"We were largely reliant on paddy for our sustenance prior to 2016, when PRADAN NGO introduced us to vegetable cultivation" Sunita Hasdeo, a 26 year old explained to us while travelling around her vegetation, "In 2017, I cultivated Brinjal in upper land, then Bitter gourd, and in 2019, I grew Brinjal again." Sunita, a woman from the Santhal tribe, is uneducated, yet she appreciates the PRADAN's assistance.
"My husband is a farmer, and agriculture is our family's primary source of income. Our livelihood has much improved as a result of vegetable cultivation; today we earn more than ₹ 15,000 per year from it in addition to our daily needs," Sunita explained. She now considers herself an "Agricultural entrepreneur" because she not only grows her own veggies but also encourages other women to start vegetable growing on their own land. Sunita resides in Sundarpari village, Godda, Jharkhand, where paddy is the principal crop. Paddy is often grown in lowland areas with sufficient water availability, whereas upper land is typically left uncultivated. These women used solar water lifters to irrigate the vegetable land as part of the STaRtuP (SHG driven Transformation of Rural Communities via Partnership) project, which was supported by the IKEA Foundation.
Sunita, who was carrying her five-year-old child, said, "At first, I was afraid to adopt this, but as time went on, I gained confidence, and other women were inspired by my development." In the next years, I plan to expand my farming operations and invest the savings in children's education.
"Our watermelon harvest was devastated last year because of the lockdown, but I will continue to practise vegetable growing because it is profitable," said Kailash Mahato, who has been in this business for four years. Kailash, who is just in his 12th year, earns more than Rupees 50,000 every year from this business. "I had built a nursery in which I grew the small plants and then sold them to the farmers for rupees one apiece," he explained. My relationship with farmers has grown in recent years since my plants produce higher yields than those available on the market."He recalls having to borrow ₹ 26,000 to pay for his brother's hospitalisation. I was depressed at the moment because the sum was quite large for a jobless person like me. "The training in Godda city was told to me by Prasanna from PRADAN. I was initially uninterested in it, but after visiting it, my feelings about it changed," Kailash explained. Now, I'm working on vegetation in areas larger than ten hectares. Kailash went on to say that as a result of this, his financial circumstances improved and he was able to pay off his debt.
"I don't know about the future, but I, like everyone else, aspired to send my children to good private schools. With this money, I'm also intending to open a new textile shop," Kailash revealed. He went on to say, "Because of this business, I know the farmers, thus it will be simpler for me to establish a customer base for my textile shop."
Pooja Hemdoha said her husband lost his job in Bangalore following the first lockdown and had to return to their home in Chakai, Bihar. Pooja recalled her financial position at the time: "Our financial situation was not good at the time; we had food to eat but no clothes to wear." Pooja joined the training of nursery production in 2019, she informed us. " I was sceptical at first because I was investing a significant chunk of money on it. But then I thought to myself, "Agar main Sahi Kar rahi hun to Dar kaisa." (If I'm doing the right thing, why should I be afraid?) Pooja made a profit of more than Rupees 5,000 in the first two batches. She also mentioned that she intends to get a sewing machine and expand her business.
Later, she explained to us why her saplings are of higher quality than those sold in stores: "I grew seed on trays, therefore my saplings are always free of soil pests." Instead of using fertilisers as commercial saplings, I used Coconut husk powder, which is good for growth." My customer recently complimented me, saying, "Your sapling produces an excellent and healthy crop." With a beaming smile, Pooja explained how she is establishing trust in the market and among the locals.
Pooja's business was difficult to start because she had to listen to society's taunts. "People in my community said horrible things to me and raised questions about me, but when they saw how I started making money, their mouths quickly zipped shut," Pooja recounted.
Muniya Murmu, the fifth woman in line, introduced herself as an "Agricultural Entrepreneur" as she stood in front of her 6-hectare nursery. Because of her outstanding efforts in nursery output over the previous two years, she has become an icon for her village women. "There is a great probability of locust assault during the rainy season, and even precipitation is damaging to these saplings," Muniya said why building this structure is vital for improved production. That is why we must use transparent polythene and netting to cover these plants." After getting training from PRADAN NGO, she gains confidence in herself and now earns more than forty thousand rupees yearly from her nursery.
"My husband used to work as a labourer, but now we both work in this nursery to make more money. I also informed him about the production, which piqued his interest." Muniya described how her husband assisted her as she was carrying her grandchild. Muniya is unfamiliar with any Indian entrepreneur's name, although she is well-versed in the agricultural industry. "Is it required to wear a coat and tie to become an entrepreneur?" she also inquired. Muniya comes from Bihar's Chakai region, where water scarcity is common, therefore relying solely on paddy crops is a dangerous thing to do."Vegetable output has expanded in recent years because we can no longer rely solely on rice to meet our nutritional needs." We were informed by her.
PRADAN NGO assisted in the training of all of these Agricultural Entrepreneurs. PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action) is India's most well-known organisation dedicated to alleviating large-scale rural poverty. PRADAN's programme was supported by the IKEA Foundation's STaRtuP (SHG driven transformation of Rural Communities via Partnership) project.