Chengalpattu district, formerly part of Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu, relies entirely on agriculture as a source of income.
Nearly 21% of Chengalpattu’s residents are economically disadvantaged, mainly landless farm workers and marginal farmers, and lack basic services such as adequate housing, access to water, and health care.
In the 1950s, the Tamil Nadu government, under the Bhoodan Movement (land donation movement), land given away to landless families in Chengalpattu to incorporate them into the wider society.
Interact with women farmers in the area.
However, most of these patches of land were barren, barren, rocky, or had no water source. And, except for a small area near the Palar riverbed, most of the agricultural activities in the region are sustained by the monsoon.
The government allocated 38 acres of land to 76 families in Vellapathur and 12 acres to a group of 72 women from panchayat L.Endathur for farming.
Concern India Foundation based in Mumbai She realized that these women farmers would need support with farming, otherwise they would get involved as day laborers on other farms.
“Before our intervention, these women farmers from marginalized sections of the community in the villages of Vellaputhur and L. Endahur were doing menial jobs, despite owning their own farmland. Due to their poor economic situation, they were unable to install irrigation and other facilities to make farming their livelihood option,” says Kavita Shah, Executive Director of Concern India Foundation. SocialStory.
In April 2019, together with The CSR arm of Verizon IndiaConcern India implemented a livelihood project to empower marginalized women farmers to have sustainable livelihoods.
The project aims to organize them into groups, provide them with training to take up agriculture as their main occupation and support infrastructure, and facilitate links with the market.
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Implementing the project
Unemployment was high among the marginalized communities in the project villages, as the majority were unskilled or semi-skilled workers. Without regular income, many male members migrated to the big cities in search of work.
Vijayaraman J Subramanian, Vice President and General Manager of Verizon India, says: “The program helped us contribute to the transformation of women from day laborers to self-sufficient farmers and entrepreneurs by optimizing their land resources.”
Deepening of the well under Phase 1
Concern India implemented the project in two phases.
In Phase Ithe project involved leveling the land, treating the soil, reactivating three irrigation wells by removing sediment, and providing drip irrigation for 50 acres of land, followed by training in agricultural practices, cultivation methods, seed processing, natural manure preparation, water management, etc. .
The organization also enabled cohesive farming practices among women farmers and provided marketing and finance management through team building and high-quality seeds.
In Phase II, Concern India helped strengthen agricultural activity through new age agricultural technologies and infrastructure support. It also provided protection to irrigation wells and ponds to mitigate erratic electrical supply that makes irrigation difficult.
In fact, he also helped them implement and maintain solar-powered irrigation systems with water sprinklers and multipurpose electric cultivators to reduce the cost and time spent on weeding.
According to the Concern India Foundation, the project aims to make women from marginalized communities become financial contributors to their families, which will result in a better standard of living, both economically and socially.
Concern India’s project includes experts from the state government’s horticulture, agriculture and agricultural marketing departments, as well as associations of agricultural producers, traditional organic farmers and organic agriculture scientists.
He trained them in organic farming, soil treatment, horticultural methods, intercropping, vine shed, seed processing, mulch leaf cultivation method, marketing strategies, compost preparation, pest control techniques, preparation of herbal tonics and water management.
To date, the project has trained 148 farmers in agriculture and water management to use these techniques on their land. With the support of irrigation infrastructure, farmer groups claim to have obtained five times more yield than before.
Suganya, one of the farmers from the Vellaputhur Farming Women’s Group, says, “This is the first time my family has been farming continuously. We are busy all the time and can earn income throughout the year.”
Chili, tomato and eggplant nursery grown by women farmers
Women farmers in the villages of Vellaputhur and L. Endahur are now linked to six farmers’ markets, compared to just one market before, where they can sell their produce.
In addition, farmers from the surrounding villages also come to learn from these women.
In 2020, the Kancheepuram District Collector and members of the state government agriculture department paid an official visit to these villages to see how the agricultural project has resulted in better yields.
The officials considered it a model farm and suggested that other farmers visit them to improve their farming practices. In addition, students from colleges and universities in Chennai also visited the farms.
Vijayaraman says, “We aspire to create many more model villages like these and support the strengthening of the backbone of our economy.”
Overcome industrial challenges
In the first year, despite increasing the depth of three irrigation wells in the villages of L.Endathur and Vellaputhur, constant power outages, voltage fluctuation and irregular electricity supply became a challenge.
These wells required a three-phase power supply, available only during the evening hours, which meant that the male members of the family stayed late on the farms and faced multiple risks, such as wild animals and snake bites.
To overcome these drawbacks, the organization decided to build ponds on each farm, where water is pumped from solar-powered irrigation systems and stored on the farm until needed. They irrigate the farm with the help of solar-powered sprinklers.
This established system ensures that farmers can irrigate their land when needed and not be dependent on an intermittent power supply.
In addition, the walls of two wells in Vellaputhur village, which had a slow water infiltration rate, were further drilled to improve groundwater seepage, thus increasing water inflow to the region.
With the support of the foundation, these farmers have grown in the last two years. They are mature enough to own common and larger assets, such as refrigerators, and recognize the strength of the team. They have also moved away from insecurities and see challenges as opportunities, not threats.
Going forward, Concern India, together with concerned government departments, will help farmers explore new markets and linkages to access various schemes.