When Leelabai runs the farm


In a region of poor yields, a gritty woman farmer succeeds even in years of crop failure. But high costs are depleting Vidarbha’s success stories

I am the farmer, he did no farming. He only moons over his cattle, he loves those cows (even if they yield just a litre of milk each). Men hang around the village, women are in the fields.”

Leelabai is speaking of one of Yavatmal’s most famous farmers, Ashanna Totawar. He is something of a legend, a man credited with record yields in cotton and soybean even in years of major crop failure in Yavatmal. Ashanna is a gentle, experienced man who has closely observed farming in the Vidarbha region across 50 years. He is also Leelabai’s husband. The couple live in Pimpri village adjoining Panderkauda town, a major cotton market in Yavatmal district, Maharashtra.

Leelabai holds her husband in great respect and affection. She has little formal education, but is highly-skilled and trained by her own experience. –Read more


FARMER’S NOTEBOOK: Water harvesting ensures livelihood security for Dalit farmers

GOOD INITIATIVE: A desilted water tank has helped nearly 33 farmers in surrounding areas harvest onion crops.
GOOD INITIATIVE: A desilted water tank has helped nearly 33 farmers in surrounding areas harvest onion crops.



The programme has been extended to cover two more villages

Villupuram is one of the most backward districts in Tamil Nadu. Major crops cultivated there are paddy, onion, pulses, millets, sugarcane, casuarina and groundnut, using water from tanks and open wells.

The open wells belong to small and marginal farmers and have been abandoned for a long time due to heavy siltation and damaged walls resulting in poor storage and ground water recharge. The district receives the least amount of rainfall during the north east monsoon season.

Most of the farmers who did not have access to water moved to growing eucalyptus and casuarina. Those who continued with their cultivation could grow only a single crop in a year.

Labour drain

“What was more disturbing and challenging was that women started working as daily farm labour instead of farming in their own fields and men started moving towards cities for non-farm jobs.

“These people were ready to work in their fields provided there was water in the wells or tanks. They –Read more