Case Studies

Raising a village through women empowerment

Village Development, Ghospur, Bihar

Ghospur village in Bihar was a vision of poor infrastructure some years ago. To the villagers there, life implied many compromises: they put up with lack of roads and toilets, little access to clean water, inadequate anganwadis and no hospital care. This was until three women, Renuka Devi, Ganda Devi and Kausalya Devi, helped the community solve these problems with SSP’s intervention.

Bihar’s Ghospur village is vulnerable to recurrent floods. Around 100 households here depend on agriculture. Lack of good road and transport infrastructure made it difficult for villagers to carry patients and pregnant women to hospitals. The village is located far from the nearest town Birpur, and the community lived with little access to town amenities.

SSP teamed with another organisation Ghoghardia Prakhand Swarajya Vikas Sangh to set up a self help group (SHG) in Ghospur. Kausalya Devi, Ganda Devi and Renuka Devi took initiatives to organise and mobilise women and train them on the need for conducting vulnerability mapping on disaster preparation and sustainable livelihoods. Over 30 women participated in the initial mapping exercises, which identified the many challenges faced by the community.“We got orientation and awareness from women leaders from other villages on how to work together to improve your village through mapping, identifying problems and solutions,” says Ganda Devi.

The issues named included lack of roads and public toilets, inadequate clean water for drinking and irrigation with no raised hand pumps for water, lack of an anganwadis, and improper ambulance services. House structures were weak; there were sand deposits in agricultural land, and no high-land was available for the villagers during floods. The villagers also suffered from losses in agriculture. The mapping made villagers aware of their own risks and vulnerabilities and the SHGs called upon community leaders and ward members to jointly discuss these problems and identify solutions. “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,” says Kausalya Devi.

Today, Ghospur is a case in point for women driving community development through leadership, change in attitude and vision, by mobilising self help groups.

Congratulate her on what she accomplished for her community, and Renuka Devi says,“If we won’t, then who will? Many people also compliment our determination and that we have been able to build a relationship with the local government.”

Making organic farming a way of life

Eco-friendly Farming, Godiyari, Bihar

Farming in Godiyari village is no easy occupation, given the yearly floods and unpredictable weather changes in the region. Shila Devi’s entrepreneurial spirit makes her a model agriculturist, who validated that sustainable agriculture can be successfully practised in disaster-prone areas through organic means.

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 and therefore, income, at a time when input costs of farming are very high.

Shila benefitted from the initiative held by SSP and Kanchan Seva Ashram in 2014 to introduce sustainable agricultural practices in climate change-affected and disaster-prone communities. 20 women from the area were chosen to participate in a training program on sustainable practices in agriculture. Shila was one of them, and this proved to be a life-transforming experience for her. Shila has a cow and an acre of agricultural land where she and her husband, Shri Ram Chandra, cultivated mustard, wheat, onion and vegetables. In Lucknow, she had learnt how to prepare bio-compost and natural pesticide using local leaves, and decided to prepare it on her own. When she started using the bio-compost, neighbours asked her about the ‘new medicine.’ She shared her knowledge. The response was very positive, motivating her to prepare larger quantities of the pesticide and market it. She says, “This biopesticide is the best alternative to chemical pesticides bought from the market that are costly, damage crops, the environment, and affect our health.”

The production cost of the biopesticide was INR 10/- per litre but Shila sold it for INR 30/- per litre. In six months, she was able to purchase a buffalo solely to use its urine to meet the growing demand for the pesticide. She now earns INR 3000/- per month by selling bio-pesticide and INR 6500/- per season from vegetable sales. Around 40% of the farmers in Godiyari use this pesticide.

As a leader of the self help group Ahilya Mahila Mandal, Shila has been encouraging the community to take small steps to address issues linked to the impact of climate change and floods on agriculture. She has set in motion an interest in eco-friendly farming practices such as the use of bio-pesticide and vermin compost that improve soil fertility and crop health. Most importantly, she has trained eleven other women in this work, all within one year.

When women taught a village to survive floods

Resilience Building, Malkoshkapur, Bihar

Circumstances have significantly improved for the residents of Malkoshkapur village in recent years. The village, situated near Nepal, used to be hard hit by frequent flooding. And, agriculture, a major livelihood here, was always the prime victim. What brought the waves of change in the village, were women’s self help groups led by Ranjana Devi and Lalita Devi. These women, with peers in SSP-led self help groups, contributed greatly to transform the agricultural landscape in the region, through disaster-resilient farming techniques.

Says Ranjana Devi, “Whenever you do any good work in the village, think about development.” Corroborates Lalita Devi, “We contributed money and work in field together. We want to take our community forward.”

The village of Malkoshkapur, located in Supaul district near the Nepal border, regularly experiences flooding, made more frequent by climate changes. Sand deposits from the Kosi floods have destroyed the fertile land, soil and the environment, considerably reducing family incomes. Here, women leaders have implemented 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. This cooperative effort brought significant changes to their lives. At a learning exchange between the Malkoshkapur SHG and women’s groups in Jagir Araji 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.

After the severe floods in 2008, SSP teamed with our partner NGO in Bihar GPSVS, to mobilise women community into SHGs. Collective initiatives by women’s groups have led to joint efforts in agriculture and livelihood practices to address climate change in Birpur. We see this as a victory for our partnership with GPSVS and joint efforts with the grassroots networks in Bihar.

Reaping the harvests of organic farming

Organic farming, Ansurda, Tuljapur, Osmanabadr

“You can reduce household expenses by growing and eating organic food-” Rajashree Mane’s words echo the sentiments of her peers in the Ansurda village. Ansurda is witness to the positive impact that community oriented women groups can have on local agricultural landscape. Farmers in the village have disposed of chemical fertilizers, and the use of organic fertilizers to improve farm-yield has now become a way of life for the villagers.

Rajashree Mane of Ansurda, a village of 160 households, is a model leader. 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, an agriculture group, and they enthusiastically did it with 16 members in 2014. The first initiative of Krishi Ghat was to take women to Krishi Vigyan Kendra to be trained in inter-crops, preparation of land, waste management, soil testing and seed preparation.

6 women from Ansurda village attended SSP’s training on eco-friendly agricultural practices in 2014. These leaders motivated other women to start agriculture with fewer chemicals. Now, the women have quit using chemicals and instead prepare their own bio-compost and organic manure to experiment in their small plots of land. The main crops are soyabean, jowari, harbara, tur and moong. Rajashree also took part in a training on making vermicompost 6 months ago, and 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 crop, depending on the season.

Former postmaster becomes award winning organic farmer

Farming, Devsinga, Osmanabad

“Women should do farming. We need to cultivate to consume our own food. Who will make it for us?” asks Archana Patil of Marathwada’s Devsinga village. Agriculturist, business woman, women’s leader and a former postmaster, Archana has donned many hats in this village.

To the women in Devsinga, she is a model leader and an inspiration. Practising what she learnt at the Krishi Mahila Mandal and SSP’s self help groups, Archana proved that scientific methods of farming could help farmers reap abundant yield. “We should be courageous to do innovative work. Even if we don’t have anything, we can do miracles,” she says, encouraging her peers to try non traditional farming techniques.

Archana comes from Devsinga in drought-prone Marathwada where climate change has meant decreasing rainfall and soil degradation. She worked as a postmaster for the past ten years. She finds time between official work to do developmental activities for the village. For instance, she motivates other women in the community about government systems, and volunteers to escort the poor among the community to government offices and departments.

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 INR 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 INR 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 Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Tuljapur and Agriculture University, Parbani in 2013 and 2014. Women’s groups were selected for the training on soil and water testing, land mulching, seed germination tests, preparing amrit jal, amrit mitti, vermin compost, animal care and fodder management.

Hardworking, enterprising and committed as a leader in the Krishi Mahila Mandal and Self Help Groups, Archana has motivated others to be active and to keep learning.

Archana and her husband own 10 acres of land, of which 5 acres are irrigated. The couple prepare biopesticides (Dash parni) to use in their field. Through continuous inputs and care, the land has become fertile, and productivity and quality have improved. Archana took one gunta land from her husband and introduced new crops using her own seeds, growing palak, mirchi, kothambir, etc. on an experimental basis. When the productivity increased in the second season, she started cultivation of tur, moong and vegetables in one acre, using the seeds she prepared.

Apart from the farming business she also has dairy business and later, forayed into fodder cultivation. Archana taught the new practices to 15 village communities and more than 2000 women are aware of the initiatives in Devsinga. In 2014, 200 women members from Jalna district visited Devsinga village to see the best practices through MSRLM programme. Archana has participated in 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.

Beating life’s odds through entrepreneurship

Tailoring services and General Store, Bhudora, Latur

Savita from Bhudora village is a successful business woman today. She brims with pride as she narrates how she overcame the hardships life threw her way. Married as a young adolescent, Savita saw her share of poverty, until SSP’s E-school training empowered her to take charge of her life and improve her business. She took one step a time, and built a successful tailoring business that has secured her family financially.

Savita is a resident of Bhudora Village, around 9 kms away from Aausa taluka in Latur district. She was married when she was 12 years old and has three children- two daughters and a son. Earlier, Savita and her husband used to work in the farms. Eventually, however, they gave up that job, as working in farms owned by others paid very less– at around INR 10 per day. Savita had to attend to her children at home and she wanted to earn for her children while staying at home. This motivated her to launch a small tailoring business: sewing dresses, blouses, pico and falls that she has been engaged in during the past 11 years.

Savita was always looking out for opportunities to earn for her children and to be independent. When the SSP team visited the villages to introduce the E-School training to the women, Savita felt that it would help her learn more, develop better knowledge and grow her business. Therefore, she enrolled herself in the E-school and attended a ten- day entrepreneurship training program. She points out that the training in January 2013 has positively impacted her business as well as her personality. The training has helped her in many ways. For instance, it gave her knowledge about wholesale markets and made her a prudent buyer while sourcing raw materials. The training also made her more independent in her business purchases. She was also trained in strong accounting practices, making her a better administrator. Savita also honed her marketing skills and takes care to display her products well and to converse well with her clients.

Savita now earns around INR 3500 to INR 5000 per month, depending on the season, and aims to expand her general stores and tailoring business. She proudly states that she has saved close to INR 2,00,000 as fixed deposit for the education of her eldest daughter.

Grassroots women unite to save Chivri village

Farming, Chivri, Osmanabad

One phonecall from Vanita Manshetty to SSP’s women’s leader Godavari transformed the fate of Chivri village. Vanita wanted to form women farmers’ groups in Chivri, and initiate transformational work in agriculture in the village. To Chivri’s farmlands, bogged down by excessive use of chemicals and severe drought conditions, that fresh intervention was a welcome respite, and a turning point.

Chivri is a small village situated near Tuljapur in Osmanabad district. Agriculture is the main source of income for the community. Chemicals were highly used in agriculture. Due to this, climate changes and overuse of water for cash crops like sugarcane affected the community badly. They faced water scarcity and drought situations every year. This lead to low output in agriculture as well as income. Water for drinking and irrigation was also scarce in the village.

To address the issues in the village, SSP mobilised women’s groups to learn innovative practices to implement in the village. It was not easy in the beginning. Women’s federation leaders like Godavari and Leela used to visit this village and try to mobilise women’s groups to address the issues faced by the community. But the community was not interested in activities apart from the regular savings in SHGs. Godavari however did not give up. She continued her visits and on one occasion she invited women’s groups to participate in an agriculture fair organised by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Tuljapur in 2013. The fair was jointly organised by Women Federation, Tuljapur and KVK. The event was an exhibition for organic agricultural products cultivated by women groups, along with learning and sharing best practises among the participating groups. The event was also a recognition for women’s groups from KVK as change makers in local development.

Four women including Vanita Manshetty and Amarja Tai participated in the Krishi Melava and were drawn by the collective initiatives launched by women’s groups in agriculture from other villages. This prompted Vanita to consider doing something similar in her village. On the same night, at around 11 pm, Godavari got a call from Vanita saying that they wished to form women farmers’ groups in Chivri. Godavari was moved by Vanita’s call and her enthusiasm. Now Godavari and SSP’s network of women SHGs are bringing in transformation in the village.

Standing tall against all odds

Kirana shop and flour grinder, Bhudora, Latur

Usha Kamble is one of the many women leaders who make SSP proud. From a life of hardships, as a young and unlearned mother with children and meagre means, Usha rose to becoming a successful entrepreneur. This was all thanks to her E-school training.

Usha Kamble, resident of Bhudora village in Latur has been looking after her Kirana shop for the past 15 years now. She married at a very early age of 9 years when she was studying in standard 3 and her husband was a student in standard 9, aged 14 years. Usha is a mother of five children – three daughters and two sons, four of them married now.

Usha was drawn to SSP’s E-school during one of our teams visited her village. She enrolled in a ten-day entrepreneurship training, which she claims to have helped her tremendously.

Now she knows what type of products to sell, from where to source her raw materials and how to strategize promotional offers. Usha is now adept with business concepts such as goal settings and marketing. She tells us that their joint monthly income from the mill has increased by INR 1000-2000 per month.

Usha’s wanted to further expand her business by making noodles- she already had the flour grinder, and the shop to sell, but she was challenged by lack of finances. SSP’s SHG helped her avail two loans for Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000 towards this venture. Later, Usha repaid her loans, married off her four children and has healthy savings in the co-operatives in case of future uncertainties.

Making a case for women entrepreneurship

Tailoring services, Gangapur, Latur

Savita, a successful entrepreneur in Latur’s Gangapur, is thankful for the grooming she received at SSP’s E-school. The school helped sharpen her marketing and customer management skills. Today, Savita manages a growing business successfully.

Savita is from Gangapur village in Latur. She got married soon after she was 18 years old and has two daughters. She yearned to have some income for her personal needs and started a handicrafts business towards this. Initial products were sundry items such as decorative pieces- using ice cream sticks, thermocol and many more, commonly used and demanded during village weddings. Since the demand for these handicrafts products would be very seasonal, Savita had to think about another alternative. Slowly and gradually, she saved enough money and initiated her tailoring services specialising in Punjabi dresses and blouse. Her business has been running for over a year now.

Savita attended the entrepreneurship training from SSP’s E-school last year, and the training helped her in multiple ways. For one, it helped her in customer relationships, communicating politely and in taking wise decisions.

Knowledge about customer relationship and management also proved to be very vital for her. Along the way, Savita stopped working on credit. Result: she has seen a rise in demand, from around 10-20 customers prior to the training, to nearly 50-60 customers after the training.

Weaving a good future for her family

Shop and Vegetable Store, Bori, Latur

Married at a young age and with three daughters to look after, the future appeared bleak for Rajashree, until entrepreneurship came calling. With SSP’s E-school training, Rajashree soon became an expert businesswoman, handling raw material sourcing and marketing strategies to catapult her business.

Rajashree married at the age of 15 and has three daughters. She was engaged in tailoring business. Her husband ran a ration shop and was a daily wage labourer in a bank and wanted to start his own venture. The couple took a loan on Rajashree’s sewing machine and her tailoring business to start a shop.

After Rajashree attended SSP’s E- school training, she was better equipped to deal with product pricing and prudent raw material sourcing practices. She also learnt about customer management. Rajashree is now an expert with the functioning of the wholesale markets and strategizing marketing techniques to push revenues. The training has helped her to ideate like an entrepreneur and use strong accounting practices.

Rajashree is now focussed on offering good education to her children and building a better house for the family.

A homemaker turned adept entrepreneur

Dairy, Gangapur, Latur

Sheetal Futane does not shy away from dreaming. Her life has taught her that a woman can play multiple roles in a family- that of a breadwinner, a caretaker, as well as a farmer. With SSP’s support, Sheetal has scripted success in her dairy business, and now has her eyes on foraying into beauty business.

Sheetal got married while studying in 11th standard and has been married for 12 years. Severe water scarcity in the village had forced her in-laws and other farmers to shift their focus to dairy business.

Sheetal got enrolled in SSP’s E-school, and used her learnings to boost her dairy business. She applied the concepts to customer relationships and expanded the business to boost their daily income.

She also convinced her family to dig borewells in the farmland, putting an end to their water woes. Most importantly, Sheetal can now afford to send her children to an English medium school in Latur on a hired van. Sheetal is interested in learning beautician courses and wishes to start a beauty parlour of her own in future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *