Lalita was born in the small village of Sirsala in the Manawar tehsil of Dhar, Madhya Pradesh. And even though her parents, late Shankarlal Patidar and mother Shakuntalabai Patidar were farmers by profession, she was never forced to follow in their footsteps. Instead, they encouraged her to pursue her education.
At the age of 19, Lalita was married to Suresh Chandra Mukati. When she expressed a desire to study beyond class 12 at her marital home, her late father-in-law, a champion of women’s education, enrolled her in the open university where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Arts.
This was the same man, who at the age of 25, had given up all the gold in the household for the soldiers fighting the Indo-China war, recalls Lalita.
And while her degree in arts may have little to do with the agricultural field, she is an award-winning organic farmer, who apart from handling the day-to-day activities of her own farm, has also formed an association of 21 women to promote the boons of chemical-free farming.
Situated in the Borlai village of Barwani district, she has freed over 36 acres of farmland from the clutches of chemical pesticides, where she grows all kinds of crops, ranging from amla (Indian gooseberry), custard apple, banana, lemon, maize, cotton, wheat, soybean, chickpea, sapota, etc.
In an exclusive interview with The Better India, this homemaker turned award-winning organic farmer shares her journey.
Raising a family changes a woman’s priorities. This is pretty much what happened with Lalita, despite having a BA degree. But she never regretted it.
“When my kids were born, I channelised my energies towards ensuring they received a good education. Today, all five of them are in different fields,” she beams, proudly.
While her oldest daughter is a dentist, the second one is an I-T officer, the youngest daughter has studied architecture. Similarly, one of her sons is preparing for CA, while the youngest one is studying agriculture.
Her family owns over 120 acres of land.
For the longest time, her brother-in-law and husband were handling it together, until her brother-in-law got the opportunity to work in an industry. The entire responsibility came on to her husband’s shoulders.
“My husband has completed his MSc in agriculture and travels for long hauls for training purposes. He was finding it very difficult to shuttle between his training and maintaining our farm. Often, his absence in the field would cause losses. Our children had already grown up. And so, I thought, why don’t I extend a helping hand?” she says.
And thus, began her journey into agriculture.
The year was 2010. For two years, Lalita learned all the tricks of the trade from her husband.
From riding the tractor and scooter to effortlessly coordinating with their 30 farm hands, she does it all single-handedly!
Her consistent efforts over the last six years have helped her farm earn an organic scope certificate from the Madhya Pradesh State Organic Certification Agency.
She breeds earthworms which help turn farm waste into vermicompost, which not only helps increase the fertility of the soil in her own farm but is also sold for additional income. To keep pests at bay, she also uses and sells bio or natural pesticides.
Different varieties of these sprays are made using a host of natural components such as liquid decomposers, cow urine and dung, jaggery, neem oil, and sour buttermilk.
Lalita also processes and sells neem khali or neem cakes. For this, the oil is first extracted from the seeds. This oil has insecticidal and medicinal properties and is used in pest control. Similarly, the residue or the seed cake left is later used as a soil amendment, which enriches the soil and lowers the nitrogen loss.
In addition to using the hydroponic method of farming (a method of growing plants without the soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent), she has used a host of farm machinery like power tillers, rotavators, mulching machines, bund makers, cultivators, threshers etc.
Four years ago, she was selected under the Mukhya Mantri Kisan Videsh Adhyan Yojana where she got the opportunity to travel across hi-tech organic farms across Germany and Italy to learn about newer, cost-effective and better-yielding methods of farming. A direct influence of this can be seen on her farm, where she has installed a solar pump. Part of her home is also electrified with the installation of the solar panels. Even their kitchen runs on a biogas plant, eliminating their reliance on LPG!
Although a few crops are harvested once a year, the range of crops she grows, coupled with her chemical-free techniques, help her earn Rs 80,000 to 1 lakh per acre of land.
And before you think the farmer has restricted the profits of the method to herself, let me point out that Lalita has formed an association of 21 women under the banner Maa Durga Krishi Mahila Sangathan to help more farmers adopt organic farming.
The association helps the women yield better produce and double their income, while also saving the environment.
“I constantly tell my group of women farmers to not engage in profit-earning methods of farming at the cost of the environment. These chemicals are not only draining our mother earth of her nutrients but also exposing our children to health hazards as they consume chemical-pesticide laden food. Giving up chemical pesticides may cost a few losses initially, but adopting organic farming could give us and the following generations a better and healthier tomorrow. So, say no to chemicals,” she signs off.
Felicitated by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra with the Best District Farmer Award and the Best Farm Woman Award for the introduction of organic farming in custard apple, Lalita Mukati is all set to receive an award by Prime Minister Narendra Modi among 112 other women for her contribution to agriculture.
Here’s wishing her all the best!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
If this story inspired you, get in touch with Lalita Mukati at firstname.lastname@example.org