Bhanumati Pungari Turns Her Life Around

Bhanumati Pungari Turns Her Life Around

Bhanumati Pungari was considered 'unlucky' as she was born with disability and the society isn’t very kind towards Persons with Disability. She had difficulty getting a suitable groom until Dashrathi came along. But Bhanumati was determined to define her own identity and lead a better life for herself and her family.

Forty year-old Bhanumati lives with her husband and their two sons in a small house in Gadikhamra village of Odisha’s Koraput district. The village comprises 132 households; 96 are tribals and 26 are Dalit households. While the adivasis practice agriculture, the dalit families run small businesses.

Bhanumati is hard working. And the fact that neither she nor her husband received any formal education and were not very well off financially did not shake her resolve of building a better future. The formation of a Women Farmer Producer Group in her village by Oxfam India—Sita Devi Malhotra Charitable (SDMC) Trust project helped her and others like her tremendously. The project implemented with the support from Women’s Organisation for Rural Development (WORD), is being implemented in Koraput for the economic empowerment of tribal women.

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The family owns two acres land out of which 0.8 acre is lowland used for paddy cultivation and 1.2 acres is undulated upland used for millets and vegetables, despite the fact that upland has lower productivity. They supplemented their income by working as daily wage labourers; they received a disability pension from the government as well. But this wasn’t still enough to pay the fees of two school-going children.

About 10 years ago, Bhanumati joined an SHG and that is when she started making monthly savings of Rs 50. When she had enough savings, she took a loan on Rs 2000 from the group and started vegetable cultivation on a larger scale.

First, she cultivated cabbage, tomatoes and ginger. She sold her produce for Rs 30000 and prepared for the next phase. The yield was average as the land was undulated and less fertile. But the second phase crops of beans, brinjal and chilli were lost to erratic rainfall. The SHG too fizzled out.

It was evident that there was a need to develop the land to make it more productive in the long run. And this is where the Oxfam India—SDMC Trust project ‘Economic Empowerment Of Poor Tribal Households Through Women-Led Vegetable Farming And Marketing’ proved very useful. 

A Women Farmer Producer Group comprising 66 members was formed in the village; Bhanumati became an active member. She attends meetings and trainings regularly. She learned how to develop her land through MGNREGS. With support from our community mobiliser Sushovita Allen, she applied for land development work through MGNREGS. After consistent follow ups, she finally got a work order worth Rs 100,000 in May 2021.

Our team guided Bhanumati to first grow any green manure plant or nitrogen fixing crop to increase the fertility of the land. She grew lablab (a type of bean) and sold it for Rs 3000. Besides the money, the crop also helped enhance soil health. She is confident of a better harvest this year as the land is now levelled and definitely looks more fertile now.

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Bhanumati has big plans for the future. She plans to revive her defunct Self Help Group as early as possible with support from the bank, Odisha Livelihoods Mission and our project team. Now that her land has been developed, she looks forward to good returns from it. She also has plans for a Women Farmer Producer Organisation through which she and the other members can supply vegetables to bigger markets to fetch more income.

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