Pipra’s universal ‘Kisan Chachi’

Bounty For women, by women

Aunty-farmer movement Inspired by Kisan Chachi, self-help groups, like this one in Pipra village, have taken up agro-based ventures charkha features

How this exceptional woman became a role model in Muzaffarpur district

Gita Devi from Pipra village in Muzaffarpur district’s Saraiya block, Bihar, is known for the special variety of lemons she cultivates. Jeeta Shahi from Anantpur village is admired for the number of vegetables she grows on her plot of land and sells to the mandis of big towns like Muzaffarpur and Hajipur.

A few years ago, both women were simple rural housewives. Today they are successful farmers. Says Gita, “Earlier I had to ask my husband for money. Now I earn enough to educate my children.”

Both have a common inspiration — the Kisan Chachi who egged them on. She is, in fact, the motivation for hundreds of women in the villages of the Saraiya block. They not only follow in the footsteps of 58-year-old Rajkumari Devi, but have also christened her Kisan Chachi.

Perhaps the reason why Rajkumari has been able to touch people’s lives is because her own journey has been so compelling. Married to Avdesh Kumar Choudhary soon after completing her Class X exam, the couple lived in a joint family unit engaged in tobacco cultivation.

In the following years there was a division of property in the household, leaving Avdesh with a small plot. Rajkumari began to take an active interest in farming. “Why continue to grow tobacco when it is harmful to health,” she asked herself. She instead turned to planting fruit trees and vegetables, which led to a bountiful yield.

Putting her home-grown skills to use, she came up with a range of succulent jams, jellies and pickles that she sold locally. She also showed tremendous enthusiasm for sharing her experience with other women.

Soon she began to go from village to village riding a bicycle, a rarity in the rural scenario. At first Rajkumari was met with disapproving looks from many in the community. But, in the course of time, she endeared herself to many. She earned their goodwill, admiration and the epithet ‘Kisan Chachi’.

The enterprising woman now produces 23 varieties of jams, pickles, sauces, murabbas, chutneys and pastes under the ‘Kisan Chachi’ brand name, given to her by the community. As her products are free from chemical fertilisers, they are popular in village haats and bazaars in States such as Gujarat and metros including Delhi and Mumbai.

Around 360 women were motivated to take up this work and are now organised into 10 self-help groups across villages in Saraiya. Not only are they contributing towards savings within their group but have also branched out into other areas such as bee-keeping, fish cultivation and animal husbandry.

Rajkumari has received several accolades. In 2006 the Bihar government selected her for the Kisan Shri Award. The Gujarat government, too, appreciated her efforts. Recently, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recognised her contribution.

But for Rajkumari, this is just the beginning and she has miles to go. “I have a dream — to make women across the country aware of the potential of agriculture as a means of livelihood. They can earn from it and become independent.” She believes this is the route that can change society itself.

Charkha Features

Published on May 20, 2016

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