. The many problems identified in the mapping were lack of roads, anganwadi, raised hand pumps, strong houses, insufficient water for irrigation, unsafe drinking water leading to water borne diseases, increased health expenditure, lack of toilets, sand deposit in agriculture land, lack of ambulance services, lack of high land in time of flood and loss in agriculture. As their understanding of their own risk and vulnerabilities improved, the SHGs called upon community leaders and elected ward members to join their members in discussing these problems and identifying solutions.

To solve these issues faced by the community, they formed the Village Development Committee (VDC) which was facilitated by GPSVS, which comprised women leaders and elder leaders from the village including ward members. They prepared a community plan based on the priorities identified and submitted it to the panchayat. Their demands included: a proper road connecting to the main road, raised hand pumps at community level that would ensure safety and no mixing with drainage and wastewater as well as safe in flooding toilets using government scheme, solar light, cleaning the area, polio vaccination, setting up grain banks, disaster task force, first aid facilities, safe high land for rehabilitation during flood, health sub centre, anganwadi, sand removal from agriculture field and boring well for irrigation.

They also held a dialogue with Mukhiya of the Panchayat for need for resources and action for solving the issues in the village and mainly focused on infrastructure. The Mukhiya was cooperative and integrated the plan of the Panchayat and submitted it to the Zilla Parishad. Zilla Parishad approved the plan with changes and released resources to the Panchayat. In the approved plan, 60% of the Ghospur community demand was met and it was a success for the women group. This happened due to regular meetings and dialogues with the Panchayat and block level officials etc.

Due to the leadership of the community, the Ghospur village got 5 hand pumps worth Rs. 2 lakh through government scheme. The panchayat constructed a concrete road for 1.5 km that connects to the main road. Earlier, they were walking through the water to go to school, the health centre and the market. The panchayat also approved a call-up ambulance service. A health sub-centre was approved and has come up in the village. The existing anganwadi was repaired enabling 40 children to attend. 18 houses have been strengthened and platform was raised using Indira Awas Yojana. 28 toilets have been constructed using government schemes and more are planned. This is in a village where there was not even a single toilet and open defecation was the norm. In these two years, women have shown leadership in addressing local risk and development and are respected for their work. 12 women leaders regularly visit offices from the panchayat to block level to negotiating for resources for local development and social security schemes and they are building a strong partnership with government offices and the panchayat. They have placed on the local government agenda, issues identified in the mapping such as destruction of crops due to flood, irregular rain patterns, food and fodder scarcity.


Making eco-friendly farming a way of life

District: Darbhanga

Shila Devi lives in Godiyari village by the Bagmati river which floods its banks every year.

People in her village have been adversely affected by unexpected weather changes, decreased agricultural yield which in turn affects their income at a time when input costs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides are very high.

Swayam Shikshan Prayog facilitated Kanchan Seva Ashram (KSA) to mobilise the community in sustainable agricultural practices in climate change-affected and disaster- prone communities in 2013. KSA identified and selected 20 women from the area to participate in a training programme on sustainable practices in agriculture in Lucknow. Shila Devi was one of them, and this proved to be a life-transforming experience for her.

Shila Devi has one cow and one acre of agricultural land where she and her husband, Shri Ram Chandra, cultivate mustard, wheat, onion and vegetables. In Lucknow, she learnt how to prepare bio-compost using local leaves as well as natural pesticide, and decided to prepare her own. When she started using the bio-compost, neighbours asked her about the ‘new medicine.’ Shila Devi shared her knowledge. The response was positive as pest attacks reduced and yield increased. She felt encouraged to prepare larger quantities of the pesticide for outside sale.

She says, “This biopesticide is the best alternative to chemical pesticides that are bought from the market that is costly, damages crops, the environment and affects our health.” The production cost of the biopesticide is Rs. 10/- per litre but Shila Devi is able to sell it for Rs. 30/- per litre. In six month, she has been able to purchase one buffalo mainly in order to use its urine to meet growing demand for the pesticide. She now earns Rs. 3000/- per month by selling bio-pesticide and Rs. 6500/- per season from vegetable sales.

She says, “This biopesticide is the best alternative to chemical pesticides that are bought from the market that is costly, damages crops, the environment and affects our health.” The production cost of the biopesticide is Rs. 10/- per litre but Shila Devi is able to sell it for Rs. 30/- per litre. In six month, she has been able to purchase one buffalo mainly in order to use its urine to meet growing demand for the pesticide. She now earns Rs. 3000/- per month by selling bio-pesticide and Rs. 6500/- per season from vegetable sales.


Former postmaster becomes award winning organic farmer

“Women should do farming. We need to cultivate to consume our own food. Who will make it for us?”

Archana Patil comes from Devsinga in drought-prone Marathwada where climate change meant decreasing  rainfall and soil degradation Archana has worked as a postmaster for the last 10 years. She finds time in  between official work and development initiatives in the village to motivate other women in the community  about the government team, taking poor community to offices and departments. Hardworking, enterprising  and committed and as a leader in the Krishi Mahila Mandal and Self-Help Group, she has motivated others to  be active and to keep learning.

Archana and her husband own 10 acres of land in which 5 acres are irrigated. The two of them prepare bio  pesticides (Dash parni) to use in their own field. Through continuous inputs and care, the land has become  fertile and productivity and quality have both improved.

Archana took one gunta land from her husband and introduced new crops using her own seeds by growing  palak, mirchi, kothambir, etc. on an experimental basis. When the productivity increased in the second  season, she started with one acre. Using her own seeds she cultivated tur, moong and vegetables.

“We should be courageous to do innovative work. Even if we don’t have anything, we can make miracles,”  Archana says.

Apart from the farming business, she also has 10 animals and started milk production and fodder cultivation.  Poultry farming was also started with the help of a bank loan.

The Krishi Mahila Mandal was formed by the Women’s Federation in Devsinga with SSP’s encouragement. It  started with 15 women members to address various issues in cultivation, labour and marketing on a  collective basis. Each member contributed Rs. 50 per month towards savings. They use the savings to give  small loans to members for purchasing seeds, preparation of land, buying motor and irrigation pipes, etc. SSP  also contributed Rs. 25,000 as Community Resilience Fund (CRF) to women’s groups to implement innovative  practices in agriculture and livelihoods.

To facilitate the learning process, SSP took women leaders to KrishiVigyan Kendra, Tuljapur and Agriculture  University, Parbani in 2013 and 2014. Women groups were selected for the training on soil and water  testing, land mulching, seed germination test, preparing amritjal, amrimitti, vermin compost, animal care  and fodder management. 

Like Archana, other women have taken land from their husbands to farm with the new practises that they  have learnt- organic inputs, soil testing, seed germination and vermin compost, for instance. Due to her  effort, the practice has been transferred to more than 15 villages. Archana taught new practices to 15 village  communities and more than 2000 women are aware about the initiatives in Devsinga. In 2014, 200 women  members  from  Jalna  district  visited  Devsinga  village  to  see  the  best  practices  through  the  MSRLM  programme.

Archana has participated in the All India Radio discussions and been interviewed twice on Azola preparation  and bio pesticides. She has published articles in Agrovan and Adhunik Kisan. She received the Krishi Gaurav  Award from Agrovan in 2013 and recognition from Parbani Agricultural University in 2014.



Grassroots women unite to save Chivri village

District:  Osmanabad

Chivri is a small village situated near Tuljapur in Osmanabad district. Agriculture is the main source of income for the community.

Due to high use of chemicals in agriculture, climatic changes and over utilisation of water for cash crops like sugar cane, the community was badly affected. They face water scarcity and drought every year. This led to low output in agriculture as well as income. Water for drinking and irrigation is another serious problem in the village.

How changes took place

To address these issues, SSP mobilised women groups to learn innovative practices to implement in the village. It was not easy in the beginning. Women Federation leaders like Godavari and Leela used to visit this village and try to mobilise women groups to address the issues faced by the community. But the community was not interested to do any activity apart from normal savings in SHGs.

But Godavari did not give up the idea of motivating and transforming the village. She used to visit often and in one occasion, she invited women groups to participate in an agriculture fair organised by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Tuljpaur in 2013. The fair was jointly organised by Women Federation, Tuljapur and KVK. The event was an exhibition of organic agricultural products cultivated by women groups and involved learning and sharing events among the groups. The event was also a recognition of women groups from KVK as change makers in local development.

Four women including Vanita Manshetty and Amarja Tai had participated in the Krishi Melava and found the collective initiative started by women groups in agriculture from other villages interesting. This has prompted the leader Vanita Manshetty to do something in the village. The same night around 11 pm, Godavari got a call from Vanita telling that they need to form women farmer group in the village. Godavari was surprised by Vanita’s call and her encouraging voice.

Vanita Mansetty – The leader from the village

Vanita is a leader in the village who took the initiative to form Krishi Mahila Mandal and implementing sustainable agriculture activities. Earlier they were doing agriculture with lots of chemicals fertilisers. Now they reduce chemicals through the use of cow manure in the field. She has 5 cows and it is sufficient to get manure for the cultivation.

She did soil testing on her land at KVK, Tuljapur. Based on the result and scientists advice, she prepared the land with balanced organic manure. Vanita also started preparing local seeds to use in her own field. Seeds of Tur, soybean, green gram, red gram, urid are some that she preserves and uses.

She has cultivated Kala Chena in half an acre last year and got good profit. This year she got 50 quintals of Kala chena. There is an increase of 4 quintals due to proper planning in the farming done by her.

Vanita says, “Normally in one acre we get only 1 quintal. But through organic inputs we got 4 quintal now.”

She believes vegetable cultivation is the most important activity that rural women should take. The reason she says, “It gives you regular income, cash comes in your hand and it is healthy to eat. Vanita got a profit of Rs. 2000 from the cultivation of palak, tomato, kothambir, mirchi in 3 gunte. The expense was Rs. 5000 for seeds, labour and organic fertiliser.

Learning visits

Women groups attended various trainings organised by SSP and KVK in regular intervals. This has opened up an opportunity for women groups to experiment new agriculture practices in their own land.

As a learning enthusiast and active leader, Vanita visited Latur, Kolhapur, Barabangi to learn new practices in February and March 2015. Women groups also went to Kolhapur to see 1 acre model of agriculture. They found 80 varieties in 1 acre with no chemicals. They tried to practice the same kind of initiatives in their village.

“Learning and teaching should be always there to make changes within the community”. – Amarja.

Impact

Awareness programme organised by SSP has helped women groups to do adaptive agricultural practices. After the change, women members are discussing health, nutrition and agriculture related activities in the SHG meetings. Through continuous interaction and learning they started thinking how to produce local good quality of food crops to address food security and health.

According to a women leader “Whatever food is needed by the household, they should start cultivating by themselves. These initiatives provide daily fresh vegetables, it increase nutrition status of the family, and they also get additional income.”

Through vegetable cultivation, they get additional income and healthy food. Earlier they used to spend around 1000 rupees every year for health expenditure. Now it is being reduced to Rs. 500 and women’s HB level is normal now.

“Our confidence increase when we see other leaders’ activities. If they do, why can’t I?” asks Vanita.

With her leadership they have formed 20 groups in 2 neighbouring villages with 25 members. One major change in their life is shifting from chemical to organic practices. Now she can take own decisions on what to cultivate and how to the use the money from vegetables.

She never went outside the village till 2013. Now she is visiting various places to learn and share best practices. Her confidence has increased as a leader and she is recognised by her family for her efforts.

“I changed myself and my daughters are also observing the change and they are proud about my activities. I am happy and my family is happy.” – Vanita.



Reaping the harvests of organic farming  

“Agriculture is our land; we have to awaken our field. You change your life at household level then you change the community.”

“You can reduce the expenses by growing organic and eating good food.”

Rajashree Mane, a model leader comes from Ansurda, a village of 160 households. She belongs to a village where women were active in developmental activities even before SSP’s entry. SSP and the Women’s Federation from Tuljapur encouraged them to start Krishi Ghat (Agriculture group), and they enthusiastically did with 16 members in 2014.

The first initiative of Krishi Ghat was to take women to Krishi Vigyan Kendra to get trained in inter- crops, preparation of land, waste management, soil testing and seed preparation. SSP facilitated the training and 6 women attended from this village in 2014. These leaders motivated other women to start agriculture with fewer chemicals. They are not using chemicals now. Instead they are preparing their own bio-compost and organic manure to use in their small piece of land that they got from their husbands to do experiments in agriculture. Their main crops are soybean, jowari, harbara, tur and moong.

Rajashri has been cultivating brinjal, tomato, and green chilly in 4 acres of land; and wheat and vegetables in another 20 gunte as mixed crop. She also cultivates Jowar, wheat and vegetables as mixed crops season wise. She was trained on vermicompost at Taluka Agriculture office 6 months ago. Rajashri’s family supports her initiatives. Her husband informs her about new schemes and she shares the information with other women in meetings. Rajashri is transferring her knowledge to neighbouring villages.



Making a case for women entrepreneurship

Pulling her flowery, teal sari over her hair, Shankuntala Vilasrao Deshmukh gets comfortable in her seat. She’s had a busy day at the Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) “Melawa”, and is taking a break to tell her story.

Deshmukh is an ambitious entrepreneur and SSP client from a poor community from Prakashnagar district in Latur, rural Maharashtra. Her entrepreneurial journey began in the 1980s, when she set up a “kirana” shop and tailoring unit, after completing a government-run course on dress designing.

Deshmukh worked hard to sustain her initial businesses, bringing home 4,000-5,000 INR a month – an impressive amount for a single income in the region. At the same time, she sought ways to spread her success in her community, and began giving classes to boost the literacy and numeracy skills of her peers.

SSP as a vehicle for scale

While Deshmukh’s entrepreneurial zeal drove her success in those early years, she recognized a need for additional support to scale her ventures. In 2003, after learning of its services in the local paper, Deshmukh turned to SSP to take her business to the next level.

SSP’s first intervention was to help Deshmukh set up a Self Help Group (SHG) – the Vaibhav Lakshmi Sakhi Bachat Garh SHG – for herself and 20 fellow entrepreneurs. The creation of the group enabled Deshmukh to take a loan from the “Maha Sangh”, which supported each SHG member in starting her own business, and Deshmukh herself in branching out into processing and selling Pepsi candies.

Support for the next big idea

Over the years, Deshmukh continued to leverage SSP’s support and engage in its activities. The organization provided her with financial services, business training, and multi-stakeholder networking opportunities.

At one such networking session, Deshmukh connected with an entrepreneur who used a custom machine to grind coconuts. In the months following, she developed her own machine and uses it today to grind 25 kgs of coconut hourly, earning 5,000 INR more per month. In this way, the SSP event helped Deshmukh broaden her outlook and uncover a way to expand her business.

The road ahead

Today, Deshmukh’s ambitious ideas, paired with her active participation with SSP, continue to propel her success as an entrepreneur. She earns between 10,000 to 12,000 INR a month through her businesses, and is always looking for new avenues for growth.

Having sought SSP’s support in creating a network and diversifying her business, Deshmukh is now looking to the organization to learn more about ‘Perishable Inventory Management’, and assessing and mitigating risk. In turn, SSP recognizes Deshmukh as a leader in her community, and spotlights her as a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Desmukh is indeed an inspiration to her peers, cautioning them of the challenges of the market and encouraging them to always strive for innovation. “Women cannot run successful businesses sitting at home,” she says. “They have to move out, keep learning, and never say no to opportunities.” After all, it was by never saying no to any opportunity, at SSP or otherwise, that Deshmukh achieved her own success.



How Arogya Sakhis are making their communities healthier 

District:  Osmanabad

Sukumar has completed her education till the 10th standard. Post marriage she has three sons and lives in a semi – pucca house.

She works as a cook for the children in Aanganwadi and simultaneously does basic tailoring services from home. She is a member of the village Self help group (SHG) since eight years.

Village Scenario

Sukumar shared, “Usually it takes a full day to visit the nearest doctor and requires a minimum amount of Rs. Rs.800 in travelling, service charges and to purchase prescribed medicines, if any. During times of emergencies, it’s more difficult to find transport. There is lack of awareness on sanitation, hygiene and health practices among children, youth and community members. Priority to women’s health is still very less in her village. Early symptoms of any illness or diseases are ignored and medical assistance is accessed only when the illness reaches to critical stages.

When Sukumar got to know about the Arogya Sakhi – Village Health Leader and Entrepreneur program provided by SSP, she expressed high interest in the whole idea of providing preventive health and nutrition information, tests using tablets and small diagnostic devices to her community members at their doorstep. She was always interested in community work but being an Arogya Sakhi, it gave her an opportunity to earn additional income together with increased status in her household and in the village.

SSP Arogya Sakhi – Preventive health and Nutrition Education

The training on Preventive health and nutrition increased Sukumar’s knowledge on basic health, risks and preventive practices.

In partnership with Sofomo Embedded Solutions, practice sessions were conducted to enhance Sukumar’s capacities in handling diagnostic devices (Haemoglobin meter for anemia- HB, Diabetes, Blood Pressure, measurements for BMI, and more) and tablet devices.

Conduct tests with devices and enter the displayed results accordingly in the Arogya Sakhi application preinstalled in the tablet.

Deliver and share the analyzed reports to the beneficiaries. Dummy interviews were also conducted to enhance their communication approach required to reach out information on lifestyle illnesses, sanitation and nutrition linked health practices to communities.

“Providing doorstep accessibility of affordable preventive health & nutrition information and services is the best part of the Arogya Sakhi program” – shares Arogya Sakhi- Sukumar herself.

Practicing Preventive health care services:

Initially her neighbors were very doubtful. Many enquired about the whole program and approach in detail. Gradually, within the first month after her training she was able to reach out to around 25 families, provide information about rising lifestyle illnesses, sanitation – access to toilets, safe drinking water, preventive health care and nutrition sensitive, personal hygiene practices which were never available in the village before. She conducted six set of tests and provided reports.

She is confident that she will be able to reach out to maximum people, conduct more preventive tests and provide counseling, refer and link the beneficiaries who are at risk to the available local health clinics for further guidance.

Sukumar conducts group awareness meetings in the village to generate awareness across groups of pregnant women, women in SHG( Self Help Groups), adolescent girls and other community members. She mobilizes women and girls and encourages them to participate during health talks.

Way forward for Gaikwad

“As an Arogya Sakhi, I receive tremendous satisfaction while sharing my knowledge, educating people on health, hygiene and nutrition and providing fee based services in the village itself. None of them were easily accessible and affordable earlier.”

“Women and girls have started coming to me to discuss about their symptoms and I conduct single tests for them as well. Due to lack of information they tend to get scared, but I am now able to calm them and provide further information. Once they feel better or visit the doctor whom I refer, they spread the word during monthly SHG meetings and during village gatherings. More people enquire about the program then.” – Sukumar Gaikwad

Sukumar further mentioned that the earning opportunity on every test helps in securing additional income for the household. She shared that the community members have started looking at her in a different way –with more respect and higher status in the village. She shared that she has set monthly targets for herself and will try her best to meet it. She wants to spread information on preventive health care and nutrition together with basic sanitation products such as sanitary pads in her entire village and surrounding few villages in the coming months!



New agricultural practises spread through women SHGs

District:  Osmanabad

It takes a while for community to shift from traditional way of livelihood practices to bringing 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 how they 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, they have accessed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGS) to recharge water sources. New wells are constructed and ponds are revived through collective effort. Desilting fertile soils extracted while recharging the water sources and deposited in the farmland 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 mobilization of groups and accessed training from Krishi Vigyan Kendra. She has cultivated Papaya and Onion as inter crop and got a 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 from cash based agriculture to food crops that are needed for the family.” says Pushpa Basule.

Azola and hydroponic fodder cultivation has changed the life of many people in this area. This has happened with the partnership of KVK where they provided training for women groups and organised exposure trip to Agriculture University in Parbani. Trained women leaders came back and started the cultivation of Azola and Hydroponic which have high 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 Azola, 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 situations 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’s 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%,while in an ordinary bird it varies between 18-20%. This species have lower cholesterol (0.73-1.05%) than white chicken (13-25%).

Partnership

Women federation facilitated training on Azola and Hydroponic making in partnership with KVK and ATMA at Tuljpaur in February 2015. After a one day training session, women groups organised a learning visit to Buldana district in Maharashtra to see Azola, Hydroponics and Kadaknath chicken breed. Ten women leaders participated in the learning visit and they learned the benefits of business opportunities in preparation of Azola, Hydroponics and Kadaknath varieties. They were impressed with the health and nutritious aspects and business opportunity in starting this initiative. Encouraged by 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.

Impact

Archana Bosle, a leader from Devsingha village, Osmanabad district of Maharashtra 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 business with chicken breed which gives me good income.”

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

Archana Bhosle receives Sarva Utkrushta KrishiSamman Puraskar

Archana Bhosle 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.