“At the age of thirteen, I was married off to a man of 45. At fourteen, I had a son. At fifteen, I was a widow. My in-laws bullied and exploited me, then kicked me out and kept my son. A rich man adopted me. In the daytime I worked on his land. He gave me a small salary. I also did nightshifts to earn money to give my son a better education, later on in life.
Then, one day, a farmers’ organization came to my village, and asked if I was interested in organic agriculture. I said I was. In 1992, I started as a volunteer, and now I take care of eight farmers groups.
My own organic farm is about five acres. I grow millet, sorghum, chickpea, and cotton. I have two bulls, one cow and a cart. I bring other farmers to my field to show what organic agriculture is.
Creating a farmers’ groups starts with identifying people who are interested and who have a lot of biodiversity. In my village alone, some fifty farmers showed up. I selected twenty of them to start enterprise development. Members contribute 100 Rupiah per month. A committee of five members takes care of environmental issues, seeds, financial management and information. They keep note of every aspect, from input to output, from irrigation and compost to the amount of workers and the revolving funds.
We also run an organic shop, and every Friday we have an organic bazaar in two cities to sell our certified products, and to raise awareness among consumers. Farmers sell directly to the customers, mainly lower and middle class people. We do not deal with middlemen, so the income of the farmers is even higher.
In ten years, the amount of organic producers in our groups has grown to about 1,100.
Being a development animator, I have access to a lot of knowledge on health and agriculture. My biggest reward is social status and knowledge; not money.”
Institute for Integrated Rural Development (IIRD): www.iird.org.in