Renuka has not much recollection of her two-three years in school. Her husband, Lakhi Ram, had never been to a school. The dire economic circumstances during their childhood meant that education was never a priority for the family. They came from the most distressed group in rural India – the category of landless.
For years the family survived by working as labourers. But that meant long stretches away from home; away from their four children. A fate similar to theirs was looming large on their next generation too.
So, when the family saw the potential of share-cropping in about three acres of land in their own village, Chandwal Para, in the Mangaldoi district of Assam, they entered into a quick agreement with the land o wner, who had migrated for business to the town headquarters. This was six years back. This arrangement, of sharing half the produce, relieved the family of travelling to other villages for survival. They could now all stay together under the same roof throughout the year. Agriculture production was low but the family managed to stay afloat.
In the year 2016, NGO SeSTA organized the women of two villages (Chandwal Para was one of the village) into Farmers Producers Organisation, under the ITC project. Rigorous training and application of organic soil and pest management immediately brought down the cost of farm inputs. Farmers began to use Jeev Amrit (organic fertilizer), vermicompost, green manuring and organic pesticide for their crops with diligence. Introduction of System of Root Intensification (SRI) technique in paddy aided in reducing the seed requirement from 30 kg to mere 1 kg per acre. The production went up on an average from 10 quintals per acre to 18 quintals. Introduction of best practices in vegetable cultivation also ensured immediate cash income for families.
For Renuka and Lakhi Ram, these new methods of agriculture practices were akin to going back to school finally. Like curious children, they judiciously undertook all agricultural training workshops and enthusiastically implemented them on their leased farm. There was not just a marked increase in their crop production but also a remarkable increase in their confidence. In the following year, apart from the existent lease for paddy farming, they took an additional 0.7 acres of upland for Rs. 1,500 to grow vegetables through organic SRI technique. Utilizing a small perennial stream flowing next to their land, they even cultivated summer paddy.
In the year 2019, the family has sold more than Rs 45,000 worth of paddy and Rs 7,000 worth of vegetables.