Being a woman, Santosh Bai’s transition towards natural farming was not easy.
She has unlearnt and further challenged many fundamental societal beliefs about women’s abilities and skills. When she first decided to start natural farming on a small part of their land, her husband criticized the idea and did not support her.
Santosh Bai, with a family of 10 – her husband and 8 daughters, lives in Gawla village in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh. They own a 3-acre land. After becoming a part of an SHG formed by AKRSP-I in their village, Santosh Bai had attended some training programs and exposure visits on conservation agriculture and natural farming. Getting inspired from those, she decided to experiment conservation agriculture on a small portion of their land- 20*20 square meters.
Her first attempt was eye opening. The kind of differences that she observed in seed germination, water retention, quality of harvest, input cost and the net profit were remarkable when compared to traditional chemical farming. She gained the confidence to not only continue, but also to expand conservation agriculture methods to half acre and then one acre for the next seasons. Her husband appreciated her will power, confidence and dedication and also started helping her in this journey.
In the initial days of her journey, it was not easy for Santosh Bai to gather knowledge and resources to practice NF against her husband’s will. She faced challenges in making fertilizers at home, collecting seeds, etc. But with the support of AKRSP-I, she learnt to make homemade fertilizers and pesticides like Amritpani, cow dung fertilizer and used Neem water and Akao leaves for pest control. She says, “Sarakari khad se jyada ghar par banai khaad ki fasal acchi dikhati hai aur swad bhi accha hota hai” (Harvest produced from homemade fertilizers looks better than the one grown with chemical fertilizers and it also tastes better).
She also received financial help as money loans and a variety of seeds like Rala (Foxtail millets) and Jowar (Sorghum). She uses many novel methods like no tillage and mulching on her farm. Santosh Bai majorly grows Maize, Jowar, Wheat, Rice and Millets as well as seasonal vegetables, soyabean and nuts. Her farm also has some livestock (three cows, one ox and a calf). In their village, they used to face tremendous challenges for water availability. Santosh Bai along with other women of her SHG took this to the government officials and requested them to fix the problem. Now they have a well and pipeline for irrigating their farm.
In her journey, Santosh Bai realised that natural farming has improved the quality of the soil in her farm to a great extent by softening it and enriching it with nutrients. The input cost has also reduced drastically from Rs. 10,000 – 12,000 to Rs. 3000 – 4000, because of the homemade fertilizers and pesticides. While some of the produce is taken for home consumption, Santosh Bai sells the rest of it in the local markets, where she gets good response from people who trust that it is “chemical-free”and healthy. Thirty percent of the food for her family also comes from this portion of their farm, which they find healthy and nutritious, keeping them away from health issues.
While Santosh Bai says that it is difficult for women to take up natural farming because of lack of support from their husbands, she herself has come out as a changemaker for many others in her village.
Six farmers have got inspired from her and adopted natural farming. Her success story conveys a message to all farmers that practicing natural farming not only requires labouring but a willpower, dedication and enough courage to overcome the initial roadblocks.
First circulated by National Coalition for Natural Farming in their newsletter dt. 1 Sep. 2021