She doesn’t mince her words, is full of intent and focus. Many would wonder how on earth a girl in her age, instead of dreaming for a high paying government job or sitting on a multinational company, does manual labour in the rural farmland. She has put all her passions, her dreams behind to become a farmer now.
Ningthoujam Bidyalaxmi, now 28, from Thangmeiband Lairenhanjaba Leikai, Imphal West, has witnessed the most profound moments between life and death. She has been playing the role of both parents for her two younger sisters over the past few years. Her father, Ningthoujam Rajendro Singh, died when she was studying in Class VIII in 2006 and her mother, Ningthoujam Ongbi Maipakpi, left for heavenly abode when she was studying BA VIth semester in 2014. Bidyalaxmi, who studied BA English Honours from the DM College of Arts, Imphal, left studies before completing MA to focus on supporting her family and the education of her two young sisters.
Interestingly, unlike girls of her age, she wants to become a full-time farmer with a special focus on the permaculture method of farming, on which she has already completed a course. Bidayalaxmi said she wants to generate income from it and prove that there can be sustainable farming, and of course, a girl can do it.
Permaculture also called ‘permanent agriculture’, is a kind of innovative gardening technique that creates a sustainable way of living. Permaculture, according to her, tackles how to grow food, build houses and create communities, and minimise environmental impact at the same time. Its principles are being constantly developed and refined by people throughout the world in very different climates and cultural circumstances.
Bidyalaxmi said she has inherited some land from her late parents and wanted to employ them for her dream project. She has already started a farming initiative from February this year at Senjam Khunou, some 18 kilometres from Imphal city.
“Initially, I excavated a farm pond to harvest water, built circumference fencing around the farmland for security, and built a road connecting the farm to the main road for communication and transport. I have begun the initial stage of planting. To move further, I am finding two main problems: social prejudice, and financial mobilization,” she said.
She said many of her relatives discourage her ideas of Permaculture farming, even asserting that these are man’s work. This mindset, she feels, is the reason, why she is not getting any support and encouragement from them. The other problem she has at the moment is the lack of a minimum amount of investment, which she hopes will be able to overcome after people’s support.