An Organic Tonic That Works
I live in Edupur village of Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. Agriculture is important, even if the land here is mostly dry. I work along with my husband, a grain trader, on seven acres of farmland. We had all along been using fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides.
I had, for long, dreamt of organic farming and the use of organic manure. I wanted to make a start, and then hoped to help others in my village adopt the practice. But I didn’t know where to begin. Nothing happened, until SST came to our village four years back.
SST conducted many awareness camps on agriculture, hygiene and veterinary activities. I came into contact with them at one such camp. They saw my interest in organic farming, and after they started a self-help group in the village, I became leader.
With the help of the agriculture department, SST trained us on the use of organic manure and its advantages. While we were initially skeptical about the benefits of cow urine and similar animal and plant waste, we took their advice. Today, we are happy with the higher yields and lower costs achieved by avoiding inorganic inputs.
Apart from vegetables, we grow bananas, pomegranates, papaya, turmeric and pulses. This adds to our income from our cows, goats, etc. My two sons are engineers and my daughter teaches in a college. My family’s earnings have risen 10 times to Rs. 700,000 since 2014.
People from nearby villages, who would earlier mock at us for using neem extract and cow urine are impressed.
For us, thambi (brother) Antony from SST has been key. When he first came, we villagers would laugh at his ideas and joke amongst ourselves that he probably doesn’t have any other job to do. We thank him for persisting in his efforts to educate and convince us.
The SST Way
Community Development Officer Antony Thangaraj who worked with Glory
It was tough when I first arrived here in 2014. There weren’t any pucca roads and water was scarce. Worse, villagers laughed off my suggestions to make organic pesticides and manure from cow urine, cow dung, fish acid, etc.
It took a while to convert them. I persisted. Glory showed a lot of interest and proved an invaluable help. Thanks to her efforts. SST sent 40 people to the 400-acre TVS farm for training in organic practices. Eventually, 27 people, including six women, made the switch to make organic manure. Soon enough, they began to reap benefits in the form of cost savings and healthy yields.
A key breakthrough came from showing the benefits of Panchagavya to villagers. This cake mixture is made from cow dung, cow urine, curd, cow ghee, papaya or banana. It is kept in a drum for 30 days for it to become organic manure. It is a big ‘’varaprasadam’’ (God’s gift) for the farmer. I used this on a Jasmine plant. After a while villagers here, including Glory, could see the difference in the size of the flowers and the health of the plant.
The villagers also heeded my advice on giving injections on time to their cattle and taking good care of them. As I am from a farming family, I would tell them to stay united to overcome adversity. Today, I am happy to say that the community here is disciplined and highly organized. They pool money to buy and share equipment. For instance, they use machines to cut the corn crop, and each of these cost Rs. 25,000. All this, and their success in using organic farming practices, has impressed nearby villagers. They, in turn, visit Edupur to understand and replicate its achievements.
My father had 20 acres but ended up selling his farmland because of problems when I was still growing up. I like farming and animals, and am happy with my family to live here and help the villagers. I can say happily that I am living my dreams through them.
Attitudes and habits cannot be changed overnight. Patience is key to effecting meaningful change within communities.
Regular interaction with people and communities is key to building trust. It is also important to constantly monitor the needs of people.
Using unattained personal goals positively to help others achieve their milestones can be an enormous motivational tool.