Vidya Kush Randive
Total of five members in household Two children aged 17 and 19 Mandwa Village, Osmanabad Four- acre farm “My daughter [Aakansha] wants to eat vegetables much more than before. And she has also noticed a change in the taste – she thinks that the food we grow is much tastier than what we used to buy before in the market and she has told me this herself. For example, she never liked fenugreek, but since she tried the fenugreek that we grow, she has started to like it and now eats it! There has also been a change in her health – she rarely gets sick and now her hemoglobin levels are good.”
“Before connecting with SSP, I was simply a housewife - I never worked on the farm myself and never had any interest to do so,” admits Vidya. At the time, her husband was responsible for the maintenance and operation of the farm and was using a range of chemicals on their land to grow cash crops like jowar, soya, sugarcane, cotton, and wheat. Not only did the chemicals cost Vidya’s family a significant amount of money, but they also severely degraded the quality of their soil making it hard and dry, which resulted in very low production levels. As Vidya confirms, “we were spending more money trying to keep the farm going and we made less money from the things we grew on our land.” Annually, they were just managing to generate about INR 30,000 – 40,000 of income. In addition to the financial burdens associated with maintaining the farm, Vidya was spending about a minimum of INR 1,400 a month on fruits, vegetables, and meat at the market to feed her family. All in all, this chemically-based, mono-crop farming model presented the Randive’s with more of a burden than an opportunity to create a self-sustaining livelihood.
Vidya’s journey with SSP began in April of 2018. While attending trainings, she was made aware of the manifold benefits of organic farming, and was equipped with the skills and know-how to begin producing her own organic fertilizers and pesticides. After experiencing first-hand the success of these methods while testing them on her land, it wasn’t long before she began trying to convince her husband to abandon the chemically produced cash crops in favour of the organic, diversified model that SSP had introduced her. She remembers that, “when I was trying to convince my family to switch to organic methods, I gave them demonstrations to show them the benefits of switching, but my husband still had doubts.
Then, I grew some vegetables myself organically and showed my husband - after that he was convinced that this would be a good thing for our family, so we made the change.” Now, rather than growing 4 acres of the same 5 cash crops, Vidya is growing almost 30 different varieties of fruits, vegetables, and pulses including spinach, fenugreek, chuka, dill, chili, potato, onion, tomato, bitter gourd, pumpkin, brinjal, guvar, ridge gourd, lady finger, garlic, mango, guava, custard apple, jamun, moong dal, toor dal, chana dal, udad dal, masoor, moth beans, cow peas, and kidney beans.
The family has also since invested in purchasing 2 oxen and 2 cows, with which they produce milk, ghee, and curd for home consumption. Since switching to organic, the financial burdens that once threatened the existence of their farm have been lifted and, “now that we are farming organically, we have to spend nothing on inputs to be able to grow, and because our production levels are higher, we make much more money than before,” Vidya confirms. Her training with SSP has also given her the confidence and capacities to create new earning opportunities by starting her own business selling milk to the dairy, as well as producing and selling jaggery. Collectively, these two businesses now earn Vidya and her family about INR 1.5 lakh annually.
Her family’s overall health has also experienced significant changes as a result of shifts in their farming methods and eating patterns, “the percentage of sickness – in particular stomach pains – is much less now than it was before when we were eating foods grown with chemicals. We also eat many more vegetables than before so our diets are much more nutritious now.” Vidya also asserts that this improvement in health extends beyond the personal level and is noticeable on an environmental level, “since starting to farm organically, the percentage of worms in my soil has increased; the soil is much smoother and less dry, and our production levels are much higher. We have also noticed many more butterflies on our farm.”
“I was not interested in working on the farm before but now I am comfortable to do it and it has become a responsibility of mine,” Vidya says. This appreciation for and knowledge of organic farming methods is something that Vidya has since shared with her two children, “I have taught my children that the productivity of the soil is much higher when we grow organically, and it is much better for our health because the things that are grown organically contain many more nutrients than the foods that are grown chemically.
Also, I have taught them that growing organically is much more economical because we make all the things we need ourselves and we do not have to buy anything.” In particular, Vidya has been sure to pass on what she has learned to her seventeen-year-old daughter, Aakansha, “I have taught my daughter how to farm organically. Whenever I give demonstrations and trainings to other women my daughter is present, and in this way, she has learned these methods herself – things like using jivaamrut and dashparniack instead of harmful chemical pesticides – so, if one day she marries someone who has their own farm she will be able to continue farming safely and organically.”