Landless labourer from Bihar becomes a successful mushroom farmer
Intelligence shines everywhere, whether it is in the classrooms, in the jungles or in the fields. However it is those who shine in the classrooms who tend to walk away with tag ‘intelligent.’ But top academic honours only show one aspect of intelligence. I wrote a detailed article on this subject for the Deccan Herald which I have posted here.
This post is about a simple village woman, Lalmuni Devi of Azadnagar village in Patna district. She was just a labourer but today she is a successful farmer. So successful in fact that this semi-literate woman from Bihar is among top 25 Asian farmers today. She was just a daily wage earner but when she turned to mushroom farming after she was taught the skill under a programme conducted by the Indian Council of Agriculture and Research (ICAR), she made it! The fact that she was successful inspite of owning no land of her own is very creditable. Even more creditable, she invested just Rs 500 and started out by growing mushrooms in her own house! And that too by using her own unique and original farming methods. Her success brought her recognition. As the article in The Tribune says:
Today her name figures among the top 25 Asians in Mexican Gallery of the CIMMYT, a well known Mexico based institute engaged largely in research for improvement of maize and wheat crops….Lalmuni says that she uses balls of wheat husks and rotten hay to grow mushrooms. Packed in polythene bags, the balls are arranged in rows under her thatched roof which nourish the oyster mushroom shoots in humid setting…
Mushroom farming is not easy. As this article explains:
Between 1993 and 1998 at least 35 companies, including the Tatas, the Thapars, and Hindustan Lever, got into the business of mushroom farming. But within 5 years all the 35 companies have closed down. The reasons are not difficult to fathom. Mushroom farming in the first place is a 20-hour job in a day. Secondly, unless one is passionately involved in the cultivation of mushrooms, it is an uphill task to survive in this venture.
We shouldn’t be too surprised about the fact that even though Lalmuni has got international recognition for her work, she hasn’t got an awards from the Indian government. This inspite of the fact that agriculture and agro-based industries have been identified as critical in improving the economic scenario in Bihar. Lalmuni should in fact be invited to various forums by the Bihar government so that she can guide and inspire other people. Lalmuni’s story is inspiring, and already 22 other women from her village have taken up mushroom farming.
Ofcourse, Lalmuni cannot achieve what rich farmers like Malwinder Bhinder who own large tracts of land have achieved. He is making a lot of money from mushroom farming. after investing over Rs 6 crore! Today Bhinder grows mushrooms round the year and is exporting to western markets as that is where the money lies.
Lalmuni cannot dream of becoming a millionnaire. She has hardly any land to call her own. That is probably why she is being ignored by the Bihar government. But while Lalmuni may be making small amounts of money, today she can be proud of the fact that she has been internationally recognised as a successful farmer…and that makes her a role model for other women.
(Photo sourced from ndtv)
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