Archive for October, 2011

I want my father back

IIRD promotes organic farming. We work majorly with small and marginal farmers in Marathwada region. Marathwada is dry region in the state of Mahrastra,India. Farmers here are dependent on rain. They are always in debt because of the rising cost of agricultural inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, etc. This has to lead to many suicides in recent past. 

Here is a small documentary which talks about how organic farming is good for both the producer and consumer.

This documentary has been made Salt Films and it was too good to be shared from youtube.

Please let us know what you think about this whole situation.


Shantabai Bhujangrao Bhanwar

Shantabai Bhujangrao Bhawar lives in a village called Aurangpurwadi which is in Paithan Taluka in Aurangabad District. Aurangpurwadi is a rehablitated village. When a dam was constructed near Paithan, people from those areas came down to Aurangpurwadi. Aurangpurwadi is quite in the interiors. Therefore, most of the people living here are quite poor. Shantabai is 65 years old and used to live in a small house build by her husband. But presently she lives in a house which just has bricks piled up on top of each  other. No cement has been used. Her house was destroyed by heavy rains. The small house she lives in now has only one room of dimension 10 by 10 feet. She lives with her daughter whose name is Maya and is studying in the 8th standard.

Shantabai at work.

Shantabai was originally from Shekta, a village near Aurangpurwadi. She was married to Bhujangrao Bhanwar at the age of 10 by her parents. Bhujangrao Bhanwar passed away 12 years ago due to a brain attack (better known as lakwa in the local language).  Shantabai has been running the family, raising up her two daughters on her own since then. Six years ago, her older daughter, Chhaya was married to a local farmer in the same village of Aurangpurwadi. Shantabai works as a labourer during the cropping season and earns Rs. 100 to 150 per day. The wage rate is depended upon the accessibility to the farmland. This income is quite irregular as during the summer she has no work at all in the farms and therefore, she has to save half her income during the cropping season.  In the year of 2005 Shantabai participated in the Women’s group and started  attending the monthly meetings at the village level. Next year she participated in the SHG(Self-Help Groups) and started saving Rs. 50 per month and IIRD helped her by giving her a goat on the saving credit programme. She pays back Rs. 200 per month during the cropping season(when she is earning her wages). There is no interest charged on the loan provided for the goat. The money which she pays back is further provided to another elder like her. The goat acts as a good mode of income generation. The goats costs some where around Rs 4500 . The goat reproduces approximately twice a year and has an average life of 14 years. During each reproductive cycle, the goat gives birth to two kids usually. Each kid sells for three thousand thousand. Hence, this acts as a very good medium of income generation and is quite profitable.

Shantabai lives in a house which is made up of plain bricks. Noo cement has been used, only mud with sugar cane leaves covered with thick plastic act as the roof of the house. She uses dried leaves, figs, branches for fire wood.  Her life was quite difficult .  She was very shy and humble.

Her house

From the month of April 2010 ,she started participating in the SAGP programme run by IIRD with the help of Helpage Inida. She was selected under the  Assisted elders category. Then she participated in the ESHG groups in Aurangpurwadi village and is also a member in the farmers club. Sicne two years she is an active member in the ESHGs and is also a part of the Grain Bank committee.This month this committee collected 110 kgs of food grain for elderly people in Aurangpurwadi village.

Shantabai has a kitchen garden in the backyard of her house,she got the kitchen garden seeds from the seed bank maintained by the farmers club in her village. This year she started the vermi compost unit and in the month of July she sold Rs 460 worth of Vermi compost to the Haider Baig who is a organic farmer in her village.

Shantabai is quite happy now as she has new income generation activities like vermi compost. She sells her produce from the kitchen garden in the organic bazaar and earns Rs. 200 per week. The small help from IIRD and HelpAge India has made sure that her income has improved significantly. She now wants her daughter to study uptil graduation.

Umrabee Shaikh

Twenty kilometres away from Aurangabad, there is a small village adjacent to the main road called Farola.  After walking for almost two kilometres on a “kachha” road and then another couple of yards through kada-kichad(during rainy season), you will reach the house of Umrabee Shaikh. Umrabee is approximately 65 years old. She was wearing a white salwaar kameez the day i visited her. She has infinite wrinkles on her face. When you look at her eyes, you see the suffering she has been through her whole life. Umrabee lives alone. She has been living alone since a long time.

Umrabee tells me that she  was married off at a age when she did not even understand what marriage meant. Only after a couple of years of her marriage her husband disowned her. She had nowhere to go except her parents house. She decided that she would not marry again and has been living alone ever since.

Since Farola is located off the main road, the village has been affected by the incredible industrialisation in both good and bad ways. The rapid industrialisation  has provided the local youth with employment oppurtunities. On the other hand, people have lost their farm lands. The industries have brought along the pollution of the ground water, air and soil. This discouraged the farmer to plough his land. It encourages him to abandon his land and work as a labourer in the industry.

Umrabee’s house has been provided by the Gram Pachayat (which had IIRD’s extension member as its Sarpanch) under the Indira Gandhi Prayas Yojana Scheme. Though she has a house to live in now, but the house lacks the basic facilities which usually accompanies a house. She doesn’t have a tap in the house,no water tank, no stove, no cooking gas, no cooking oil, no bed, no fan, nothing. She walks a kilometre at her age to get her water. She collects dry leaves, figs and uses them to cook her food.

She has a constant pain in her knees and does not even get proper treatment in her village. She neither has the resources nor the means.

You will see her running here and there after her ‘murgis'(chicken). She’s got three hens and one cock.  IIRD had given her a goat under its Elderly Care Programme six months back. She now has two goats. The goat reproduces twice a year. And the kid sells for Rs2500-Rs3000. Hence, these acts as modes of income generation for her, the only modes of income generation. She goes out during the daytime to feed her two goats. The goats seem to be her best friends. She loves them like her children.

Her biggest challenge is to cook for herself. Right from the availability of food grains and  vegetable to the fact that she has to cook only for herself everyday of her life. Umrabee gets a certain amount of wheat from a relative of hers. But these grains dont last long. And even if she has grains, she doesn’t have vegetables or dal or anything to eat with. Neither does she have materials like cooking oil, kerosene, masala powder, etc. She tells me that sometimes she goes to sleep without having any food at all. I wonder how often this sometimes is.

Umrabee is one amongst thousands and thousands of women like these in our country.  No savings, no children, no income, no one to rely on, nothing. That is the kind of life they live everyday.


Her name is Dhanabai. The name literally means a woman of wealth. Perhaps, the wealth she has cannot be measured by money. She certainly has some unseen wealth and she has the smiles to show that she is indeed happy with the wealth. She stands outside her hut having just gathered the wheat grains that she had kept out for drying in the sun. Most of the grains are insect infested and rotten but she may be able to find some of the grains suitable enough to eat for the week.