Empowering Maha Dalit Farmers Through Vegetable Seedling Production

This case study sheds light on the inspiring story of Maha Dalit farmers who have found empowerment and improved livelihoods through growing vegetable seedlings. It explores the challenges faced by Maha Dalit communities and how they have leveraged their skills and resources to engage in seedling production. The study highlights their journey, including the steps involved in seedling cultivation, and the impact on their socio-economic conditions. This case study serves as an example of how marginalized communities can create sustainable livelihood opportunities through agriculture.

Kalo Devi, a small and marginal farmer who have less than 3 Kathha of land, living in a small hamlet of Dighasin village, Bankey Bazar, Gaya. She lived along with her husband and ___son and ___daughter in her home. Her husband has been working as a farm labour in village. They have two goats as well. They are also growing vegetables in their small piece of land. The family’s annual income is around Rs.12,000. Daily wages and earning from vegetables growing are the main means of livelihood for them. They are experiencing high levels of poverty, with limited access to income-generating opportunities.

They have been facing social exclusion and discrimination based on their caste identity. They often endure marginalization, restricted access to education, healthcare and other public services, and limited participation in decision-making processes. They have also limited access to essential resources such as land, water, and credit. This restricts their ability to engage in agricultural activities or start entrepreneurial ventures.

The lack of skill development opportunities further perpetuates the socio-economic challenges faced by them. Without adequate skills, they may struggle to secure stable employment or engage in income generating activities. This communities often face limited access to social security benefits and welfare programs designed to alleviate poverty and provide support during emergencies.

Our Interventions & Process Followed:

  1. Selection of Farmers: We have established 30 polyhouses in our project areas, out of which 18 in Bankey Bazar. We identified all the farmers (i.e., 18 for setting up polyhouse for nursery) in village/FPCG level meetings where all the members participated in the selection of farmer for polyhouse nursery. Following were the criteria for selection of farmers:
  • Those who have less than 3 kathha of land
  • Those who mostly depends on wages for their livelihood
  • Women ownership
  • Willingness and commitment
  • Social inclusion and equity
  1. Capacity building and Skill Development: To enhance their agricultural skills such as vegetable seedlings production including technical guidance and best practices, we have organized couple of trainings (in batches) for cadres and then cadres use to train farmers on regular interval and based on their needs at Farmer Field School (FFS) and also providing hand holding support. In this process, Mr. Yashwant Singh (a senior consultant, Agri-entrepreneur) helped the team on regular basis.
  2. Site Selection and Planning: We have selected sites and did plan as follows:
  • Factors to consider when selecting a suitable site for the polyhouse such as availability of land, water, and other important factors.
  • Designing the polyhouse layout and infrastructure – The polyhouses are in 10*10 sq. feet size. Two Zalkunds (water tank) are over there for irrigation purpose in each polyhouse.
  1. Procurement and Installation: This involved the following steps:
  • Procurement of necessary materials, equipment’s, and infrastructure for the polyhouse
  • Construction of polyhouse structure and setting up irrigation system
  • Ensured compliance with safety and environmental standards
  1. Crop selection and Cultivation:
  • We selected suitable vegetable crops to develop seedlings such as chilly, brinjal, and tomato for polyhouse based on market demand and feasibility.
  • We also discussed with them around crop management techniques, including planting, irrigation, fertilization, and pest control.
  1. Regular monitoring and Handholding Support: The team along with cadres use to visit their polyhouses on regular basis for close monitoring of crops to prevent them from any pests and guide them for better outputs.

Impact on Livelihoods:

The farmer (Kalo Devi) prepared 25 such portrays of seedlings where she sold Rs.150/-per tray. Hence, she earned a total of Rs.3750/-. All these saplings were developed in one month. Now, she has been continuing this polyhouse-based nursery to earn and enhance their income. This is also somehow contributing in terms of securing food security and self-sufficiency. These small amounts may help in socio-economic improvement in terms of household well-being, education and healthcare to some extent.

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