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She is illiterate, but ‘masterin’ to farmers

Lucknow, June 10 (IANS) She never went to school and is completely illiterate. But 48-year-old Dhaneswari Devi gives lessons – not in a school, but in the fields where she trains farmers in organic cultivation.

A resident of Awadhpur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district, about 300 km from here, she not only makes organic manure but has also trained around 2,000 farmers, helping them increase their agriculture yield and diversify their income.

‘Organic farming has brought several positive and noticeable changes in my life in the last few years. Now others also want such changes and come to me with hope,’ Dhaneswari Devi told IANS on telephone from Gorakhpur.

Dhaneswari was once an illiterate housewife, confined to the four walls of her house and whose husband worked as a labourer.

But today she is self-reliant. Organic manure and bio-pesticides prepared by her are in demand not only in Awadhpur but also in villages of other districts.

‘It really makes me feel privileged. The farmers say I am an inspiration for them,’ added Dhaneswari, who is fondly called ‘masterin’ (woman teacher) as she gives lessons in organic farming.

It all started over a decade ago when, on the suggestion of NGO Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, she decided to step out of the house to diversify the meagre income of her family of seven, including three children.

‘Some members of the NGO visited our village to highlight the importance and benefits of organic farming. I met some NGO members who gave me the idea of preparing organic manure and selling it to farmers,’ she recalled.

Initially, she got a lackluster response from farmers, who preferred chemical fertiliser to bio-pesticides and organic manure.

‘I decided to provide the organic manure at very cheap rates, thinking it would prompt the farmers to buy my products. And it worked. After a few months, farmers started coming to me saying my organic manure and pesticides worked as a tonic for their crops and also increased soil fertility,’ she said.

Today, manure and bio-pesticides made by Dhaneswari and her family members are in demand by people and farmers of various districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand.

Her success story is not only driving the farmers of Awadhpur but also those from adjoining villages to learn sustainable agriculture practices from her.

Jitendra Dwivedi, a member of the NGO, said: ‘We just provided her technical assistance and she showed everyone how destiny could be changed through hard work. Dhaneswari is in a real sense spearheading a revolution that will surely help not only farmers but go a long way in bringing positive changes in the environment.’

‘Until a few years ago Dhaneswari used to live in a small hut. But now, with her hard work and sincere efforts, she has a pucca house in the village,’ he added.

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at asit.s@ians.in)

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