“A year and a half ago, I couldn’t have imagined such a change,” says Manjulaben Jashubhai Begadiya, a resident of Sembaliya village of Khedbrahma block in Sabarkantha, Gujarat. She moved from the cultivation of traditional crops to high-value vegetable and flower crops. The move, prompted by advice from the Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), an associate organisation of the Tata Trusts, has brought prosperity for Manjulaben and other marginalised farmers like her.
Manjulaben’s village, Sembaliya, and its surrounding area is denuded of natural resources and lacked basic agricultural infrastructure. Rain-fed agriculture and allied activities were the predominant means of livelihood. The socio-economic status of the people has been marginal to poor, with an average annual income of about Rs40,000.
In March 2019, to address the situation, CInI collaborated with the community to improve agricultural practices in the region. The objective was to increase the income of tribal households by improving agricultural productivity. Community members were introduced to systematic methods of agriculture and the package of practices for each crop. CInI also worked upon improving irrigation systems and developing market linkages. Community mobilisation through primary and secondary organisations helped strengthen the initiatives. Further, the villagers were encouraged to become part of self-help groups (SHG) to foster each other as a community.
Manjulaben and her family own an acre of land and are dependent upon agriculture for their income. With no source of irrigation, Manjulaben had to purchase water at high rates. To make matters worse, the water supply was erratic.
After a few months of joining the Jay Ambe SHG, she convinced 12 other members about the benefits of building a community-based irrigation facility to ensure water availability for their crops, which is the main source of their income. Together they were able to contribute Rs1.5 lakh in the form of labour for the installation of a lift irrigation system.
“I’m thankful that we have a dependable irrigation facility,” says Manjulaben, relief writ large on her face. She can now cultivate her land thrice a year, which has enabled her to move from traditional crops to high-value agricultural and flower crops. Better irrigation, improved cultivation practices, and diversification in crops resulted in Manjulaben’s income doubling in a single season. She earned Rs30,000 in November 2019. She has upped her efforts and has now started using vermicompost to enhance the quality of the soil and improve productivity.
Unfortunately, in March 2020, lockdown restrictions were implemented and places of worship were closed, thereby hampering the demand for flowers. So with the help of the CInI team Manjulaben decided to sow vegetables — okra, brinjals, and cluster beans. Currently, she plans to diversify her crop basket with vegetables along with the standing cotton (sowed in the kharif season) crop.
She also awaits to reinitiate floriculture in her field, as her village is in the vicinity of a famous temple town of goddess Ambaji, and demand for flowers will shoot up again once the temple reopens.
“I want to continue with floriculture as a diversification crop and invest more in seed production. This will help us grow and improve our lives,” says an optimistic Manjulaben, speaking for the many other smallholder farmers like her.