For Vegetable Farmer Bati Hantal, Age Is Just A Number

For Vegetable Farmer Bati Hantal, Age Is Just A Number

“We used to be content if we could get work under a government scheme and if not, we would leave the matter to rest. But Sangeeta didi told us how to avail government schemes. That is how we managed to obtain access to land development work worth one lakh rupees”. Bati Hantal adds, “If we sit at home and do nothing, work won’t fall into our lap. We have to keep trying.”

It is said that helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person. This stands true for Bati Hantal and Sangeeta. One of our champion  community mobiliser Sangeeta didi, as she is fondly known, helped Bati get land development work worth INR 100,000 through MGNREGS. This has helped Bati have better food and income security.

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Sixty-five year old Bati lives with her husband Sundar Hantal in Mali Gunja village, in Odisha’s Koraput district. She belongs to Paraja tribes who are largely dependent on agro and forest based economy. There are 35 Paraja families and 180 Mali (OBC) households in Mali Gunja. The village is known for vegetable and ginger cultivation.

Bati and her husband live in a semi-pucca house; a house they moved into after both their daughters got married. Though both Bati and Sundar are in their 60s, they are very enthusiastic about farming. They grow vegetables, millets and oilseeds on their 1.5 acre land. Apart from the income from the farm they also rely on the 10 kg rice they receive through PDS.

The income wasn't much and the daughter would chip in to help Bati and Sundar. She has a crop sharing agreement with her parents on 1 acre land that she owns; the proceeds of the summer crops are for the parents and that of winter season is hers. Bati cultivates paddy on it and gets about get 6-7 quintals. The paddy and millet is largely for consumption purposes.

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Bati and Oxfam India have been working together in the women farmers project. The Oxfam India-Sita Devi Malhotra Charitable (SDMC) Trust project, with support from NGOs WORD and Prastutee, was started in the Semiliguda and Pottangi blocks of Koraput in February 2021. The project aimed at strengthening 2000 economically vulnerable, and small and marginal women farmers from the tribal communities in 40 villages in 2 blocks in Koraput, through women-led vegetable farming & marketing.

The women farmers were first formed into SHGs. Once the district started recovering after the second wave in May 2021, farmer producer groups were formed. These were formed after several rounds of discussions and deliberations with the women farmers. And the Mali Gunja Mahila Chasi Utpadaka Dala (Mali Gunja women farmer producer group) was formed on 13 July 2021. Bati was one of the first people to join the group and motivated other women to join as well.

“The SHG is good for savings and loan initiatives. But joining the farmer producer groups makes it easier to discuss agriculture and learn new methods of agriculture,” says Bati.  Bati has been an active member of the Maa Sibani SHG, promoted by the Odisha Livelihood Mission. Regular monthly meetings, direct input support, technical support, orientation on agricultural and other government schemes, onsite expert’s advice, thematic trainings are conducted regularly for the farmer producer groups.

Not just farming, the farmer producer groups have been very useful in linking women with other government schemes as well. For instance, Bati had applied for land development work under MGNREGS in 2020 but hadn’t got the work order until June 2021. She raised the issue during one of the meetings and she was assured that action would be taken. In fact, it is here that Sangeeta stepped in; regular follow ups with the Gram Rozgar Sevak sped up the process of resolution. She finally received the work order later in 2021; she used the money to develop her land and converted her infertile patch of land into a fertile vegetable patch.

She grew cauliflowers worth INR 20,000 and sold it; earlier she would get about 2 quintals of finger millets which she sometimes sold at INR 4000 to INR 6000. This time she shifted her ragi to another patch of the field, had the same output. An added benefit, this shift created work opportunities for four days in the village for both men and women.

Earlier the Maa Sibani SHG used to take out loans and use it partly for consumption and partly for income generating activities. But continuous discussions with the farmer producer groups motivated members to use the money, instead for vegetable cultivation. The SHG was linked to the bank for a loan of INR 100,000; this was divided among the 10 members to invest in agriculture.

Bati utilised the loan for paddy and vegetable cultivation. Encouraged by the work done by the SHG, six others, also a part of the farmer producer group, intend to apply for the loan for vegetable and ginger cultivation.

Bati received technical support to cultivate vegetables in her garden; through direct input support she bought chilly and tomato seeds worth INR 760, which will be transplanted after carrot harvesting in January-February. She also received monetary support of INR 10,000 through Oxfam India’s Mission Sanjeevani. She is now planning to use the money for purchasing manure and fertilisers for vegetable and paddy cultivation during Rabi and Zaid seasons.

Bati Hantal's Cash Inflow and Outflow

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Our interventions have increased the cash inflow, particularly through vegetable cultivation and scheme linkages. The project has also helped increase the cash outflow both on investment in  improving agriculture and on better standards of living and enhanced social stature. Most importantly, Bati is happy with the result of the interventions and is now planning to convert the remaining barren parts of her land to fertile garden land. She is a living testimony to the fact that age is just a number and what matters is our approach to life. 

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