It was just another tough day for Rajiya Bi. She was out selling her earthen pots under the strong sun in the village of Eedulapally in Sanga Reddy district in Telangana. Her husband was ill and she desperately needed to buy him medicine for him. She had no land of her own and earned whatever little by laboring in farms nearby. Feeding 7-8 people at home was not an easy task. Especially, now with Khwaja mia being ill, she had to earn whatever little extra money she could.

She was selling her pots at Rs.20, but one day, fortunately, she met Padma Koppula – co-founded of Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, who gave her Rs. 100 after listening to her truly sad plight, instructing her to buy medicines for her husband. Rajiya Bi was overjoyed. She bought not only the medicines but also food for her family. But this wasn’t the last time Rajiya Bi met Padma.

Subsequently, with Padma and Narsanna Koppula’s help, she was able to join the Sangam – a self-help group that is a community of rural farmers, where she learnt of work opportunities to earn some money. Later, when Padma and Narsanna discovered her wish to have land of her own, they helped her monetarily to buy 3 acres of land. After she started to plough the land, she integrated a buffalo, bullocks and chickens. In permaculture, livestock is an integral part of sustainable living. A harmonious integration of natural elements provides for food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. To explain this better, the crops provide for food and fodder for the livestock, the livestock in turn provide manure, which in turn nourishes the soil and helps grow better crops.

As this was a dryland farm, it needed special care. Aranya also implemented water harvesting earthworks structures on her land. They also gave her more knowledge on planting techniques and helped her grow and market the produce. On this land, she grew jowar (sorghum), toor dal (pigeon pea), bajra (pearl millet), red gram, Indian rosella, lab lab and cucumber. All these efforts helped the couple build a self-sustainable life.

During this progress, unfortunately, the couple lost two of her children, yet they continued to focus their energies on the land. Khwaja mia (her husband) took a contract with the government to clean and sell tamarinds from the trees. With whatever money they collected they managed to pay back some of the loan that they had taken from the Sangam.

In this endeavour of Aranya’s they were able to help a woman get land, grow crops, provide money during the times of illness, get their daughters married, and give joy and care. 

Footnote: Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, an 18-year old NGO in Hyderabad has been working with rural and tribal farmers as well as urban people to help them understand and embrace permaculture methodologies in farming. They have also been extensively involved in natural resource management and empowering rural communities. To know more about them, visit www.permacultureindia.org Aranya Agricultural Alternatives is also hosting the 13th International Permaculture Convergence for the first time in India. This event will gather over 1000 permaculturists, nature lovers and sustainable living followers to connect and share solutions for some of the most challenging ecological issues our planet is facing. To know more about the event, visit www.ipcindia2017.org

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