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A mill that’s churning out hope

Boy wearing a plan shirt giving a mild smile
© CBM India
Pramod is a person with disability who has been supported with training and a grinding machine. He turns wheat into flour before packaging the flour for sale as an organic brand

Pramod, 25, comes across as a shy person with sharp eyes and a toothy smile. But, he displays a sense of humour and a very analytical mind as he starts speaking. Young men from the village hear his words and statements with great interest.

“As a person with a disability since the age for four, I grew up fighting dejection and low expectations that people have from those with disabilities. All I wanted was to get a job with the government but that is nothing short of a miracle due to massive unemployment and lack of quality education,” says Pramod, leaning on a thick bamboo stick that he use as a support for walking.

Pramod lives in Mujahna Bujurg Village with a family of nine. He has two elder brothers and sister-in-law staying as a joint family in a house made of mud and bricks. His lower limbs and lower back were affected by post-polio paralysis. The village is located in Maharajganj District in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The state has the largest number of people living below India’s official poverty line and also the largest population of persons with disabilities in the country. The district is located in a region that is dependent on agriculture and has been witnessing massive migration for work, with only women, persons with disabilities and elderly being left behind.

Power of collective

Pramod is one of the many persons with disabilities in and around his village who have come together as a part of Disabled Peoples’ Organisation (DPO) through a projected initiated by CBM partner in 2013. The process and experience of coming together have created a sense of solidarity and awareness among persons with disabilities, their families, and the wider community.
“Economic empowerment and ability to bring money to the family are the most important change I have witnessed in my life. As families and communities, see persons with disabilities as an economic burden. With so much poverty and economic hardships, no one wants to support us to get an education or travel for opportunities,” Pramod adds, as the neighbours start dropping at his house to hear this young champion of persons with disabilities in the village.
©CBM India
Pramod holding a bag of processed wheat flour packaged from organic produce supplied by local farmer group.
The DPOs not only give a voice to persons with disabilities but they also promote inclusion through participation. The group meetings are a popular event and have become a canvas for scripting stories of change. The small but significant successes are shared at these gathering thus creating sources of inspiration and possibilities.

Pramod is now the president of the local DPO and is one of the key decision makers at the village council meetings. 

Even as he talks about the challenges youth face in terms of job prospects and skill gaps, he gets ready to show us how he operates an electric-powered mill that has been supported by CBM through the project. The machine turns wheat into flour that is then package under standardized conditions for sale as organic and chemical free produce.

An entrepreneur of inclusive livelihood

A small enclosure created with sheets made with locally available grass and wood suddenly comes to life with the rumbling noise of a small crushing machine that powers the dreams of this young entrepreneur.

“The erratic supply of electricity is a hurdle, but I cannot complain too much as it could be worse,” quips Pramod dressed in an apron and shower cap while pouring wheat into the machine. “We keep the processing clean and hygienic as that is what we have promised our customers,” he adds.

The flour from the grinder is taken to the front of the house, which has been customised, for weighing and packaging. Though most of the houses have mud flooring, Pramod’s packaging area has several layers of clean plastic sheets laid on top of each other. The six people, three of them women, working on making packets are also wearing similar clothing to keep the process hygienic. 

Soon after, Pramod moves out to treat the visitors with sweet curd and does not miss highlighting that the buffalo outside his house is also from the support he has received from the disability inclusive organic farming project.
©CBM India
Pramod with his family in the backyard of his house with his newly acquired buffalo in the background
Pramod’s confidence is inspiring and he seems to be driven by the mission of change, as he gets on to his improvised wheelchair like a tricycle to an opening under a massive fig tree. He continues talking about the farmer interest group from where the wheat is procured for packaging.

His entire family house seems to have got customized for various aspects of the livelihood generation programme as it also has a demonstration site for creating organic manure from waste using the technique of vermicomposting.    

On being asked would he leave all this if this gets a regular job with the government. 

“Not a chance. As I am not working just for myself now, there are many people who are now part of this work,” Pramod says.

The disability inclusive organic farming project supported by CBM is an inclusive model with the participation of marginalised communities. The project involves providing community loans for procurement of equipment and machines, organic seeds, beekeeping boxes, livestock etc. Training and creating skills among persons with disabilities on a variety of organic practices, such as vermicomposting, bio-pesticides, making poly-houses, processing spices etc. are important components of the project. The produce is certified as organic and the farmers are connected as producer groups to production, harvest, and sales.


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