Dekhiye bhaiya, hamare gaon ki kheti dekhne America se log aye… aur yeh sambhaw hua kewal SRI bidhi se kheti karne ke karan….देखिये भैया , हमारे गाँव की खेती देखने अमेरिका से लोग आये…और ये संभव हुआ केवल श्री विधि से खेती करने के कारण…. (see, people from America came to visit our plots and that happened only by adoption of SRI method of cultivation). Madhuri Devi of Barsona village of Gaya District in Bihar shares with excitement and confidence about her experience of SRI farming. 2010 is a memorable year for her and other farmers of the village. In winters they went for an exposure to see SWI (System of Wheat Intensification) in Bodh Gaya (The Birthplace of Budhism), with support of PRAN (Preservation and Proliferation of Rural Resources and Nature), the then PRADAN. Madhuri Devi was very much excited with the plant growth, size of panicle and confidence of the farmers. She took few panicles along with her as a proof and convinced her husband to do SRI paddy in coming rainy season. After a few days of initial confrontation and disbelief, finally her husband Ishwar Kumar Verma agreed to provide her a piece of 10 decimal land for SRI trial. Since then she has never looked back; and from a starving family now she sells paddy.
Madhuri Devi has gone through many miseries in her life. Only at the age of 5 years, her father passed away. Though the uncles and grandfather looked after the family, but Madhuri could not complete her schooling. At the age of 15 when she was studying in 10th and dreaming for a bright performance in exams, she was married and dropped out of school. Her ill fate continued and two consecutive years saw a severe drought. The family was in a great stress and somehow managed through PDS and debt/loan from others.
Madhuri Devi has 1.2 acres of total land out of which only 55 decimals are cultivable. In 2011 she started with SRI paddy in 10 decimal of land. She harvested 6.25 quintal that year whereas earlier the production was meagrely 1.8 quintal. With this exciting experience, her husband was also convinced and they decided to adopt this method in other crops too. Her husband Ishwar Kumar Verma agreed to extend support to other farmers in the village and started working as Village Resource Person (VRP). Gradually the family has started cultivating rapeseed (mustard), brinjal, tomato and elephant foot yam (ol) through SRI method*[we call SRI as System of ROOT Intensification] in more than 50 decimal cumulative area. She is also growing wheat through SRI method.
Adoption of SRI method of farming has changed the fate of Madhuri’s family. In 2012, they sold surplus paddy of Rs.23000 and vegetables in the range of Rs.30000-35000. Next year, they took 35 decimal land on lease to expand their farming. Similarly, despite of irregular rain in 2013, she earned around Rs. 60000 from agriculture.
The family has gradually reduced the consumption of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in their farm nearly by 50%. This year they have brought a plot of brinjal (shown in the picture) into complete organic farming. They have applied vermi compost, SRI Pranamrit (fertilizer made by poultry litter, ash and oil cake) and pesticides and fungicides made from local materials. She is very much excited by the result as the plant growth is very good, greener shoots and less attack of diseases.
Beside the economic benefits through SRI which have helped Madhuri Devi to come out of misery and lead a respectful life, she has gained high level of self confidence. As a result villagers have identified her as Community Mobilizer for the State Government’s BRLPS project (Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society). She acknowledges that her knowledge about modern and sustainable farming system, social relationship and recognition in society has increased. Now after 17 years of marriage she is planning to complete her unfulfilled dream of passing the matriculation exam.
However, transformation from traditional way of farming to SRI was not easy for her. In the first year the villagers ridiculed. Later on lack of tools for sowing wheat hampered the expansion. Similarly, labourers were uncomfortable to deal with delicate saplings of paddy and other vegetables. She had to give dedicated effort for timeliness of field preparation, transplantation, hoeing, weeding, etc which was very much crucial in SRI.
Despite these difficulties, based on her own experiences and the adoption by neighbours, Madhuri Devi convincingly concludes that System of Root Intensification in agriculture is the fate for poor and marginalised farmers to attain food sufficiency and economic well being.