Ranju Singh, Smallholder Farmer in Jharkand, India
Ranju Singh grows vegetables and cereals in the Chatra district of India’s Jharkhand State. After working as a small-scale seasonal seed seller, she decided to join the Better Life Farming (BLF) initiative and open a BLF Center as an agri-entrepreneur.
Social service is an integral part of Ranju Singh’s life. Her BLF engagement is just one facet of this commitment. Besides helping smallholder farmers, she is passionately committed to uplifting and empowering women and juvenile girls.
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The smallholder farmers in Ranju Singh’s locality lovingly refer to this resolute lady as ‘Didi’, which means ‘older sister’ in Hindi. They have every reason to do so. Besides running her own farm, Ranju Singh provides her fellow farmers with access to an ecosystem of farming solutions via the Better Life Farming initiative – solutions tailored to the needs of smallholders in India.
From seed seller to agri-entrepreneur
Prior to joining Better Life Farming in June 2020, Ranju Singh was a small-scale seasonal seed seller traveling from village to village. She could only supply seeds to the smallholders who happened to be around when Ranju visited their village. But with multiple villages on her visiting list each week, the chances were high that smallholders would miss the opportunity to buy seeds.
What she values most about Better Life Farming is the availability of inputs, guidance and advice on the best possible utilization of time, effort and money. That, she knows, is important because a lack of modern-day cultivation knowledge and supportive guidance in the past had limited the smallholders’ opportunities to develop their farming potential. But now more and more of them are applying advanced technologies such as drip irrigation, mulching, staking, shade cultivation, etc. This is all the more important given the challenges smallholder farmers face in India. In particular, many of them are on the verge of opting out of farming because they lack appropriate marketing channels and access to professional off-takers. As a result, they suffer from low produce prices and insufficient returns on their farming investments.
As farming land is increasingly being diverted to other purposes, farmers in the region also need to maximize their production in order to grow enough food to meet people’s needs. What’s more, climate change is proving a major threat as changing rain patterns adversely affect the fields and the quality of the soil. By running a Better Life Farming Center, Ranju Singh can provide her fellow farmers with much-appreciated assistance.
Working to empower women
Besides her commitment to smallholders in general, Ranju Singh is particularly concerned about helping female agri-entrepreneurs in successfully growing and marketing their crops. Ranju is a highly active member of an NGO, Mahila Mandal, which serves around 3,000 farmers in the region and also works to uplift and empower smallholder farmers and women in the Chatra district. In the past, Ranju Singh was involved in a number of social welfare organizations and is currently engaged in providing social and legal justice to juvenile girls in her area. What’s more, the project is helping poor, disadvanted children to escape from the drudgeries of child labor and gender discrimination and lead better lives in the future. By sharing her story with these children, she hopes to encourage them to develop a more clearly defined purpose for their lives – be it in agriculture or elsewhere.
Ranju Singh’s concern to empower women and support female agri-entrepreneurs ties in well with one of the Better Life Farming Alliance’s goals: Women Empowerment. Improving female smallholders’ access to information, services and resources is key to addressing the enormous social, economic and environmental challenges faced in rural India, for example. Newly established women-dedicated BLF centers in India are one practical example of how the Alliance is promoting gender-smart initiatives across smallholder farming countries.