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Priya Sharma

Age 40

As a young girl, Priya’s father encouraged her to study and have the same aspirations as her brother. Life changed when she was married into a conservative family. Her in-laws could not accept her working on their fields. She persisted to convince them and negotiated patiently - first to buy a tractor instead of renovating the house; then to join group to learn improved farming practices till finally they relented and let her farm. Seeing her success as a farmer, Priya’s father-in law and husband consult her on all key farming decisions. She’s also sought after as a speaker at local fairs to present her progressive solutions with farmers from across the state.

I was born and raised in Gonda with six sisters and a brother. My father has always been my biggest support system. He never differentiated between his son and daughters, and always spoke of the importance of education. Through his support, I passed twelfth grade, scoring 85%. My mother worked in a dairy, and my father was the secretary of a co-operative godown. Our primary source of income was from three and a half acres of agricultural land which we owned and cultivated. The entire family worked on it and we had enough water to grow 3-4 crops every year.

I got married in the year 2000 in Kirtarpur village, Balmrampur district. The initial five-seven years of my marriage were spent in depression, as I did not align with my family’s lifestyle. The men of the house did not manage family income responsibly. My husband ran a mobile repair shop which was very low on profits. He rarely spent time on our farm.

At my maiden home, we planted 3-4 crops in a year. At my in-laws, we harvested only one crop every year. I wanted to work on the acre of land we owned to help increase our income. But, my family thought it was unacceptable that their daughter-in-law work on the field. During these trying times, I would reach out to my father who would reinstate my confidence. He would always say, “Have patience, things will change”.

One day, my father-in-law and husband decided to spend all our savings on renovating the house. I opposed this decision as I wanted to invest to generate more income for the family. Alarmed, my father-in-law asked- “If we construct a good house, people will look up to our family. We will be able to find good matches for my grandchildren. What else do you want to do with the money we save?”

I wanted to invest in a tractor instead of renting them every season. By doing so, we could add to our income by renting it to other farmers as well. Surprisingly, my father-in-law was impressed, and we ended up buying a tractor. Our services were used by many families of my village, and our incomes started rising gradually.

After a few years of persisting with my in-laws, I could finally start working on our farm. I started by growing two crops every year. As land was our only major asset, I wanted to figure out how we could get the most from it. There was no one to help me in my quest. It was clear to me that water was a major cost for us as we needed diesel pumps to draw it for our field. I often watched Kisan TV (shows related to agriculture) and participated in agriculture themed events to learn more about modern techniques of agriculture. It was during that time that I met officials from an organisation*, who introduced me to different practices of reducing water consumption. We were trained in groups of 15 people. My group had 5 men and 10 women. From this training, I adopted several water friendly practices on our farm. I observed that our costs for water started going down and our production started improving. Saving water was no longer restricted to the farm. Just outside our home, we prepared ‘sokhtas’. A sokhta is a soak pit which stores the residual water collected after performing all the household chores. This sokhta helped us grow a kitchen garden in our backyard.

It has been only two years since our group of fifteen members was formed. The farmers have benefited so much from these meetings that we have at least 25-30 participants. They realise the value of discussions around input procurement and innovative farm practices. I spoke to all the farmers of my village and motivated them to keep records of ground water tables. Around 40 farmers in my village have updated records for ground water usage.

I was also very keen to talk about my farm practices outside my gram panchayat. With the help of the organisation, I have participated in Kisan Melas* and agricultural fairs and have interacted with farmers - imparting my experiences and learning from theirs.

From the additional income I have been a genera over the past two years, I have purchased cement poles and barbed wires to protect our farms from wild animals. More importantly, I am sending my children to an English-medium school.

“Today, I can proudly say that my husband and father-in-law support me in all my work. No decision in the house is taken without my opinion”

My father often spoke about the importance of patience. His words were the motivation that supported my journey- from improving our financial condition to shifting perceptions about women working in my village. Society’s conservative thinking often hinders the growth of incomes, mindsets, and women. I will always challenge this thinking whenever it inhibits a woman’s progress.

Testimonial - "I feel proud to be known as a successful woman farmer. Difficult times have come and gone, but I have learnt to stay strong. I am my own role model. To all women, I would stress on the importance of grit and patience to bring about a change in their families and communities."

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