A Leap of Faith

Impoverished farmer Vitthal Bhutuji Lonsawale was sceptical about Reliance Foundation’s interventions in his village in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, but eventually sought their help. In a few years, he has made a complete and successful transition from contract labourer to self-sustained farmer.

A Leap of Faith

Even though Vitthal Bhutuji Lonsawale identified himself as a farmer and owned six acres of agricultural land, he routinely had to travel miles from his home in Shivanikh village, Yavatmal, Maharashtra, to look for work as a contract labourer. In spite of all his efforts, Vitthal’s infertile, undulating plot – on which he cultivated toor, cotton and soybean – barely managed to fetch him Rs 31,000 in a year.

Not having access to irrigation, farming on Vitthal’s plot was completely dependent on the rains. One acre of his plot remained fallow. Vitthal never had enough to feed his family of three, forcing his wife to work as an agricultural wage labourer in other farms.

In 2012, Reliance Foundation (RF) reached out to his village, mobilising villagers to form the Bhumiputra Shetkari Samiti, the local village association (VA). At first, Vitthal was sceptical about the Foundation’s ability to effect change, and even suspicious about what they planned to do with his land. Soon, however, Vitthal found himself changing his mind: the transparent and democratic decision-making process at the VA, its implementation of plans, the exposure visits, and the RF team’s dedication to the farmers’ cause – all of this inspired Vitthal’s confidence and trust. He took the leap of faith, and started participating in the meetings.

The VA didn’t let him down, helping him with bunding, trenching, and the application of black soil and farmyard manure on his land. A water-harvesting structure built by the VA for local farmers also became his sole access to irrigation.

Receiving care and nourishment like never before, Vitthal’s farmlands thrived, with the cropping area almost doubling. For the first time since he had started cultivating the land, he grew Rabi crops like sorghum, wheat, spinach, fenugreek and pulses, in addition to his usual Kharif crops. The productivity of the Kharif crops increased by almost three times. Vitthal’s total annual income from his farm shot up to Rs 90,000. In the 2015-16 cycle, his crops fetched him Rs 1,49,000.

Vitthal’s family could finally breathe easy, since they no longer had to resort to migrant labour. Confident that they had enough surplus income to provide for his parents, Vitthal convinced them to move in with him. He subsequently invested in a diesel pump, and installed a pipeline to irrigate his land.

The clouds of worry having dispersed, Vitthal was now eager to give back to the local bodies that had helped him turn his life around. He became an active member of the Bhumitra Producer Company, attending meetings regularly and even donating a quintal of soybean worth Rs 2,700 to it, to increase its capital. Vitthal and his family emerged as one of the most active member households of the VA, coordinating activities such as village clean-up drives and motivating other farmers to develop their farms to increase revenue. He says, “Thanks to Reliance Foundation, we now have good days in our lives – days that once seemed like a distant dream to us.”

With his farm in good shape, Vitthal is now developing his livestock as an additional source of income. He recently cross-bred his cows for better yields of milk. He even fulfilled his long-cherished dream of setting up an orchard on his fallow land, planting 100 lemon saplings on it. To ensure uninterrupted water supply on his lands, he plans to apply for an electrical connection and install a drip irrigation system.