Fruitful pathways

With watermelons in Jharkhand and mangoes in Maharashtra, two projects targeted at enhancing the livelihoods of local farmers have taken root. The flavour and the texture of these efforts illustrate their value in providing an additional source of income for beneficiaries, while also widening their agricultural basket. The watermelon venture in Jharkhand operates under the Lakhpati Kisan Mission, the flagship programme of the Collective for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives, an associate organisation of the Tata Trusts. Water conservation and solar energy are important components of a project that, in 2021, helped 865 grower-entrepreneurs from across the state improve their earnings.

The mango cultivation project, operational in 21 villages in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district, has seen the Trusts teaming up with Nabard (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) to enable about 1,000 mostly tribal farmers with inputs for their small orchards, from which they can make up to  50,000 in additional income every year.

Anjali Murmu (left) from Phusri village in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh began growing watermelons in 2018. A year later she installed a solar-powered irrigation system that helped expand her coverage area to 3.5 acres. Women from the Shakti Mahila Vikas Sang (right) in Behra village started high-value agriculture in 2017 with tomato cultivation. Boosted by income increases and substantial profits, these women started cultivating watermelons in the summer of 2018.

Lotibai Pawara from Manwani Bk village in the Nandurbar district of Maharashtra has been cultivating mangoes on her one-acre plot while also undertaking soil- and moisture-conservation work to grow vegetables. Alongside, she has started rearing goats to provide an additional source of income. Ms Pawara’s farming efforts mean she no longer has to migrate in search of daily-wage employment.

There was a time when Gavali Pawara, a marginal farmer from Chuwad village in Nandurbar, would travel from village to nearby village along with her husband in search of menial work. No longer do they need to do that. Ms Pawara now cultivates mangoes and vegetables and has done well enough for herself to earn an income throughout the year.

Vila Valvi (left) from Manwani Kh village joined the Tata Trusts’ livelihood programme in 2017 and got started with mangoes and vegetables. Her mango orchard has now matured and is expected to bear fruit later this year. Fulanati Tadvi (right) from neighbouring Manwani Bk took a similar route while also getting involved in rearing goats. Ms Tadvi has become an influencer in her village and is actively engaged in the implementation of the livelihood initiative, motivating members of her self-help group to adopt improved farming practices.

Compiled by Kainaz Mistry