Anita Mahato got married to a very poor farmer family when she was 14 years old. Soon after her marriage, she gave birth to a son and a daughter. As a poor family, they owned little land and few livestock. She lives with her husband at Beldih village of Puruliya district in West Bengal. Beldih is an Adivasi village where maximum villagers work as labourers and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Being an Adivasi, she didn’t have much knowledge about agriculture. Since the practice of agriculture in the village is largely market driven, Anita too was involved in mono-cropping and the use of chemical fertilizers, like most others. She was inclined towards growing a single high-price vegetable, even if it was out of season. As she was more focused on growing one particular vegetable, her financial situation would be grim in case it failed due to any reason. Due to dependency on chemical fertilizers, the vegetables that remained unsold in the market would also get rotten quickly. As the area where she lives is a dry zone, cultivation gets challenging during the summer due to lack of water. Her minimal livestock also suffered due to less fodder and died very quickly. At that point of time she was unable to think about her family’s nutrition or see a way ahead after facing such a huge loss.
It was at this crucial time that she came to know about the ‘Development Research Communication and Service Centre’ (DRCSC) through group meetings. In those meetings, they discussed their problems with them and kept motivated with their words. They gave them solutions to any type of agricultural problems they faced.
Earlier, Anita used to cultivate vegetables in her 3 bigha* land with high yield seeds using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. But after attending DRCSC’s hand-holding training, she started practicing natural farming in 2017. In the first year, the cultivation was not as expected, and she faced a huge loss. Many of their group members then told her she won’t be able to make profit through natural or organic farming, and advised her not to try it again the next year. But in spite of the odds, she was focused towards her goal. Surprisingly, next year, she observed that the weight of paddy had increased, and the production was much higher and the vegetables tasted better than previous years. She realised that the soil creatures had decreased due to the use of chemical pesticides, and now after using organic manure she found the earthworms and other organisms in the soil to be increasing. Due to lack of rain, the cultivation had suffered, but now with the help of DRCSC she came to know about other techniques for cultivating with minimal water. Now she doesn’t need to buy any vegetables from outside and her food platter has become vastly diverse, compared to earlier. Contrary to her previous notion, now she emphasises on cultivating a mix of seasonal, local, crops. The harvested vegetables are used for her own family’s consumption and the excess vegetables are given to a neighbour to sell in the market. These assorted poison-free vegetables provide for her family’s nutritional balance. She has now found a special respect from her family. With their constant support, she has now been able to buy more livestock for their better future. Earlier, they suffered from various diseases and lack of fodder. But DRCDC supported her by making a concrete cow floor and an azolla pit from where she is able to provide the fodder for her livestock.
In the future she wants to continue her agricultural work through this farming practice and intends to circulate the practice in her groups so that all the group members can easily find a new way of living. In the next few years she wants to work on storing the organic seeds and cultivate using her own seed bank. Anita also thanks her husband for always being of support to her and having faith in her. She believes, without him, she wouldn’t have been able to achieve this.