Over the years, local villagers in Uttarakhand have been migrating to cities in search of livelihood.
But not everything turns out rosy for these migrants as they have to work in dhabas and tea stalls in cities like Delhi doing menial jobs and sweating it out for a pittance.
Dehradun’s Divya Rawat, who came to pursue higher education in Delhi, was deeply troubled to see the fate of the migrants from her home state.
It hurt her to see them living miserable lives in the city while the villages back home turned into ghost villages.
In a bid to help people find employment and lead dignified lives within the state of Uttarakhand, she turned to growing mushrooms. “Sometimes the best solutions lie in the simplest of things,” says Divya.
She points out that while farmers earn Rs 8-10 per kg by selling potatoes, they can earn Rs 80-100 per kg by selling mushrooms.
“This price difference can change the lives of farmers. But I wanted the cultivation to be made simple so it could be adopted by as many people as possible,” she says.
She used bamboo racks for vertical cultivation, which eliminated the need for large spaces and costly metal structures.
“If you have a small room to spare, even under a thatched roof, you can grow mushrooms without any hassles all through the year,” she adds.
She started growing mushrooms like button, oyster, and milky mushrooms and also helped people become entrepreneurs with an investment of Rs 50,000.
“If they can’t invest this amount, I encourage them to take a bag of mushrooms from me and learn how to grow them. I inspire them and guide them so they can learn and make change possible,” says Divya.
She also began identifying ghost villages and started mushroom production units there. For instance, in the village of Seriadhar, where only three families were left.
“Some migrants are even returning to the village,” smiles Divya, who is hopeful that mushroom farming will eventually change the lives of villagers in Uttarakhand drastically.
For her work, in 2017, she was awarded the prestigious ‘Nari Shakti Puraskar’ by the then-president of India, Pranab Mukherjee.
In an interview with The Indian Express in March 2023, Divya said she has inspired 15,000-odd families across the country to take up mushroom farming.