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"Slow but steady wins the race": Lilawati

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Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS

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(CNS): This is the inspirational story of Lilawati-a teacher cum farmer. The mother of 7 children--4 daughters and 3 sons, of whom one son died at the age of 25 years--66 years old Lilawati lives with her retired husband, 2 sons and their wives, a widowed daughter-in-law (who is a teacher) and 5 grandsons and 5 granddaughters. Lilawati, one of five siblings, lost her parents when she was very young. Her elder brother brought up the family. Lilawati could study only till Class 5 and was married off when she was just 15 years old.

Life after marriage

Lilawati was married into a poor family. Her husband was the second of four brothers and was studying in class 6 at the time of marriage. With the cooperation of her in-laws, Lilawati managed to resume her studies, alongside working in the fields, and passed Class 10. She encouraged her husband to study even more and later take up a job at a clothing factory in Shahjahanpur.

Her work and achievements

Lilawati started working on the fields to help tide over a financial crisis. Her family did not object to her working outside the house as they saw the economic benefit of it. In the initial years, besides working on her piece of land, Lilawati would also lease fields of others and earn a living mostly through growing and selling of vegetables. Through multi-cropping, Lilawati grows wheat, paddy, sugarcane and also vegetables like potatoes, okra, bitter gourd, green chilly, and brinjal. When she had less land she grew vegetables on just 1 bigha, but now she grows vegetables on 3 bighas and make a profit of INR 1 lakh per year from sale of vegetables alone.

Earlier she would use chemical fertilizers. So the yield was not good and profits were less too. But later after coming in contact with Aaroh Mahila Kisaan Manch ('Aaroh' is a campaign for rights and recognition of women farmers in Uttar Pradesh supported by Oxfam India), she started growing vegetables with the help of organic manure made by her. This not only increased the yield of the vegetables but also made them tastier and more nutritious and they fetched a higher price. Application of new farming techniques, which she learnt in training workshops at Bantaara ashram, also helped her to grow more with less input costs. Lilawati usually sells her produce in the local market but sometimes goes to the district mandi (market) as well, carrying them on her bicycle.

She is a member of Aaroh Mahila Kisan Manch and has undergone training in vermiculture and trained others too to make vermicompost. She has helped others to realize the potential of organically grown vegetables. She does voluntary work as a 'prerak' (motivator) in three villages, motivating them to do organic farming, and inspiring them to empower women. She is also the secretary of district level vegetable producers group in Bantaara, which has 2250 women members.

A go-getter, Lilawati keeps herself updated by undergoing training every month at Bantaara. She has also been to other cities like Lucknow, Pantnagar, Delhi, Faizabad, and Varanasi for trainings. She has been actively involved with the Aaroh campaign since the last 3 years. This has helped her get land registered in the name of women in many cases. Under the Aaroh campaign she has taken part in panel discussions on use of organic manure as an ideal farmer and has even been interviewed by Lucknow Doordarshan (Television).

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