“In January, when the crop was harvested, for the first time ever, the yield was high”
52-year-old Kamalam works alongside her husband in the hot South Indian sun, toiling for long hours to eke out a meagre existence. Though the one and half acre of land that they own is in her husband Arunachalam’s name, Kamalam – a Dalit – has worked the land since she was a young bride who came to live in Kolaram 25 years ago. Both she and her husband also work on other farms as agricultural labourers to supplement the income they earn. Her children – two daughters and a son – are now grown up and married and live some distance away.
Women’s Organisation for Rural Development (WORD) identified 50 beneficiaries in the Namakkal District of Tamil Nadu and conducted a workshop on organic farming. Kamalam and her husband were selected to take part in Project SEED, a joint initiative between Tamil Nadu-based WORD and Jeevika Trust, and provided with sorghum seeds for cultivation.
“We cultivate primarily during the rainy season as we do not have any irrigation facilities. We primarily cultivate millets such as sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet, pulses and cowpeas,” says Kamalam, as she stands in a field surrounded by shoulder-height Sorghum.
As part of our three year, innocent foundation-funded project, Kamalam became a member of a Seed Wealth Centre, and promised to return twice the quantity of seeds after the harvest. The Seed Wealth Centre was set up to help the women and other farmers collect, exchange and store their organic seeds. The Centre also generates a little income through a small membership fee, which is placed in a revolving fund to support members.
“I attended a workshop run by WORD,” says Kamalam. “I learnt how to make herbal sprays that used cow urine, cow dung and ripe vegetables and fruits. I mixed the liquid with water used to irrigate the land and it helped fertilise my crop. In January, when the crop was harvested, for the first time ever, the yield was high.”
100 kgs of Sorghum was harvested from Kamalam’s one and a half acre of land. The dried stalks are stored and used as cattle feed.
Kamalam’s Sorghum will sell at Rs 42 per kilogram in the wholesale market and she will net an income of Rs 3360/£33.60 from it. This will go towards the savings that Kamalam has been gradually building to buy a cow. Having a cow will provide milk for Kamalam and her husband and, most importantly, she will be able to sell milk within her village and nearby villages and increase her income and save a little. She and Aranachalum want to visit their daughter for they have never seen their grandchildren. Kamalam goes to the weekly market (Sandhai) to look at the cows being sold in anticipation of bringing one home soon.