Lalita Mahto (32) lives with her husband and two children in Rola village, of Gola Block in Ramgarh district, Jharkhand. The primary occupation of her family is agriculture. Spouse of a daily wage labourer, Lalita grew paddy in Kharif season and some vegetables and potatoes during Rabi on her 0.4 acre of land. From buying seeds, and fertilizers, to selling her vegetables and paddy, she had to visit the nearby market. Most of the time, she would take her harvest to the market in the morning and came home after selling them in the evening. But many a times due to fluctuating demands either her vegetables used to remain unsold, or at times she would give away her produce at throwaway prices. Most of the days when she was unable to sell vegetables, not only did she lose money in commuting a distance of 5 kms, but also ended up wasting her time and effort.
Most of the times she would walk down the distance or would depend on her husband for conveyance whenever the produce was too much for her to carry on her own. Lalita shared “मार्किट में बेचने जाओ तो सुबह ही निकलना होता है, आधा पैसा तो गाड़ी भाड़ा में ही चला जाता है... कभी कभी तो कुछ भी नहीं बचता”
During the COVID-19 crisis, her husband, who worked as a wage labourer, remained unemployed. Also, since there was a restricted mobility, it became very difficult to go to market and sell vegetables. One day, while returning home from the market she got to know about an FPO-related meeting from her neighbour. She was eager to know about the purpose and functioning of the FPO, so she attended the meeting. In the meeting she got to know about the services provided by the FPO. She immediately gave INR 500 to the CRP (Community Resource Person) and became a member of Mannonati Mahila Kisan Producer Company Limited (PCL). In the Producer Group (PG) meeting, each member planned for their crop basket and generated their collective indent with the support of FPO supervisors. FPO supervisors and CRPs provided technical assistance and PoP (Package of Practices) training to all the PG members. Surendra, who is the CRP of that area, helped Lalita and her husband to learn about FPO and its services and provided training in agriculture inputs (crops, pest management, and livelihood planning) which gave her confidence that she could utilise her land to its full potential. With continuous support, field visits, and training over time, the member farmers also did collective marketing.
Lalita received seeds of paddy, watermelon, peas, and brinjal seedlings from the FPO at lower than the market price, and right at her doorstep. Also, while selling the harvest, she got full support from the FPO. She earned INR 20,000 in the Kharif season and INR 15,000 in Rabi and INR 13,000 in the summer season, thanks to the FPO marketing support. Lalita Devi says, “अब मुझे बाहर नहीं जाना होता सब्जी बेचने के लिए, मै अपने घर और बाड़ी पर भी ज्यादा ध्यान दे पाती हू साथ ही मुझे पहले से ज्यादा कमाई भी हुयी है” I have now planned to cultivate multiple crops on my land, and earn much more in the process.”
Lalita wants both her sons, Aditya and Vivek, to get enrolled in private school nearby where the quality of education is far better. Sunil, is a regular migrant to cities like Mumbai and Delhi where he works as a daily wage worker. She aspires to open a grocery store for him from the additional income she is started earning from agriculture so that he need not migrate to other cities for work. She also aspires to make a washroom in the near future for her family so that they do not need to go outside for defecation.
All these changes in Lalita’s life have been possible because of the support from the LEAP project supported by the Walmart Foundation. Lalita thanked Mannonati Mahila Kisan PCL for its continuous support and making her believe that agriculture can be seen as an income generation activity.
Edited by: Sudhir Sahni & Souparno Chatterjee, New Delhi