Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Give Up? Says Who?!: Inspiring Stories 6

Ms. Padma Raut from village Manikwada stands out from other rural women in more ways than one. 
A gritty personality with a ‘never say die’ attitude;
Not a person to mull long over spilt milk, she fights back with a vengeance.
The difficulties have to bow down ultimately.

A life which has consistently thrown challenges at her from a very young age- Poverty, lack of education, lack of resources, with mother dying of snake bite, father being swept away and lost in flood waters. She herself was married off as a second wife to a person who already had 2 daughters from the first marriage.

Her spirited fight back led her to try out as many things as possible.  Anything which could give some money to tide things over for the next few days.

Ms. Padma Raut
Educated only upto 1st standard in school, she worked as agricultural labourer, tried her hand at odd jobs of tailoring, working as an insurance agent, established a small shop selling stationery.
She also tried selling bangles, worked even as a barber for small children - a trade operation by a WOMAN unheard and unseen in rural India.  She gets Rs.5-10 for each trimmed head, earning an average of Rs.175/- ($3) per month.

All trades with meager capital and most working only as seasonal.

Meanwhile, her husband tried to set her on fire after a drinking bout.

Life stumbled along with impending marriages of daughters, a costly affair in India, a drunkard husband, education, food …. and after some time, even her husband’s death which brought fresh problems in its wake.

At such times, the question is more about survival, than rights.

Woman barber - a revolutionary scene in an Indian village

After a few years her inherent spirit goaded her to tackle things squarely.

The support from GlobalGiving came along. On advice from other committee members, she sought access to a higher credit.

A loan amount of Rs.10,000 ($168) allowed her to start a small trade of spices especially red chillies, an important ingredient in Indian cooking. She bought the chillies at wholesale prices, when the prices were low in the market. She converted half into powder and sold this processed spices at retail prices.
Cost price = Rs.18,000 for 300 kg. of chillies.
Processing cost = Rs.1,500 for 150 kg. of chillies.
Selling price= Rs.14,000 for 140 kg of chilly-powder. (10 kg is lost in processing).
(From chillies cost of Rs.9,000 + Processing Rs.1,500 = Total cost Rs.10,500).

150 kg of unprocessed, whole chillies still remain in her home.

She usually keeps the selling price a few notches lower than that commanded in the market. And takes utmost care to maintain the quality of her product. Even if the profit is low, it is the business which comes to her.

Padma selling chilli powder to a local customer
She plans to expand the business further.
She has already repaid the loan amount to the federation.
This will go to help another deserted woman in need.
Her husband no more, her sole aim in life is to get a decent education for her son.
With this stability in life, her go-getter personality consistently keeps on trying to help other women with difficult lives, egging them on to step out and improve their condition.  Her motto -  NEVER GIVE UP !

Padma with her friend

Friends, please note that your support in terms of time or resources actually gives you and your friends a chance to help women like  Padma, providing vehicles which should and will help them catch up with rest of the society.

I request you to promote this link,
Thank you !
Warm  Regards from us and Padma !

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rainfall and Diseases

The monsoon has been extra zealous this year. You may have heard about it already, and if you are living in certain parts of India, may have experienced it already. In Maharashtra, especially in Wardha, it has been raining non stop - the precipitation till July is already double than what is observed in a normal monsoon.

On the experimental farm, we are working on problems related to water logging, especially in fields where crops are standing. There is a marked increase in plant diseases. Fusarium wilt disease in on rise, and so is the yellow mosaic virus of pulses. Girdle beetles are making their presence felt too.

Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease and affects a number of herbs. Those that are most commonly targetted by the fungus are legumes, cucurbits, tomato, potato, and some other members of the family Solanaceae. The fungus is omnipresent in the soil but gets a boost in warm and moist soil conditions. It enters the the plant through the vasculature in root tips and migrates to different parts of the body. The process is similar to how a pathogen enters human blood stream and migrates to different parts of the body resulting into a rapid spread. The fungus and its spores ultimately cause the clogging of the vasculature, bringing the transport of water and nutrients inside the plants to a halt, eventually causing the wilt. Using resistant varieties, mixed-cropping techniques, crop rotations and proper drainage of the field are few of the solutions to control the disease.

Fusarium wilt
Yellow mosaic virus commonly affects pulses, but can target a wide variety of crops. The virus can get transmitted to the plant either through whiteflies and aphids while they are sucking on the plant sap, or through the infected seeds. The symptoms depend on the plant species or variety, but most common symptoms are yellowing of leaves, apical necrosis which results in stunted growth, mottling of leaves, yellowing of veins, etc. It's a dreadful disease since yields can decrease by as much as 95%. Using resistant varieties, mixed-cropping techniques, crop rotations and using seeds from disease-free fields fields are few of the solutions to control the disease.

Yellow Mosaic Virus. Both images courtesy Google Images.

Girdle beetles feed on the foliage and flowers of the crops and cause sizeable damage. As the photosynthesis efficiency of the plant decreases, it lags behind, resulting into late and low productivity. Mixed cropping techniques and crop rotations are effective measures against the beetles. In chemical agriculture, pesticides are obvious choices to contain  the problem, but we wholeheartedly believe in organic farming. The solutions hence, are more prophylactic than curative in case of girdle beetles.

Coming to the connection between rainfall and the diseases, there is a direct link between rainfall and Fusarium wilt. We need more data to establish with confidence that there is a connection between amount of rainfall and incidence of YMV and of the beetles. Right now it is a correlational evidence at best.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Monsoon Grievance

Recently, 5 women from Dhamangao village in Wardha district were struck by lightning and died on spot. This is an extremely unfortunate incident; even more upsetting since we had a close association with all 5. They were part of the self-help group run by the organisation, and one of them, Uma Raut (who was only 52 years old), was active in running our after-school activity and learning centre for kids and teenagers in the village. It’s very unfortunate when a human life falls prey to something so avoidable. Our sympathies are with the grieving families.

As you know the tree cover is reducing exponentially. This is especially obvious when one visits the farmers’ fields. One can observe just one or two trees in the middle of vast stretches of cultivated land. When it starts raining, the farmers and the labourers run towards the nearest possible tree to find shelter, and that’s the most fatal mistake. Lightning usually strikes the highest point in an area, and in the fields, that’s usually the treetop under which people have taken shelter.

The problem is compounded by lack of enough trees and the increase in frequency and intensity of thunders and lightening instances, possibly due to climate change. The latter is a mere speculation, but it is in line with how climate change affects weather patterns, such as monsoon behaviour in India (less number of rainy days) and hurricanes over Atlantic Ocean (increase in the number and intensity), both of which have been proven scientifically.

While tree cover needs to be increased, and the climate change needs to be arrested, these are more long-term solutions. If there are any experts amongst you, or if you know someone who may know something to prevent this, do get in touch.

PS. We thought of lightening catchers, but not sure about the area it covers.