|Ramanius: Selling Seeds of Prosperity|
“No one in Tukku Toli had adequate food to last a year. We had to sell firewood for our own hearths. For about three or four months every year, we would leave home early, cut wood in the faraway forest and then trudge 15 km. to Gumla to sell it. There were few buyers and many of us sellers and we were forced to accept whatever we were offered. I would buy rice with the Rs. 10 or Rs. 15 I got at the end of the day. Food would be cooked only when I came home at night.” – Ramanius
Ramanius is an agriculture service provider and owner of a seed and fertilizer store. Being the eldest son, he was left with the task of taking care of his four brothers and two sisters after they lost their parents early.
Farming was the main source of livelihood for Ramanius and his fellow villagers in Tukku Toli. But while most of them have land, they suffered from lack of irrigation. “I have nine acres, around three each of upland and valley and two acres on hilltops,” relates Ramanius. “But we were at the mercy of rains. If the rains were good, paddy would last us eight or nine months. Otherwise life was very tough.” Compounding the situation was the fact that farming practices in the area had not changed over the centuries. Ramanius says, “I had not heard of high-yielding varieties and never made a nursery for paddy. We would throw seeds in the field and run a plough through it. I was scared of fertilizers as elders said they make the land barren.”
Five years ago, Ramanius witnessed PRADAN’s work in a nearby village, and decided to invite the staff to visit Tukku Toli. He gathered the villagers together and sought the help of two SHGs. Aware of how poor his family was, the women invited Ramanius to join the all-woman SHG as the sole adult in his family. He was also chosen as the group’s accountant. “Loans of even Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 were not available before we formed the SHG,” recounts Ramanius. “Sometimes, I could not find money even for medical emergencies. I had never seen a bank. We were afraid of banks as we thought they would put us in jail if we took loans and failed to repay.”
PRADAN’s assistance in Tukku Toli remained constant over time. A couple of years back, PRADAN installed a lift irrigation system in the village. Although Ramanius’ farm could not be included in the system, he still benefited from the new farming practices which were introduced to the village by PRADAN. He proudly says, “I was the first to use new paddy seeds and also the first to take a loan for agriculture from the SHG at 2% a month. I borrowed Rs. 5,000 for a pair of oxen and Rs. 7,000 to start a seed and fertilizer shop. I repaid both within five months.”
In the last three years, Ramanius’ paddy output has grown from 2,840 kg to 7,300 kg. He leased in a tenth of an acre of the newly irrigated land to grow winter vegetables in 2003 and earned Rs. 10,500 by selling those. When PRADAN personnel asked villagers to identify someone to be trained to assist them in farming, they named Ramanius as their unanimous choice. They were even willing to pay for his services. Says Ramanius, “PRADAN taught me new ways of farming and how to take care of farm animals. Now I, along with another person from a nearby village, provide veterinary care to livestock in seven villages. This brings in Rs. 3,000 a year.”
Ramanius also earned Rs. 5,500 from his makeshift seed and fertilizer shop in its first eight months of existence. He expects to earn more in the kharif season. The villagers have benefited too, with technical help and quality inputs for agriculture and livestock rearing well within their reach. Ramanius also brings them the latest market information. He dreams of setting up a pucca seed and fertiliser shop so that, all round the year, every villager has access to good seeds and fertilizers.
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