Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Ms. Lal Muni Devi, mushroom cultivator of Azad Nagar village in Bihar

Landless labour Ms Lalmuni devi from Bihar earning their livelihood by mushroom farming. Lets read their real success story by her own experience.

The real success of agriculture lies not only in improving the lifestyle of small and marginal farmers but also upgrading and improving the lives of landless labourers who form the backbone of the sector.

Ms. Lal Muni Devi is one such landless labourer of Azad Nagar village on the outskirts of Bihar. She has been leading a life of poverty living in a thatched cowshed (making it her home) managing her family of six.

Poor labourers
Though not a farmer, Lal Muni and her family are among the hundreds of landless poor labourers who work for the local land owners.

All this changed when scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Complex for Eastern Region, Patna, Bihar, brought together 25 women from her village to form a Self Help Group (SHG), called Mahila Utthan Samiti and taught them to grow mushrooms.

“The method taught by the scientists appealed to me as it did not require any land. Prior to this, I had never even heard of mushrooms till the scientists told me.

Ready market
“I then learnt to grow mushrooms (Oyster and milky white summer mushrooms variety). Both these varieties grow well in the dark and damp interiors of my house,” she said. There is a market for them in the nearby city and wheat straw is available in plenty. The mushroom spawns are readily available and not expensive. Lal Muni earns Rs. 50-75 from oyster mushroom at the rate of Rs.8-10 per bag in addition to the meagre income from her family labour.

Good profit
“I used to work as farm labour since my childhood and now I am grateful to the scientists who taught me to earn my livelihood respectfully and independently. I learnt that I could grow mushrooms in my house and later found that they fetched a good profit too,” she says with a broad smile. For the first two years, ICAR provided free seeds (called spawns) until the participants were able to generate their own income.
But from 2007 in addition to the free seeds supplied by ICAR they started buying their own seeds (to increase income) at the rate of Rs.50 a kg.

One kg of seed yields 10-14 kg of mushrooms. The oyster variety sells for Rs.50-75 a kg during winter and in summer the milky white mushrooms fetch Rs. 80-120 a kg, according to Dr. A.R. Khan, Principal Scientist, ICAR, Research Complex for Eastern Region, Bihar Veterinary College Patna. Muni Devi has been able to grow oyster mushrooms in 155 bags and has been able to harvest about 210 kg and got a net profit of Rs. 10,500.

She has also cultivated milky white mushrooms in 95 bags and has harvested about 130 kg gaining a profit of Rs. 9,400. Her net profit from December 2006 to July 2007 from mushroom cultivation was Rs. 19,900, without any major investment.

Though half of the women quit the SHG after ICAR stopped supplying free seeds, many of them came back as the income from mushroom generation was too good for them to resist.
Even the menfolk are learning this cultivation after seeing the price mushrooms fetch, explained Dr. Khan.

Self sufficient
“We want this SHG to become self sufficient before this mushroom project is totally withdrawn from the area,” he said. “Our future remains bleak after the ICAR people leave us at the end of the project,” she said with some concern.

“Though a lot of government officials and foreign dignitaries have been visiting my village which is socially and economically backward, nobody has helped us in developing our skills further,” she laments.

For more information readers can contact:
Dr. A.R. Khan, Principal Scientist, Indian Council of Agricultural Research Complex for Eastern Region, P.O., Bihar Veterinary College Patna-800014, phone: 0612-2223962, email: khan.patna@gmail.com, mobile: 09431421960.

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