Bhagirath Gujar is Dotana's village leader. He explains that, in addition to the biogas plants there, each family has been equipped with a smokeless chullah, and 8 families have taken up horticulture, which is in each case supported by drip irrigation provided by the Institute. Originally, there was no interest in the biogas initiative, but with persistence of KIGS, Kamala Devi and Moti Devi started to use smokeless chullahs and horticulture and realized its benefits. When the plants come to maturity and begin yielding fruit, and income, the typical pattern will emerge, wherein other families will realize the soundness of the new practices, and also resort to these practices for their own development. The main obstacle in this issue is not the prohibitive costs but the stubborn and rigid behaviour of the villagers to resort to new practices. Once they are persuaded and start using, the subsidies are gradually withdrawn. When the interest of the villagers is generated and they are able to build their own community fund of Mahila Mandal new families can draw finance and begin to adopt the new programmes to support themselves in a sustainable manner.
Kaluram and Sheoji are from the village Dotana. They took up the cultivation of fruit plants, including lemon (50 trees each), guava (30 plants each) and karondas (also 30 plants each), which are an excellent source of iron. They had never deviated from the straightforward cultivation of wheat and mustard, before their contact with KIGS. Their new diversification is one year old now, and is mixed with their normal practices, which are maintained. They contributed 20% of the price of the fruit plants. As it becomes clear that they represent a valuable source of additional income, and also a healthy new dietary dimension, other villages are asking about taking up similar initiatives. These new plants provide work, which fills in the long months of inactivity between monsoons when the villagers have little conventional work in the fields.
Mrs. Sair Gujar, from Dotana village, explained the benefits of smokeless stoves, or chullahs. Her husband, Jadish, is a chullah master, trained by KIGS to make smokeless stoves. He has constructed one in each house in their village of 100 families. Sair says the stoves are far more efficient than the old style ones, saving 50% of fuel (cow dung and crop waste). Not only are the stoves an extreme improvement in terms of health, but also the dung and crop waste can now be used to make compost, using techniques introduced by KIGS. This means the fields can be made suitable for a more diversified crop, and provides an excellent example of the knock on effects of improved farming practices. Managed correctly, farming in this harsh area can be refined to a self contained, self-sufficient system.
Mrs. Kamala Devi is also from Dotana. She wants to tell me about the benefits she has received from a biogas initiative. She contributed 25% of the cost (Rs 4000) of her plant, one of two in the village. Enough gas is generated to do the entire household cooking, with the added benefit that no smoke at all is produced. Once the cow dung has been used for gas generation, it can be used to produce compost, which are what Kamala and her husband do. This means they are self sufficient in organic fertilizer for their fields, and do not have to spend their income on MNC chemical fertilizer. This simple practice reverberates through their other activities, and contributes substantially to a more secure existence.
Mrs. Rup Kala Devi is a social activist, coordinating the 3 separate women's groups in Dotana, a position she was voted into in an election. The village has 70 families, so she decided that it would be best to split the women into smaller groups in order to preserve the participatory philosophy, which she says she considers essential to the effectiveness of the initiative. In this way, the women, who are not accustomed to participating in community activities, are not afraid to raise their voice in matters that affect them. Each woman contributes Rs 20 per month to the community fund. At each monthly meeting, members might request a small loan from the fund, perhaps to fund a family marriage. Rup says that without an energetic leader the group would not work. Gita Devi, leader of one of the individual Mahila Mandal's concurs.
Ram Swarup is from Safipura and is the leader of the village. When KIGS approached the villagers, he was interested in community work from the beginning, and now all new initiatives in the village go through him. He has received training in both worm-based compost and ordinary compost making from the Agricultural Sciences Centre (Krishi Vigyan Kendra), and has become an instructor in these techniques to others in the village. He has taken up diversified vegetable cultivation and last year sold tomatoes of Rs. 40,000 and cumin of Rs. 80,000. He has understood that reinvestment is the most sustainable practice, and has used this money to dig a new well, which has enhanced the reliability of a water supply for his fields. Prior to his exposure to the advice of KIGS, he grew only cereals, and the change in his fortunes is attributable almost entirely to the wealth of information he has acquired from KIGS. The cost of the water harvesting methods that KIGS applied to his land is negligible as compared to the income his new practices have generated.
Mojiram is from a family with 4 brothers in Safipura village. They and their families live together, and farm jointly, but cook and eat separately. Mojiram has shown great interest in being trained to protect seed himself. He has been given a good variety of seed and next year will be able to produce his own. The seed is wheat and mustard. His is an example of the desire shown by KIGS to reacquaint the people with their own traditional practices. Twenty years ago, it was normal practice for farmers to produce their own seeds, until the government began to promote the practice of buying attractively marketed and packaged seeds from the market, which turn out to require chemical treatment and fail to reproduce year on year. This is the price for their allegedly 'high yield' properties. People like Mojiram no longer need to resort to the moneylender to buy the seeds in the hope of greater productivity. Some people still bear the debts from this practice and others have even had their land repossessed, turning them into virtual slaves. Hansraj has adopted similar practices, and they are the first two farmers in their village to resort to new practices of having their own seeds for cultivation. It is hoped their example will inspire others to adopt similar practice.
Arjun Lal is also from Safipura village. He has been given training on treating animal diseases at the Agricultural Science Centre in Tankarda, using KIGS funding. It is KIGS' intention to train one person from each village to do this work. Arjun Lal has been interested in this work for around 15 years, since he saw vetenary doctor come to the village to treat a sick buffalo as a child. With KIGS' help, he has refined his art, and donates his services for no charge to his fellow villagers - because he is a full time farmer, his work is voluntary and carried out in his spare time.
Mrs. Sharda Devi is from the village of Rajwas. She has been working at home polishing semi - precious stones which generates Rs 40 per day of additional income. The machine was subsidized by KIGS, meaning the family only had to pay a part of the total cost. The money she is making here is being deposited in a bank account, and will finance the education of her children, and contribute towards their marriages one day as well. Before this initiative, she had no work to do other than within the house.
Mrs. Sarju Devi has also taken up stone polishing work, but she is also an enthusiastic agriculturalist. In spite of the risk involved, she has trusted KIGS in their advice that cultivation of fruits and vegetables is economically beneficial and its inclusion in the diet of family would also improve their health. She cultivates over 100 fruit plants and tomatoes and tinda and sells the produce in the market of Niwai town. She has also consented the implementation of techniques of harvesting of rainwater in her fields. She keeps two buffaloes and is self sufficient in compost and milk, some of which she is also able to sell.
Prabhati Devi is from Rajwas, a multi-caste village with a population of 7000, spread across 600 families. She has developed an interest in horticulture, and has planted 150 plants in the last 2 years, all of which are prospering. She has also begun to cultivate vegetables, and sold Rs. 20,000 of beans last year at the nearest market, in Niwai. She maintains her standard crop of grain and wheat etc, and the new crop diversity has allowed her to follow a more nutritious diet, as well as providing substantial extra income.
Virendra Kumar is also from Rajwas. He has become very active in motivating village people to take up integrated agricultural development and other income generating activities, in a village that has borne a burden of caste based social problems. He has organized meetings to raise awareness of the benefits of adopting these practices, and can cite his own experiences as an example of the improvement they can bring. He has taken up compost preparation, and grows fruit and vegetables, and has been made aware of the nutritional benefits a broader based diet including these things brings. He enthusiastically imparts this knowledge to the other villagers.
In the village of Jola (500 families), KIGS has gradually built up a solid array of integrated development practices. Uganta Devi is the leader of the women's self help group movement there, and set up 5 groups, each with their own head. She is the one who recognized the possibilities in the suggestions made by KIGS, and sought to generate support for their implementation. One of the key practices, she has encouraged, is spinning cotton, which will be sold to the Local Khadi Institute and be turned into Khadi. Uganta has been trained in spinning techniques, and then imparts her knowledge to 20 other women in the village. Each lady earns between Rs 400-500 per month from a practice that is done only in her spare time.
Janki Devi is the leader of one of the Mahila Mandal in Jola. There are 15 members, and each deposits Rs 50 per month. Janki says the group uses the monthly collection of Rs 750 to provide small loans, usually for medicine to treat illnesses; personal needs like clothes, and agricultural requirements like seeds. If a family decides to stop buying MNC seeds, they can borrow the funds from the Mahila Mandal cooperative bank, to buy natural seeds of the kind that will produce a crop for more than just one year. The Mahila Mandal is established 3 months before with the efforts of other groups and has defied the shortcoming of her being uneducated. This is a clear indication of the feeling of empowerment, which has been generated in the families by the programmes of KIGS. The family of each group member has a smokeless stove, and all have undertaken to produce compost, using techniques taught to them by KIGS. Ram Kanya runs the group in a partnership with Kankha Devi, who keeps the accounts and was educated unto 12th grade and is therefore the most educated woman in the village.
She also keeps accounts for another women's group in the village, and reads and writes letters as necessary for the whole village. Barjie Devi is the president of the Puja Mahila Mandal, which boasts 20 members, each of whom makes a monthly deposit of Rs10. Barjie says all her members are active, and that this is both a product of and a condition for a feeling of community togetherness and individual empowerment. None of the women had the opportunity to meet and discuss village affairs in this way before, and they all feel that this forum is an exciting way to improve the dynamic of local life. All the members produce compost and grow vegetables now, and also keep buffalo, practices which dovetail perfectly and have invigorated and improved the quality of the women and their families' lives.
Gita Devi lives in Jola. For the last 5 years, she has served as village councilor, having been elected by the population of 5000. This position is voluntary, but still takes up much of her spare time. However, she has still shown great interest in KIGS' agricultural suggestions, and, having received land development processes, uncultivatable land is now suitable for vegetable growing on a seasonal basis. This will commence next year.
Rajindra is from Jola, and has embraced the integrated aspect of development fully. His fields have been leveled and bunded by KIGS, and he has taken advantage of their subsequently increased productivity by cultivating fodder and planting fruit trees and vegetables in addition to the cereals he already grew. Drip irrigation ensures a steady supply of water for the new crops. He keeps 3 buffaloes and sells milk at the market in Niwai, making Rs 150 from the 15 litres he sells each day.
Ram Bilas is from Jola also. He is a very active man, and showed such enthusiasm that he became the mediator between KIGS and the rest of the village. The measures he has adopted personally are worm-based composting, and cultivation of fruit trees and vegetables. With the income that he has been able to achieve through these measures, he was in a position to request a bank loan, with which he purchased a tractor. He uses this for his own agricultural purposes, and lends it to other villagers free of charge. However, he makes most money from hiring it out, for example to road builders, from which he earns Rs 1,00,000 per year. He has also adopted seed development, and received training in picking out good seeds from each seasons crop, and preserving them for the following year, a practice that had all but died out as modified MNC seeds have increasingly tended to be bought from the market.