“I was told that a lady cannot farm, so I will never succeed. I wanted to prove them wrong,” says Sangita Pingale, a farmer from Matori village in Nashik.
“In 2004, I lost my second child due to birth complications,” Sangita, a graduate in science, tells The Better India. “And in 2007, my husband passed away in a road accident. I was nine months pregnant with my third child at the time. I was devastated, and for ten years, my father-in-law and relatives supported me.”
However, in 2017, the joint family separated due to family feuds, and Sangita started living with her in-laws and her children.
Another tragedy struck when two months later, her father-in-law passed away due to illness. “The people who always supported me in life had gone. I was alone and lost the will to live,” the 39-year-old recalls.
This family tragedy also meant that Sangita was now the sole custodian of the 13-acre farm left behind by her father-in-law.
“The farm was our only source of income, so I had to learn how to start working on the field. Relatives who had separated from us a few months earlier claimed that it would be difficult as a single woman to manage children, household chores, and farming. They claimed it is not a woman’s field and that it is easier said than done,” she says.
But today, Sangita has proven her critics wrong by successfully growing grapes and tomatoes on her 13-acre land, which yields tonnes of produce and earns her lakhs.
Playing multiple roles
Narrating her story, Sangita says she took money on loan in exchange for her jewellery, and also borrowed money from cousins to raise capital for farming. “My brothers guided me through various aspects of farming, like what the process entails and what chemicals to use to grow grapes. On many occasions, I could not read or understand the content of the products, but being a science student made me a quick learner,” she explains.
Sangita started developing vineyard plots over the years, facing innumerable challenges. “The water pump was damaged, labourer issues never stopped, and unseasonal rains that lead to losses, as well as dealing with pest infestation, made agriculture difficult,” she says.
“I realised that while farming involves women, there are certain aspects handled solely by men. These include technical aspects such as driving a tractor, repairing machines, using tools, and making trips to the market for buying products. I had no support and needed to fulfil the roles of both a man and a woman. I learned how to ride a two-wheeler and drive a tractor. There were days when I spent an entire day at the workshop to repair a damaged part of a tractor,” she says.
Slowly but steadily, Sangita’s farm took shape, which today produces a yield of 800-1,000 tonnes of grapes per year, earning her Rs 25-30 lakh.“Some losses have been recovered by small-scale tomato farming,” she says.
Today, Sangita’s daughter is pursuing graduation, and her son is studying in a private school.
Meanwhile, Sangita has plans to export her grapes to increase her income. “Unseasonal rains and extreme weather conditions have prevented me from achieving my target. But I am sure to succeed in the coming season,” she says.
She says she is proud that she could prove herself to those who doubted her, and remains humble. “I believe I am still learning and have to root myself deeper in the field,” she says.
Sangita says that farming taught her perseverance and patience. “I am glad I could overcome all odds to achieve this success. I feel it could come only with hard work, determination and dedicated hours of effort,” she adds.
Edited by Divya Sethu