Vanita Balbhim Manshetty, a 35-year-old farmer from Maharashtra, took up the one-acre farming model in 2014. Today, as an independent farmer, she is happy to provide her family with nutritious, organic food.
“By cultivating crops under the one-acre model, I have been doing what the doctor does for people – providing good health,” says Vanita Manshetty
Vanita Balbhim Manshetty is a 35-year-old resident of Chiwri village in Osmanabad district of Maharashtra. She has four daughters. The eldest is doing her graduation course, while the youngest is in Class 7.
As Vanita could study only till Class 8 owing to monetary limitations, she understands the importance of education of girls and wants all her girl children to study till post-graduation and take up jobs.
Vanita and her husband are farmers. Her husband Balbhim Manshetty generates off-farm income through civil contracts such as laying roads, constructing water harvesting structures, land levelling, etc. Around 50% of annual household income comes from this work and the rest comes from farming and dairy activities.
Vanita came to know about the one-acre farming model when she participated in a training programme organized by Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) and Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) for women farmers and agricultural labourers. SSP is an organization that promotes sustainable community development through empowerment of women in entrepreneurship and leadership roles. The participants went for an exposure visit to an organic farm in a place called Siddhagiri. There they witnessed a typical one-acre resilient agricultural model wherein more than hundred crops are grown on a single acre of land. Almost all the crops that were required to ensure the nutritional security of a household were grown there. Looking at the biodiversity on this little farm, Vanita felt that she should also grow as many crops as possible in this way to ensure that her household is self-sufficient.
She says, “Normally in one acre we get only one quintal. But through organic inputs we got four quintals of crop.”
She also decided to take up the model because of the following reasons:
• Vanita’s husband suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. Concerned about her family, she took up organic farming to provide healthy food for them and not for selling in the market.
• She felt that toxins like chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the agricultural produce purchased from the market are the prime reasons for various diseases. Theoretically, since she had land, she could grow healthy food crops for her family.
In early 2014 the family took two more acres of land on lease. Vanita took an undertaking from her husband that she would cultivate an acre of land on her own. And there she cultivated cereals, pulses and vegetables besides helping her husband in the other two acres to cultivate soybean and grapes to be sold. This continued in 2015 as well, which happened to be a drought year.
Today, she has brought all the three acres under the one-acre farm mixed-crop organic cultivation approach.
In 2015, the couple grew a total of 15 crops under the one-acre model. All the three food crop categories – cereals and millets, pulses and vegetables (including leafy vegetables) were taken up. In more than 68% of the land, she raised crops in the rainy season (Kharif) as well as in winter season (Rabi).
Farming is done either for family consumption or to earn an income from selling the produce, or for both the purposes. Vanita cultivates mainly for domestic consumption and sells only onions and brinjals; that too after retaining some for domestic use. This helps her ensure food security for her family.
Raising multiple crops in a single plot of land reduces the dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, prices of which always keep increasing. Besides, the soil health is also improved.
Vanita reaped more than 3900 kg of produce during the year 2015. Around 25% of the total production was used for household consumption. In terms of value, the amount of produce consumed fulfils 75% of the food requirements of the family. Vanita incurred a total expenditure of Rs. 9,600 per acre in cash, to raise the crops supplemented with the manure she produced from the cow dung from her farm, which was worth Rs. 6,000. Hence, her net income was Rs. 44,550 for two seasons, which amounts to nearly Rs.18,000 per acre.
“My dream is to develop my land with better water conservation techniques and start horticulture,” she says.
Even before joining SSP, Vanita’s husband used to consult her in taking decisions. But since she knew very little about farming, she was not confident enough to suggest new techniques. However, after becoming a part of the producer group, she is more confident. She is now able to take care of the farm on her own, thereby providing free time for her husband to expand his civil contracting business. Due to two autonomous earning members in their family, their household income has also increased. Her husband supports her in all farm related decisions. Even children work on the farm and help her in cultivation.
“I understood the importance of healthy food owing to ill health of family members. I have also received support from my family in this regard. My children respect me more, while my daughter treats me as her role model. In addition to all these, the other villagers treat me as a progressive women farmer,” she says.
Vanita feels that she has been cultivating grapes using chemicals and has been selling the same in the market. Now that she is able to give good quality food to her family, she would like to offer good quality organic grapes to the market as well.
– Prema Gopalan