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Maya's Story

© CBM India
Maya is an image of dignity and confidence, she is the first woman with disability to join the Farmer Interest Group in her village.

Maya’s journey on the path to economic and food security has also established her as a strong voice in the community through CBM’s disability inclusive organic project.

A woman organic farmer with a disability is not a usual sight in India, but Maya Devi is no ordinary woman and has many ‘firsts’ to her credit.

Maya, 36, is a single mother of four children and the family’s breadwinner. Poliomyelitis infection at the age of five affected her with neuromuscular paralysis taking away her ability to stand or walk independently. 

“Like most people with disabilities, I faced derogatory comments and exclusion from social life,” she recalls growing up in a community that though had many people with disabilities yet there was little awareness about rights of people with disabilities.

Living in Medada Koiri Tola village of District Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, she has an air of confidence as she gets women in the neigbourhood organised in a small meeting outside her house made of brick and clay. 

Maya is part of a CBM supported disability inclusive agro-enterprises organic farming project.

Towards independence

“Hard work is important but with it one needs support for taking the right decisions and resources. I got these when I needed it most,” says Maya as she moves on her customised wheel-chair styled tri-cycle towards her small farm where she grows vegetables.

Maya lost her husband to tuberculosis and the responsibility of four children fell upon her. With no marketable skills, finances, assets and education only till 5th standard, Maya had no options.  

“I was the first woman with disability to join the group (Farmer Interest Group) in the village and start working towards becoming independent and take on the role of ‘man’ of the house,” she adds.

Assets and knowledge changing life

©CBM India
Maya says the food intake of her family has become better and the overall health has benefited from organic produce that they consume.
While she works in her field, using tools that have been customised for her, she informs us that she recently got her eldest daughter married.

To be able to find a groom for her daughter was a big personal milestone for Maya. Though it has come at the cost of her security as she had to mortgage her small piece of land to pay for the marriage arrangement.

On being asked if it concerns her, she adds: “I will pay the debt soon, as I am growing organic vegetables without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which means I have to spend less now.”

Her ability to take a big decision and risks comes from the support that she has received from the project in the form of training on sustainable practices, soil rejuvenation, selection of crops and vegetables, and preparation of organic manure.

She now spends time demonstrating and explaining the benefits of organic methods and using chemical-free manure to women in her community.

Harnessing power of awareness

Maya is also a budding shop-owner which she started with financial support for processing the local grown organic produce. She has been trained in marketing and packaging organic spices that are grown locally by her and other farmers.

“I want to open a bigger shop and keep more varieties of produce. They (organic produce) are in demand and people trust the quality and health benefits of it,” she says sitting on the floor and sipping hot tea.

“The packaging machine is portable and we can ask for it once we have cleaned and grounded the spices into powder,” Maya highlights, pointing to a made-shift shop display in the front room of her house that has no electricity and also serves as the storing area for the firewood.

Maya has also received a canopy for setting up her mobile shop at the weekly markets that take place and draw visitors from the nearby villages.

Personal change

maya participating in SHG Meeting ©CBM India
Maya participating in Self-help Group meeting in her village
“I have food security and we eat better food. It is healthy as well as we do not use chemicals. I have not been to the doctor for many months or spent on medicines,” she adds with a smile.

One of the main features of the project is of bringing individuals and community together so that they can access government schemes meant for poor and people with disabilities.

Maya is a great example of how this approach creates lasting change in the lives of people with disabilities. She receives a disability pension and has also been a champion in getting access to it for others in her community who are eligible for it. She has also successfully got financial support for housing and construction of toilet through government schemes.    

The livelihood project has not only set Maya on the path to economic and food security but also established her as a strong voice in the community.

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Persons with disabilities excel in organic farming

CBM India’s organic farming initiative



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