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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rural Livelihoods and Sustainable Living: Case-66: THE LOWLY EARTHWORM CHANGES LALITHAMMA’S LIFE!
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Thirty eight year-old Katra Lalithamma and her husband left their village Damarcherla of Chandampet mandal in Nalgonda district four years ago. They came to Kothapalli village to seek their fortune. They have a son who is studying in college. Initially they worked as labourers for a living. Then the couple leased nine acres of dryland and one acre of wet land with a borewell and started cultivation. The terms were a 50% share of the output. They used chemical fertilisers, which are expensive. This reduced their income and they barely got Rs.15, 000 per year. Sometimes when the rains were not adequate they did not get good yields from the crops. They got into debt of Rs.20, 000.  On nine acres of the leased land they sowed cotton and on one acre of irrigated land they started vegetable cultivation. This too did not work because pests attacked their crops and they had to apply pesticides in large quantities.

After APRLP watershed programme started in Kothapalli, Lalithamma became a member of the Satya Sai Sangam self-help group. The project sent her to the Krishi Vignana Kendra in Gaddipalli to learn methods of preparing vermicompost as part of the Natural Pest Management movement. After learning of the benefits of vermicompost at the training programme she returned to her village and immediately took a loan of Rs.3, 000 from her group’s Livelihood Fund. She built the necessary pits and a shed. She applied the first lot of vermicompost from her pits to the field where she was cultivating vegetables.

Since she got good results she continued to utilise the vermicompost in her farm for the next three months. When they saw her good crop and the low intensity of pests the other villagers grew curious. They offered to buy the vermicompost from her. So she prepared some more troughs. By selling ten quintals of vermicompost at Rs.3 per kg., Lalithamma earned Rs.3, 000 per month.

Thanks to vermicompost the vegetable harvest has increased considerably. At the same time there is a substantial saving on the expense of fertiliser and pesticide application.  Lalithamma earned Rs.40, 000 in one year and after giving 50% to the landlord according to their original contract, she earned Rs.20, 000.

In addition, by selling vermicompost she earned another Rs.35, 000 a year. With that she repaid Rs.10, 000 of their debts, purchased a lamb for Rs.8, 000, a cow for Rs.6, 000, a buffalo for Rs.8, 000, gold worth Rs.5, 000, a TV for Rs.6, 000 and paid Rs.500 per month for her son’s college education. She says, “Having left my own village in poverty I am today earning Rs.5, 000 per year by the grace of the watershed.” She has now installed a phone (08691 200236) so that she can be contacted by other farmers who wish to buy her vermicompost.

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