Purnima Mondal - A Single-Handed Homemaker, Motivational Organic Farmer from Sundarban Islands

Purnima Mondal with her two daughters - Sumitra and Arpita

As a field audit team member of Sundarini Naturals it was always a hidden excitement to be associated with farmers, stay with the farmers for few days in Sundarban islands, the land of Royal Bengal tiger, crocodile, lots of bio-diversities and describe women farmer-members of Sundarini Naturals.

Close to four hours from state capital Kolkata we reached Patharpratima block in Sundarban of South 24 Parganas district. No, it is not an end; people of Sundarbans used to travel with quite difficulty to reach their homes. We had to take engine-operated van to reach an island village called Ramnagar Abad located in between two saltwater rivers namely Mridangabhanga and Gobodhia.

In the meandering red-brown brick-paved paths we were quite surprised to see lots of women's colourful sarees welcoming us. Yes, they are the women power of Sundarini Naturals, the soul of a farmers' brand, the proud owners of the brand.

The vibrant Management Committee Members of Ramnagar Abad Women Milk Producers' Cooperative Society Limited accompanied us to few nearby farmers' houses. One of them was Purnima Mondal. She was milking her desi cow when we reached. She was so excited and honoured that we visited her small thatched house and also was very anxious where to arrange for sitting, offer snacks and tea. However, we were more excited to hear about her fight back story how she managed to survive even after devastating super cyclones - Ayla, Bulbul and lastly Amphan.

Shibani Jana, Chairperson of the Society informed, "Purnima is very active member of our society and she has motivated many nearby farmers to be part of our society". Enthusiast Jaibo Monitor Shyamoli Doloi added, "Purnima di is motivation to many of us to go organic and run family single-handed".

"Tell us about how you become an organic farmer." we asked Purnima.

With a promising smile Purnima replied, "Our Sundarini arranged training of Shyamoli in Gujarat who later became Jaibo Monitor of our society and trained us on organic farming. In Sundarban we generally didn't use chemicals but after hearing the bad effects of chemical pesticides all of our society members have taken oath not to use any chemical".

"Ok, so, what about your husband, did he agree to go for organic?" we added.

Purnima said her husband stays in Kolkata for work and she has to manage family, field, children by herself only. Actually, this forced migration of male members of families in Sundarban islands was very common after repeated super-cyclones. But, Purnima was hopeful that her organic initiatives to produce organic cow milk, native agriculture produce and expansion of Sundarini Naturals would definitely make something good to return her husband and live together.

"Are you satisfied with the production?" We added more.

Spontaneously she replied, "Come see my field, you will never find this type of tasty, pure milk in Kolkata except Sundarini. You see what my cows are feeding - all are homemade, no cattle feed from market and no chance of pesticide or chemical contamination. I have my own fodder field, vegetables." She took us to her field and really the size, freshness and appearance of her vegetables were attractive.

"What do you use in your fodder and vegetable fields to prevent infection or to promote growth?"

Now Purnima ran to another thatched house close to their residence and we understood that annexure was her cattle shelter. She returned back with some blackish substances. I enquired with much surprise. She started to explain one by one. Her handful blackish material was BD Compost which she prepared and stored. This BD Compost is very important component of Biodynamic Organic Farming method to rejuvenate soil fertility and grow Green Fodder, Rice, Dal, Mustard, Vegetables.

Now she went towards a container and explained Liquid Bio Manure which is a very good Growth Promoter. She had a normal practice to prepare this liquid with Mustard Cake, Gram Flour, Molasses, Cow Dung, Cow Urine and 5 types of leaves. She also showcased her Antifungal Casuarina Leaf Extract preparation, Leaf Compost as secret weapons of organic milk production and agriculture practices.

"So, what would be your message to other farmers who want to be organic like you?"

Purnima described the concept of organic farming in very simple way. The utmost important thing is to make the soil full of life and nutrition which will provide immunity to the plants for fighting against germs and pests. She also added that good production results would definitely come and for that patience is another important thing.

The tireless efforts of organic women cooperative farmers of Sundarini Naturals would succeed for a healthier tomorrow for both of their children, family and their valued consumers.