Sonalika Das, living in Kholiha village of Assam, became a widow in 2015, with two young children to bring up. A housewife solely concerned with domestic duties till then, she was suddenly faced with the prospect of becoming the breadwinner in her family. Her husband had been a farmer and the family was dependent on earnings from agriculture.. But after his death, their 2.5 bigha (1 bigha equals 0.3306 acre) of land lay waste because Sonalika did not know how to farm the land.
It was at this crucial point in time that the Tata Trusts’ livelihood project under the Assam State Initiative (ASI) was rolled out in her village. Under the project, Producer Groups (PGs) are formed to enhance earnings of beneficiaries through project interventions.
Taking a brave step, Sonalika decided to become a member of the Samannay Producer Group formed under the ASI initiative. She now had a mission in life, to put the land she owned to good use, with support from ASI. “It was the most defining moment of my life, deciding to start a new venture with no prior experience,” reveals Sonalika.
With technical and financial handholding from the ASI project team, she gradually gained confidence. Sonalika received aid for a papaya orchard, along with a trellis and rain shelter for crops. With the farming activities starting well, Sonalika became a little more confident and approached ASI for support in dairy farming. “Within a year, I took up allied farming activities. This helped me double my income,” says Sonalika thankfully.
Sonalika is now a full-time farmer. She has started rearing cattle and milch animals, which gives her a steady dairy income, and she has added higher value crops such as paddy, areca nut and vegetables to her farm.
From a position where she had no income and no knowledge, Sonalika has built up her land to earn about Rs93,500, which is her annual income from the sale of milk, domestic animals, areca nut, paddy, vegetables, papaya, etc.
“I will remember the technical knowledge, financial support, hope, motivation and confidence that the [ASI] project infused in me, till the end of my life,” says Sonalika, a thought echoed by many other grateful farmers in the hinterlands of Assam, whose lives were transformed with ASI’s initiatives and support.