An everyday superwoman modernizes agriculture in her village and beyond

 Bidhan K. Mohapatra, Prakashan C. Veettil, Ashok Kumar, and Virender Kumar   |  

Chandrika Patra’s life story is a testament to how women when provided with the right support, can overcome gender-based limitations and excel in other roles that benefit themselves, their families, and their community. By converting the fallow lands during rabi into groundnut cultivation, she was able to create new income opportunities proving that the adoption of new agricultural technologies can bring big rewards. Her progressive approach to farming made Mrs. Patra a role model for others.

From an unproductive fallowed land after her rice crop harvest, Mrs. Patra’s farm now thrives with mechanically sown groundnut as her second crop. (Photo: IRRI India)


Chandrika Patra’s life story is a testament to how women when provided with the right support, can overcome gender-based limitations and excel in other roles that benefit themselves, their families, and their community.

Mrs. Patra, aged 50, resides in Arapata, Badasahi, Mayurbhanj in Odisha belongs to a socially and educationally limited class. But that did not stop her from receiving nine years of formal education. From a young student supporting her father to a devoted housewife, Mrs Patra became a dedicated agriculturist and technology pioneer, service provider, passionate social activist, and a dynamic politician.

A seasoned and progressive farmer
Her involvement in agriculture started at the tender age of 14, assisting her father with their family farm until she married at the age of 16. Two years into her marriage, Mrs. Patra decided to reignite her passion for farming.

Despite societal norms, she wholeheartedly embraced agriculture. With the support and encouragement of her husband Ramakanta, who previously served in the Odisha Police, and her in-laws, she pursued her true calling.

The Patra Family owns 3.2 ha of land, with an additional 8 to 10 ha leased-in land. Their farm produces a variety of crops, including rice during the kharif season followed by groundnut, green gram, maize, and sunflower during the rabi season.

A role model and proof of benefits
Mrs. Patra, who has 34 years of experience in agriculture, is also a progressive farmer with a keen interest in farm mechanization. She adopted technology for land preparation, paddy threshing, paddy harvesting, and, most recently, mechanized seeding, in 2008, 2009, 2018, and 2022-23, respectively.

Her progressive approach to farming made Mrs. Patra a role model for others. She was selected as one of the participants in the Precision direct-seeded rice-based diversification systems for transforming labour requirement, yields, and profitability of smallholder farmers in Odisha (DSR-Odisha) Project launched in 2021.

The DSR-Odisha Project is a collaboration between the Government of Odisha and the International Rice Research Institute to facilitate adoption of direct-seeded rice technology through stakeholder convergence along with gender and youth inclusion

Under the DSR-Odisha Project and the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), Mrs. Patra attended various agricultural extension programs including the mechanical sowing of groundnut.

In the 2022-23 rabi season, she used mechanical sowing of groundnut on 4 ha of their farm. The mechanized groundnut seeding reduced her cultivation costs by 8% to less than USD 57/ha and increased grain yield by 96% from 1.5 t/ha to 2.9 t/ha.

Overall, Mrs. Patra was able to lower the cost of production by 53% to less than USD 248/metric ton compared to traditional methods.

Her net income from mechanized groundnut seeding surged to USD 1,469/ha from only USD 379/ha, a remarkable 288% gain.

By converting the fallow lands during rabi into groundnut cultivation, she was able to create new income opportunities proving that the adoption of new agricultural technologies can bring big rewards.

She also allocated 0.64 ha for trials of green gram, black gram, sunflower, and maize for technology validation.

A mechanized solution to rice cultivation
Encouraged by her success, Mrs. Patra adopted mechanized direct-seeded rice (mech-DSR) following her 2022-23 rabi season groundnut harvest.

She used mech-DSR to cultivate the high-yielding Swarna Sub-1 and the hybrid Arize Dhani rice varieties on 6 hectares during the 2023 kharif season. Simultaneously, she continued with is puddled transplanting of rice (PTR), the traditional method of rice establishment in Odisha, using the high-yielding Jamuna and hybrid Ajay rice varieties. Mrs. Patra consistently used the same nutrient management, crop protection, harvesting, and post-harvest activities for both methods.

We compared mech-DSR with Swarna Sub-1 and PTR with Jamuna. The cost of cultivation for mech-DSR was estimated to be 16% lower than that of the PTR method. Additionally, there was a marginal 2% gain in rice yield from mech-DSR over PTR and increased her net income by 26%, equivalent to USD 155/ha.

She emphasized the significant time savings and cost efficiency and the relief from the labor-intensive tasks of rice nursery uprooting and transplanting, especially with the scarcity of agricultural workers.

“Mechanized direct-seeded rice is a gift for women laborers who are predominantly involved in rice transplanting and face drudgery and health issues,” Mrs. Patra said. “But also for the farmers, as it addresses issues related to monsoon variability and enhances overall productivity.”

Expanding responsibilities beyond the family farm
Not content with her success, Mrs. Patra is taking on new responsibilities to benefit other farmers. She ventured into offering agricultural services including land preparation and threshing.

After receiving the appropriate training from the DSR-Odisha Project and CSISA, she plans to extend her services to include mechanized seeding through a self-owned multi-crop planter and invest in an advanced multi-crop planter to serve as an active service provider

She is in the process of executing plans to promote both mech-DSR and mechanical seeding for non-rice crops in her region. She aims to reach 100 farmers, including 25 women, across 10 Gram Panchayats, to demonstrate the technologies’ performance and benefits.

“Mech-DSR has significantly eased my life, providing additional income for further agricultural investments and meeting various needs,” Mrs. Patra explained her drive to inform others. “Balancing my time among the various roles I handle, I am eager to witness more women farmers adopting this technology and reaping its numerous benefits.”

Recognizing her talents and dedication to social service, the villagers encouraged Mrs. Patra to enter politics to serve them better. She now holds the position of Naib Sarapanch, a decision-maker elected by the village-level government, while her daughters-in-law are active members of women’s self-help groups.

Food, nutrition, and future security
Mrs. Patra has inspired her husband and daughters-in-law to also engage in agriculture which is now the backbone and primary source of income of the family.

The surplus production of non-rice crops contributes to the family’s food and nutrition security.

Farming also provides funds for her grandchildren to purchase books, school supplies, and more. With a good education, they can certainly look forward to a bright future

An everyday superwoman
Mrs Patra has become a kind of “everyday superwoman” who excels in various roles: a dedicated agriculturist, social activist, agricultural service provider, politician, and more.

However, the secret of her success does not come from some superpower she possesses, and humbly states that she could not have accomplished so much in her life without the support of her loved ones.

“Behind every success I achieved as an agriculturist, social activist, politician, and housewife, there is one man,” she said with pride. “That man is none other than my husband.”

Mrs Patra’s journey continues to evolve as she adapts to changing times and needs, motivating other farmers and hopefully inspiring them to become everyday superheroes like her.

 

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