Wayanad is a district in the north-east state of Kerala. It’s a largely rural area, surrounded by national forests and wildlife refuges. Though the region has gained traction as an ecotourism destination in recent years, the communities there remain largely undeveloped. Agriculture is the backbone of the Wayanad economy. According to one recent study, more than 90% of the residents there depend on agricultural activity to earn a living.
Farmers in Wayanad face many challenges beyond those typically associated with farming. Among these are Climate Change and flooding from monsoons. Wayanad encounters two monsoon seasons each year, June-September & October-November that flood this area. Despite these farmer’s best efforts to prepare, these seasons typically wreak havoc on crops. Farmers must often begin crops again mid-season, adding stress to an already sufficiently challenging field of work. But beyond these struggles lies a strong sense of resilience and hope for the future. As a global community, Profugo has stepped in to provide sustainable resources to these farmers. Throughout the times of this ongoing pandemic, Profugo’’s agriculture programs have changed, evolved, and grown to meet the ever-changing needs of this community.
Some of our newer programs that have begun to flourish throughout 2021 are the Farm Egg Cooperative, the Seeding & Sapling Nursery, and the Women-led Farming Collective. These programs are meeting our farmers directly where they’re at, providing tools and resources they need the most to survive. Our Women-led Farming Collective is now 2600 women strong. To wrap 2021 up on a positive note, our field team held conversations with a number of these farmers. We are excited to share the stories of Anna, Ancy, and Shaly today, giving you a glimpse into their worlds.
Anna is a farmer in Wayanad. She regularly participates in Profugo’s mobilization activities and receives subsidized seedlings and saplings from Profugo’s Nursery. Anna lives with her husband, two children, parents, as well as her brother and his family. For the most part, Anna shoulders the weight of the agriculture activity alone.
She grows cabbage, carrots, long beans, cauliflower, green chilis and more. Since joining Profugo’s Women-led Farmers Collective, Anna sources many of her seedlings from Profugo’s Seedling & Sapling Nursery. Anna adds, that having access to Profugo’s variety of seedlings allows her to cultivate more items, which she was unable to do before. Since joining Profugo, Anna’s practice of using chemical pesticides and manure has also stopped. She now grows everything organically.
In addition to farming, Anna is a tailor. Though it is not easy, Anna is able to balance the demands of agriculture and other household tasks. “I fruitfully use my free time available for farming,” she says, well-placed pun not intended. Anna uses her produce to feed her family and earn an income. Whatever is available after feeding her family is sold to community members in the area. From this income, Anna earns enough to support her family’s needs.
What brings Anna the most pride in her work is the feeling of satisfaction that occurs when she first sees her fields filled with crops and fruits ready to be harvested. “It is a moment of pride and makes me happier than eating the vegetables,” she reflects.
Anna sites Profugo’s work as exemplary service. She says, “For a woman like me getting saplings from Mananthavady is impossible. But Profugo has made it possible by supplying varieties at home. This has helped me expand my vegetable cultivation. It needs to be continued in the same way.”
In the future, Anna hopes to expand her agricultural activity more. She says, “Though not in a grand fashion, I want to expand and make it more rewarding.” Profugo looks forward to continuing to provide her tools and resources along the way to make that dream a reality.
Our second conversation comes from farmer Ancy, a member of Profugo’s Organic Kitchen Garden, Farm Egg Cooperative, and Seedling & Sapling Nursery. Ancy lives at home with her husband. Her parents come to visit, and her children stay when they are on break from their studies.
On Ancy’s farm, she also grows Long Beans, Bitter gourd, Snake gourd, Brinjal, Carrot, Cabbage, Broccoli, Chilli, Medicinal Plants, Grass, Plantains, Coconut, and Fruit. She also keeps dairy cows for milk. Ancy grows enough produce that she does not need to shop at the market for fruits and vegetables. Biggest among the daily challenges she faces is the unexpected and continuous rain that occurs in the present day.
For Ancy, agriculture is a full-time job. In the morning, she begins by tending to her dairy cows. Once finished, she moves on to her crops. She says she is able to manage everything with the time she has available, but it is a lot of work.
As she has begun cultivating a wider variety of quality vegetables, there have been inquiries from people to purchase. Ms. Moly, one of Profugo’s Community Resource Ambassadors (CRAs), has also supported Ancy by circulating the availability of her vegetables to customers through Profugo’s Vegetable Cooperative. Collectively, these efforts help Ancy earn a living. She adds, “Earlier I also used to do tailoring for income. But now I stitch only for the family members.”
The income she earns from agriculture enables her to focus more time on farming and find new ways to earn money. She adds, “I am happy to be engaged more in vegetable cultivation now.” When asked what brings her the most joy in farming, she says, “Seeing my crops blossom and bear fruit. Rather than cutting the fruits, we enjoy the sight of the same. The harvest gives me satisfaction more than anything in this activity [farming].”
Ancy has noticed a great deal of difference through Profugo’s support. She is a regular at Profugo’s Seedling & Sapling Nursery. She says, “Earlier we used to buy saplings from outside for a higher price. Profugo now supplies everything to the door step at a very subsidized rate. This enables us to start and continue our programs without break”
Ancy also takes part in Profugo’s Farm Egg Cooperative. “I had only one hen earlier, but when Profugo gave it to me at low cost, I bought one unit of cage and chicks, then followed with a second one.”
Profugo’s goal to empower these women farmers doesn’t go unnoticed. She adds, “This sort of support given from Profugo to women is very good and it enables us to engage in toxin-free (organic) vegetable cultivation.” The majority of the women Ancy knows in her area have joined Profugo groups. She asks Profugo to continue this sort of support and activities in the same way in the future.
Ancy hopes to be in agriculture for the long-haul. In the future, she plans to include even more crops and varieties and to one day be able to provide safe vegetables to the needy.
When reflecting on the future, Ancy says, “There is no looking back on this. I will continue with agriculture and expand the same in future.” We look forward to seeing what the future will hold for Ancy and continuing to provide specialized tools and resources along the journey.
Our third conversation comes from farmer Shaly. Shaly lives with her husband, mother, and two children. Shaly grows vegetables and also raises cows and chicks to earn a living. She grows grass for the cows and supplies 80 litres of milk each day to the local cooperative dairy society, of which she is Board Director. Shaly also prepares ghee from the milk and sells it to those who are in need.
Each morning, she wakes up at 4 am and after household work, takes care of the cows. After that, Shaly spends the rest of her day in the field tending to other agriculture activities. Though Shaly’s daily routine is packed, through the help of her family, she impressively manages all these activities in a day.
Shaly is happy in her work. “We are able to generate money to support the education of our children through this,” she says, “I am also a member in Profugo’s corner groups and am able to save money in the group. We get good motivation and support from Profugo.” She adds, “I got vegetable seedlings, saplings, chicks, cage and other materials from Profugo at a subsidized rate which was a great help.”
Shaly says she is grateful for the support Profugo has provided. She adds, “I am more interested in agriculture [now] and the spirit is increasing day by day.” In the future, she hopes Profugo will provide more resources in the form of vegetable seedlings and farming materials. She wants to one day rear goats and hopes Profugo can support that.
We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to help empower these women, their families, and their communities. 2021 has brought such growth for our Sustainable Agriculture program and we have seen a measurable difference. We look to the new year with open and eager hearts to continue serving the Wayanad community, uplifting women, one opportunity at a time. None of this would be possible without the support of our global neighborhood. If you are interested in joining our story, please make a donation here. A global neighborhood for a better quality of life!