Name : Algi Poolamma
About ten years ago, we could get work only during the rainy season, when there was a lot of weeding and harvesting to be done. But, in winter, work would come by very rarely. All through the winter, we would work only for about 30 days. On the other days, we had no work, so we used to gather firewood, or spend time making dung-cakes. On some days, we would make do with only one meal, and at times would just eat rice with salt. We would occasionally go out into the fields and forests to collect whatever vegetables or fruits we could get. Anything was fine as long as it was edible. But summer was the hardest season of the year. Most of us would be forced to leave our villages and go to the "pattnam" (city) in search of livelihood.
Now, the times have changed. After the start of the Sangham, we have had lots of help, such as summer employment. I got employment at the "Balwadi". My job was to clean, cook and feed the kids. So, for 5 years, I could feed my children and myself. My husband used to get a "jeetam" (pay) of Rs. 4000/- a year. My income of Rs.200/- would go towards meeting general expenses. During one Sangham meeting, we were told that it would benefit us much if we learnt making vermicomposting beds. So, we readied ourselves for the training, which was given at KVK. And they gave us materials also. We made the beds, and put the worms into them. In the beginning, we had difficulties, but by and by things started looking up. In the beginning we used to take two months to get manure. But with experience, we learnt to get it in a month's time. Then we cut down the duration even more. We took only 20 days, and now it is taking just 15 days for the manure to form. In a 3m X 1m bed, I am getting 2-3 quintals of manure. For the beds, we use all sorts of organic matter that is available: cow dung, neem leaves, kanuga (pongamia), tangadu (cassia auriculata) etc.
Today, not only the 'kapus' and 'reddies' (upper caste people) of our village, but people from Bidar, Nagwar, and Kottur come to us to buy the manure. I sell it at Rs.2/- a kilo, and make about Rs.800/- a month. Now, even if they call us for day labour, we do not go. In the past, my husband used to get a "jeetam" (pay) of Rs.4000/- a year, which was not sufficient. So, we would take loans exceeding our income. And then, to be able to pay back the loans, we would end up being on "jeetam" for the next year, and get no money at all. But for the past 2 years, thanks to vermicompost, I have been very happy. If my husband works for Rs.4000-5000, I earn Rs.6000-7000 a year. And mercifully, we are free of loans. Our life has really changed. I cry whenever I think of the past. I was married to a man who had nothing, not even a mat to sleep on, and today I have food, clothes to wear, and money to feed my children properly and send them to school. I have bought a buffalo, and I feel much more confident about my life. Just six months back, the total 'appu' (loan) of Rs.12,000, for which my husband worked as "jeetam", was cleared, and now we need to save some money to construct a house.
Name : Susheelamma
The SC corporation gave us land, but there were lots of problems with that land--poor fertility, plus we had no FYM or money to buy anything to improve the land. Here, at the Sangham office, these people said, "as money is the limiting factor, you should depend on your self by producing your own manure". We liked the idea, but initially there was a lot of resentment from our side, as we did not know anything about it. One day, we were shown the worms at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), and we really got scared, but the 'sirs' at the KVK picked them up and put them in our hands. After 2-3 days like that, we got comfortable with them. We learnt the technique and secured the materials like sand, bricks, mesh, bamboo poles. The mason was provided by the office for Rs. 2000, which was to be paid back in installments. The worms were supplied by KVK on the agreement that we would return them when we had excess. We returned them within a year.
Today the situation is such that we sell worms to KVK and other people who are trained at KVK like us. I have a total of 3 acres, of which 2 acres is garbu (fallow land)and 1 acre is regadi (black cotton soil). We mix the jerrela erru (Vermicompost) with the seed and sow them and apply the same when the plants are of one foot height. I am able to sell the excess of vermicompost at rupees 2 a kilogram. Right now, I produce 2 quintals a month from the 10ft X 3ft bed, and get about Rs 200 every month.
This erru (compost) is 'salava'(cool) , and the plants do not dry up in the sun. They grow healthy, with minimal of pest attack. As it is natural, I also get good, tasty and healthy food for my family. If we apply masala errulu (Chemical fertilizers), it actually harms the soil and the crop, especially as we have garabu. Just this season we harvested 2 quintals of togari (red gram) and we did not use anything except for pentas erru (farm yard manure) and gerrala erru (vermicompost), while my neighbouring farmer used masala errulu (chemical fertilizers), and could not harvest even the amount of seed he planted.
When we were not in the Sangham, we were very poor, but now we have gained some 'telivi' (knowledge) and 'dhairyam' (courage) and learnt some things through the training and today we go to train other fellow farmers, like I went to Hatnoor a few months back. Today we are able to run our house and livelihood and get regular income from my own sources and not depend on outside labour. I am able to take loans and feel confident that I can pay back, either by selling vermicompost or by exchanging it. Now in the village, all know that we are not poor any more, we have got recognition for our hard work.
Name : Mandapuram Jarnamma
Before the Sangham started in our village, we had to travel to other villages, walk three to five kilometer's distance with our small children and earn our livelihood, doing the weeding and harvesting work. When we did not have work, we would go to collect fuel and dung or stay at home without any work. My husband was a bonded labourer. There were acute financial problems at home. The wages were very low at that time.
The Sangham started in our village 14 years back. We were only 25 members at that time. Actually, I did not know the Sangham system, but my brother-in-law introduced me to it. Then, I started saving every week as much money as I could. At that time, through our Sangham, DDS office supported us in the purchase of weekly rations and sarees by hiring our services in the health programme. And when I had to undergo a surgery, it was the DDS, which supported me with a Rs.2000/- grant.
Later, I bought a buffalo, which gave birth to two calves. We get three litres of milk per day, for which we have regular buyers. This is a big income boost for us.
The SC Corporation had a scheme under which the landless were given
one acre each. And we applied for it through the Sangham, and each of
us was sanctioned an acre of land. The DDS then trained us in producing
vermicompost. We spent Rs.2000/- for every vermicompost bed, but the
returns have been very, very encouraging. This has also been an income
generating programme for us.