A VO that can take initiative
'Who will pay? Who are you buying for?' asked the farmer at Bardela village (Purnia) when Ravina Khatoon, the President of the Nirala VO of Khanwa village, negotiated with him for 46 quintal of rice. He did not believe that these simple women, five in number - Ravina Khatoon, Sita Devi, Chanki Devi, Anita Murmu, Taria Khatoon - could buy such a huge quantity. Even when the rate was finalised and truck was hired, he did not believe that they would pay him then and there. He was taken aback when Ravina Khatoon paid him Rs. 58,650 at the rate of Rs.1275/quintal (that includes transportation and jute bags). The triumphant women went back on the truck, unloading bags at different SHGs on the way. The rice was packed in 50 kg bags to avoid difficulty in weighing. They provided the rice to the Samooh at the rate of Rs.1300 / quintal, benefiting altogether 92 families of nine SHGs. The market price was Rs. 1400-1500 per quintal. Significantly, the rice was purchased with funds from the CIF with the VO. It was the initiative at the VO level much before (November 2008) the food security plan was launched officially. And Nirala VO was inspired by the collective marketing in practice by one of its SHGs - the Alhamdulilah Samooh
A Bridge to Collective Action
It is the second week of June. The rainy season has not actually begun. Even then you have to wade through knee-deep water to reach Gidarahi village (Purnia district). During the rainy season the water level rises alarmingly, making communication very difficult. The chachari pul (a temporary bridge made of bamboo) which used to make communication easy is no longer usable. The issue is discussed at the meeting of Prakash Jeevika Gram Sangathan comprising exclusively santhal women (Schedules Tribe). 'Those who have bamboo groves should donate bamboos so that the chachari should be repaired,' proposed Usha Besara, a member representing Jeevan Prakash SHG. 'Those who have bamboo should give bamboos and others should contribute money to buy rope and other items needed for repairing the chachari,' added Mary Murmu, a member representing Jeevan Jyoti SHG. Finally, it was decided that the cooperation of the villagers will also be sought but the members should be ready to contribute bamboos or money to buy ropes and pay for the labour if needed and do Shramdaan.
The Beginning of Sujni
Proper refinement and packaging can develop the traditional rural arts into an upmarket product. This is the case with Sujni (embroidery work). It is being promoted by JEEViKA in two villages in Bochaha block in Muzaffarpur district - Sarfuddinpur and Madan Chaupar - through two VOs - Durga and Chandani - to help the women of the deprived class earn their income and thereby alleviate their poverty. At the demand of the VOs, the BRLP arranged for training in two phases. The programme was conducted by reputed textile and fashion designers from a Delhi based agency. Altogether 15 women received training on Sujni. Two of the selected women - Shakuntala Devi and Nazma were even called to Delhi.
The women make Sujni on sarees, carpets, bags, lamp covers etc. These women have been asked to keep on working as their work would be collected and paid adequately. Their works are on high demand. Several agencies keep on visiting them to purchase the art work.
SRI - 4 maunds per kathha
'My husband was not at all convinced with the idea of adopting System of Rice Intensification (SRI). "What will we do if it fails?" he asked. But I was convinced. We had a plot of two kattha which had been parati (virgin, uncultivated for years) for years. I along with my son dug that parati and made it cultivable. We prepared bed as directed, did the treatment of the seed using salt solution, prepared the nursery of the seed and on the 12th day planted the seed. "You will be responsible for wasting the field and energy," my husband used to taunt me till the growth became visible on the eighth day of plantation. As the growth continued, the people became impressed. Finally, when we got the yield of 4 maunds per kathha which was four times greater than we used to get even from the best of our plots, my husband acknowledged that SRI method is useful for paddy plantation,' narrated Sunita Devi II of Bhusia village in Gaya district.
VRP needs to come more often
You draw salary for asking us to adopt this method but why should we adopt this method? What will we eat if this method fails? People used to ask me to which I responded by assuring 'I will pay the penalty if there is no yield', said Sunti Devi I, a Village Resource Person (VRP) of the Nama Panchayat. 'Ham sathae rahabau sab kuchh tohara bataibo,(I stay with you, I will tell you everything)' I would say. But in some cases the husbands and in some other cases the wives would be adamant. It was after a lot of 'ghighiana' (imploring and persuading) that some of them agreed. I would even carry the seedlings in 'tokaris' (small baskets) to their fields to help them plant the paddy. However, the high yields through SRI vidhi (method) last year have changed the mentality of the people. Now they are complaining why I do not visit their village so often: 'Tohare dekhle se hum beez nai rakhaliai. Par sal the ghighiyaye rahalau ee sal na awaichhau. (We did not keep seeds this year because of you. Last year you used to implore but this year you have not been visiting us so often.)