Boyini Lakshmamma, a 45 year old single woman farmer from Bidakkane village, Jharasangam mandal in Telangana, lost her husband 15 years ago. She has three sons and one daughter. Lakshmamma inherited 2 acres of land - an acre each of red soil and black soil from her in-laws. She had to leave the land fallow as she didn’t have enough funds to invest on the land and also all the work had to be done almost single-handedly. The land was last cultivated about 15 years ago by her father-in-law.
Aranya Agricultural Alternatives along with Living Ecology initiated an internship program where interns conduct permaculture projects by selecting under-resourced people and single women farmers in Bidakanne. The internship is for permaculture students to strengthen their experience and education through mentorship with master elder permaculturists. As part of their project, the interns design the land of the chosen people using permaculture design principles. This process involves interviewing the farmer, conducting site surveys, base mapping, executing earthworks and creating a planting plan. All this is done to fetch long-term benefits and positive results for the farmers.
Aranya has been working with single women farmers for about two decades now and therefore, Lakshmamma was approached for one such project. The farmers approached for the internship projects usually fall in one of the three categories: they own a piece of land that’s been lying fallow for a long time because of limited economical resources, farmers who have been using conventional agriculture methods and the goal of working with them is to make them adopt permaculture practices in farming by making them start small, or farmers who have been following permaculture methodology and there’s room to improve the practices.
A conversation with Lakshmamma reveals her intent behind reviving the piece of land she has. She says “I may not have money to leave for my children and grandchildren, but I want to leave something better than money for them. I want them to have the power to produce healthy food and live a healthy life.” With this great objective in mind, Aranya supported Lakshmamma by implementing earthworks, creating water harvesting structures , growing a live fence, plough and planting on her 2 acre land. Various fruit trees such as amla, mango, lemon, karonda, fig, mulberry, chiku, cashew and also bamboo were provided to her by Aranya. As there is lack of water on her land, she is currently trying to save all her plants by using pitcher irrigation techniques near each plant.
Growing for the future: Daniel Cleveland (in white), one of the interns for the Living Ecology program and Fazal (in the centre), one of the volunteers with Aranya, teaching Lakshmamma and her eldest grandson Shiva Kumar how to plant a mango tree with the pitcher pot
Not just Lakshmamma but her grandchildren and grandnieces have involved themselves in this project out of their own interest. Daniel, who is interning for the Living Ecology program shares the enthusiasm of grandchildren, “Shailaja, Laksmama's youngest grandchild loves wearing my hat. One day she can be eating the fruits from the trees Laksmamma planted on her land this year. Shiva Kumar, Laksmama's eldest grandchild grabs the fawda (spade) on his own initiative and helps move soil for finishing a bund next to an important water harvesting trench.” These are signs of real change. The next generation needs to see farming as a positive means of living and not the last resort of living.
Lakshmamma is all set with the land ploughed up to sow her crop once it rains. She is eagerly waiting to become self sustainable and has great hope that her farm will be able to feed her and her children and grandchildren by next year. She’s now happy to see her land back in cultivation and is ready to face the challenges of cultivating dry land with no source of irrigation, but with the belief that she can do it.