In this little-known village of Perumthotty in Idukki, a group of homemakers have woven a success story in joint farming under the initiative of the Kudumbasree Mission.

The three years’ work of the four women of the Sreyas Joint Liability Group (JLG) took them to the Global Agriculture Meet at Gandhinagar in Gujarat, where on September 2 they won the award for the best Kudumbasree unit from the State this year.

Their farming initiative is now being studied by a three-member team of a non-governmental organisation from New Delhi, which arrived here last week, for adoption in other States as a model under the National Rural Livelihood Mission.

The women have been members of the Kudumbasree Mission in Vathikudy grama panchayat since the beginning. After forming the JLG, they took up cultivation of just two varieties of vegetables – the bitter gourd and the yard-long bean, locally known as kuruthola payar – for which the soil and the climatic conditions here were best suited.

“Earlier, we cultivated tapioca, yam, ginger, plantain, and vegetables. It was only three years ago that we started concentrating on these two vegetables,” Bindu Scaria, a member of the Sreyas JLG and current chairperson of the Kudumbasree Mission of Vathikudy, said.

She received the best JLG award at the Gandhinagar meet after a brief stay in Jharkhand where she narrated her experience to various groups under a government initiative for women empowerment there.

While earlier too, pesticide and fertilizer application was minimal, the group completely switched over to organic cultivation from the last crop, Ms. Scaria said.

The JLG took 1.5 acres of land on lease for cultivating the two vegetables. For the organic cultivation, cow dung was used as fertilizer and a combination of a juice made from tobacco leaves for pest control, she said. The produce was sold directly to the Swayasraya Karshaka Vipani of the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council, Keralam.

“Last year, our Kudumbasree unit was selected as the best one engaged in farming and won the Mahila Sree award at a meeting organised by the Social Welfare Department to honour 100 noted women representing various fields,” she said.

In 2011, of the total turnover of Rs.3 lakh from the bitter gourd and beans sale, Rs.1.5 lakh was the group’s profit, she said.

Last season, their profit margin was lesser, she said, probably owing to the shift to organic cultivation.

This time, they delayed the sowing of seeds owing to incessant rainfall, she said. “We farm mainly in the morning and the evening.”

It is not only profits but also interest in farming that drives these women. Besides Ms. Scaria, Omana Somarajan, Kunjumol Jose, and Mini Babu are the other members in the team.

Vathikudy is a complete farming village with the three VFPCK markets at Thopramkudy, Rajamudy, and Daivamedu collecting produce daily from the farmers. The ‘nenthran’ plantain variety from here reaches as far away as New Delhi. However, it is the Perumthotty model that is being looked up to for empowering women in rural India.

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