“My husband died of a heart attack two years ago and my only assets are the two acres of land that he left behind. I receive very little support from my in-laws and the extended family. I now live with my father in Thottipalyam village,” says Shanti, 32, who is a mother to two young daughters and is from the Thottinayakar clan (Most Backward Caste), a conservative community where women are rarely allowed to voice their opinion or make independent decisions.
“Water is a precious resource in Thottipalyam and I could not irrigate the land as the rainfall in the last two years was poor. I often had to pay to access piped water available through Government schemes from the Kaveri River which flows across Tamil Nadu.”
Shanti is one of 140 women benefiting from a joint initiative between Jeevika Trust and Tamil Nadu-based Women’s Organisation for Rural Development (WORD). Project SEED, funded for three years by innocent foundation, aims to empower the most disadvantaged Dalit women farmers by providing training and other resources for the organic cultivation of millet.
“The offer to install drip irrigation on one acre of my land was a blessing as it enables me to water my plants adequately with minimum wastage.” Shanti and her father, who helps her farm the land, were taught how to plant the seeds at appropriate intervals and to water the saplings for short durations every day. “The water is just adequate for the saplings and the yield of my pearl onions has increased.”
WORD has installed drip irrigation to small farmers like Shanti on the condition that a portion of the land is utilized to cultivate vegetables and that organic techniques are used to enrich the soil and enhance plant growth. Shanti has planted pearl onions on 30 cents of land and used the balance for tapioca, a cash crop. Black gram has also been planted along the bunds. The onions provide her with a weekly income which is utilized for day-to-day household expenses while the tapioca generates an annual income that will go towards her daughters’ education.
Despite family and community objections, Shanti worked up the courage to attend an exposure visit to SVAD (Sittilingi Valley Agricultural Development) in Tamil Nadu, where farmers are engaged in organic farming. “I learned various techniques such as the preparation of an effective micro-organism solution using ripe fruits and vegetables, organic jaggery powder and tender coconut. When sprayed on plants, this acts as a natural insecticide and enhances soil quality.”
Shanti now regularly prepares this solution and mixes it with the water utilized for drip irrigation and has seen rich dividends in yield which has increased her income by at least 20-30 per cent. She is now able to realize an additional income of Rs 2,000 (£20) per month, which makes a huge difference to her small household.
You can help more women like Shanti by donating today.