When women are economically and socially empowered, they become a potent force for a positive change. Here is the story of Allu Narayanamma which takes us through a journey of her interest in sustainable agriculture.
A parched land of 3 acres is the only asset Allu Narayanamma owns. Of this, paddy is being grown on half of the land under rainfed conditions. On the remaining land there is a mango orchard, which has very low productivity. While the income from farm is quite negligible, wage work, especially under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme) is the major source of income for the family. Her husband used to migrate to Gujarat to work in dredging activity along with other villagers. She had the entire responsibility of taking care of the household. This was the situation of Allu Narayanamma and her family in GC Palli village of Rajam Mandal in Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh.
Helping hand through VFA
RF BIJ (Reliance Foundation – Bharat India Judo), Rural Transformation programme started the intervention in GC Palli village with a vision of developing a holistic, self-reliant and sustainable model of rural transformation. Starting in the year 2010, RF focussed in supporting farming households to bring them out of poverty and make farming as an assured livelihood option.
The farmers in GC Palli village were organised into an association called Yugandhar Village Farmers Association (VFA) in 2009-10. Each household represented by man and woman (i.e. husband & wife) is a member of the association. The household membership ensures dual membership which not only helps break the gender barrier, but also enables women to take up development initiatives and leadership positions. After getting to know about fellow farmers joining VFA, Narayanamma volunteered to become the member of VFA. Despite less interest in first year of intervention, she attended the VFA meetings regularly. To enhance women’s active participation, Yugandhar VFA organized Women Empowerment training program. The training brought positivity in women members who volunteered to have women meetings at least once in a month to share and play a key role in VFA activities.
Eco-friendly farming – Moving from an idea to practice
With improved motivation, Narayanamma approached the VFA requesting for support in developing her waste land into cultivable land and make farming a sustainable profession. She actively participated in training programs conducted by VFA on Sustainable Agriculture Practices (SAP). She strongly believes that improving soil health is the most important aspect of farming and its sustenance.
Narayanamma, with her keenness, got trained in SAP. She got trained in soil sample collection, analysis of soil test reports, seed germination test, seed treatment, preparation of organic extracts such as panchagavya, neem leaf extract, jeevamrutham etc.
Her meticulous efforts in preparation of organic formulations, when applied to her paddy nursery, gave good results. Her nursery survived even during the dry spell. This motivated her towards reducing the input costs. She reduced the usage of chemical pesticides and fertilizers on her farm and progressed towards sustainable and eco-friendly farming techniques. With her influence, group of women members came together to prepare organic formulations and used as per the crop requirements. This initiative also helped the women to develop good relationship in building VFA as a strong and sustainable institution.
A never ending learning desire made her to attend all the possible trainings on SAP. She learnt about sustainable practices in paddy crop and incorporated the usage of botanical formulations. She practised line sowing and utilized certified seeds which impacted her paddy production. She stood as an example for other farmers within the VFA and other neighbouring VFAs in promoting chemical free eco-friendly farming.
She strongly believed that working with the ecology will benefit her own family, village and environment. Her constant efforts yielded her with bumper production of 24 quintals per hectare, which earlier was only 16-18 qtls per hectare. Her net income has increased from Rs.850 to Rs.16450 which motivated her family members also to join the venture. The waste land was developed into a cultivable land for production of pulses and other food grains for family consumption.
|“Earlier we used to eat only brinjal and beans available in the village. But now, we consume 10 types of vegetables cultivated in my roof garden thus reducing the cost incurred for vegetables” says Narayanamma.|
Beyond crop production
Producing own seeds to reduce the market dependency is one of the core activities that the VFA supported. She was one among the seed producers who was trained in technical aspects of seed propagation. She established a seed production plot in one acre of land which yielded 27 quintals of seed. The seeds were sold to 68 members in VFA which could suffice to cultivate 90 acres of paddy seed (MTU-1001 variety). This is equivalent to 50% of the seed requirement of the village.
Her interest enabled her to get elected as Executive Committee(EC) member in the second year of VFA. She took up the lead role in sensitising and influencing fellow farmers about the usage of organic formulation. She started training others by sharing her knowledge with fellow farmers. Recognising her interest, she was provided opportunities to share her knowledge on various eco-friendly aspects in district level meetings and during the technical sessions organised by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), ATMA and farmer training centres.
Being an active woman leader in the VFA, she took major responsibility in organizing theme based meetings i.e. food security and nutrition security, with members of association.
She further developed her expertise in roof top gardening which sufficed the requirement of vegetables for her family. She took lead in ensuring sufficient nutrition for the households by promoting kitchen gardens. Around 7 -12 types of vegetables were grown and consumed daily by the members.
Her knowledge and hard work graduated her from being a member to become the Vice President of VFA. She ably developed a routine of organising EC (Executive Committee) meetings to understand the problems and have a broader perspective on the progress of the VFA and its way forward. One of the major social changes that she brought along with her fellow VFA members is banning of alcohol in GC Palli village.
Beacon of hope
Allu Narayanamma is now a renowned person in the region where all villagers and women admire her for relentless efforts. She became a resource person not only for her village but nearby villages as well. Her husband also stopped migrating and started working on his farm.
Allu Narayanamma is an asset to the Village Association and an inspiration to other women. Presently, there are 160 members in VFA organised into 10 subgroups, each having 15 members. The sub groups in the VFA are now aspiring for holistic development and have started seeking out convergence with government schemes for improving their lives.
Ranchitha Kumaran and Siva Krishna Babu
RCP, Project Office, 1st floor
Ghansoli, Navi Mumbai- 400701