The upright gait of this lean-bodied farmer makes him look agile and confident. As he approaches you, it is hard to ignore the smile on his face.
Back home from his 4-acre farm, Vishwanath Vodeyar, 47, first glances at his old mother sitting outside their newly constructed home, and upon finding her happily occupied with his two children, he looks up in silent prayer.
He then breathes a sigh of relief and begins folding the sleeves of his light brown shirt. And just when he was about to settle on that chair in his courtyard, after adjusting his bright white dhoti, his wife Geeta gets him a glass of water and greets him with a smile. Everything looks nice and cheerful and there’s prosperity all over in the Vodeyar household. It in fact is hard to believe that until a few years back, this man was barely able to make the ends meet. Such were the conditions that on a good day, he would earn around Rs 300 from selling flowers and milk.
“There have been times when we had nothing to eat. We had to often take advances from relatives and neighbors,” recollects Vishwanath after taking a deep breath.
After hearing him out, it is only natural to wonder what has changed since then. “A lot,” says this enterprising farmer with a beaming smile. He elaborates, “During times when I used to struggle ensuring daily bread for my family, I used to feel helpless. I felt as if I’m some worthless worm that has no value to it and exists only to be squashed under someone’s feet.” He now pauses for a moment, looks around, points his gaze at that heap of vermicompost covered with a black plastic sheet. A glint emerges in his eyes and he adds, “Today, the same inconsequential worm is known by all in the community and hailed as a hero. People now approach me for help and guidance.”
With a smile of contentment, he now turns his gaze away from that vermicompost heap and explains, “I and family underwent training to learn the art and science of vermicomposting and the rest is history. Though at one point in time I felt as worthless as a worm, today a worm has made my life worthwhile. And now, after what all I have achieved, I try and give back to the community in whatever way I can.”
Vishwanath has been training and grooming a dozen-odd people in vermicomposting and earthworm breeding and hopes the numbers would increase in the coming years. He says, “People now find value in what I’ve been doing and promoting.”
Well, why not? He has been contracted to supply vermicompost worth Rs 50 lakh. He will be earning this as part of the year-long contracts, with four firms, to supply 700 tonnes of vermicompost. “I am hopeful of saving half of it as profit,” tells Vishwanath.
But does he think his protégé would also get to experience the kind of life he is now getting to experience? “Well, it all depends on how much effort and dedication one puts in,” tells Vishwanath with a straight face.
Well, that does make sense. But how did it all start for him?
“I owe it all to Smita Ji and Jaya Organics. Her team trained me and my family in 2016 and today, I am what I am, because of the guidance, support, and help given to us by them,” says the successful farmer with folded hands, before adding, “Based on that learning, my wife even bagged the Yuva Krishak Award in the year 2018. But awards and recognition alone do not work. In our case, the hand-holding support of Smita Ji and Jaya Organics did the trick. They supported us not just with knowledge, but also sustained me financially so that I could find my feet in this business.”
Jaya Organic Yojana (JOY) is an organization dedicated to rejuvenating the soil, recharging groundwater, empowering low-income families, and mitigating climate change, all at scale.
Started by Ms. Smita Shah in memory of her mother Smt Jayaben Shah; JOY centers on the holistic and sustainable development of rural communities. As an entry point, its unique vermicompost training program serves to improve soil health and mitigate climate change. Their other interventions include organic farming, animal husbandry, and several other income-enhancing and environment healing activities.
Ask Smita Shah to comment on the success of Vishwanath, and she expresses her joy, saying, “There’s nothing more exciting than seeing your seed turn into something that blooms.” She then gracefully appreciates the efforts of Vishwanath and says, “We, as an organization, are merely facilitators. It was ultimately his grit, discipline, and motivation that has made him what he is today.”
JOY has been touching countless such lives in the hinterlands of Karnataka and Vishwanath is just one among the many seeds they have sowed and which have bloomed. Now, they have even taken baby steps in other challenging terrains in India, with the same aim and objective of healing the earth and spreading joy.
Meanwhile, ask Vishwanath, the seed that has bloomed, what’s the best thing about being successful, and he tells with an endearing smile, “The satisfaction and happiness on my mother’s face is the best part of this life. Until this happened, she was always worried over the fate of my family. But now, the times have changed. Now, she takes a lot of pride in being my mother.”
Times have certainly changed, and changed for good for Vishwanath Vodeyar and his family!
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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