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Grain storage units help rural women save time and energy

In Maharashtra, grain storage units made from steel and aluminium are helping women save time. They do not need to make efforts in continuous grain monitoring and the time gained is making it easier for women in the villages to manage the household, along with cooking, cleaning, and working on the farms

For rural households that are primarily dependent on agriculture, grain storage units made from steel and aluminium offer relief from shortage of time and save women the effort of continuous grain monitoring. The time gained through these units makes it easier for women in the villages to manage the household, along with cooking, cleaning, and working on the farms.

When compared to traditional means of grain storage, these grain storage units are adept at preventing pest infestation and also preserving the nutritional quality of the grains. Each unit has a storage capacity of three quintals, which helps farmers store the grain for longer periods and then sell it when the prices are optimal. Handed out to women in Bhoom Taluka in Osmanabad, Maharashtra, the grain storage units are one of the numerous ways in which women’s drudgery is being tackled.

Bhoom, situated in the Banashankari Hill ranges of Sahyadri, has since long employed traditional means of grain storage. Some of these measures are earthen kothis (bowls), bamboo sticks covered in dung, burlap bags, special grain storage plastic bags, and plastic yarn bags.

However, given the prevalence of pest infestation, the techniques could not ensure the longevity of grains. Food grains were damaged often, by pests like bollworm, tiny beetles, kaffa weed, toothed weevil, pulse weevil, red weed, and kites. The pests thrive at between 20 and 40 degrees Celsius and  harm the stored grains when the moisture content increases in the range of 8 to 10 percent. Field infestation, cracks and holes in the storage area, climatic grain damage, and many other factors also contribute to this infestation.

The primary crop grown in Bhoom Taluka is sorghum. However, due to a lack of storage facilities, the harvest would either be spoiled or sold at low prices due to excess supply in the market. The grains were always at risk of contracting an infestation as they were stored in sacks and bags.

While a few could afford to buy fresh grain in the eventuality of an infestation, many did not have the financial means to do so, leading them to either use the spoiled grain or face starvation. As one of the women from the villages pointed out, “If we stored our rice, wheat, and other grains in gunny bags or sacks, sometimes it would stay good, sometimes it would be attacked by pests, and we would not have enough storage of food grains to survive for the year. We would constantly be on edge because we would have to choose between quantity and quality.”

The men of the villages paid little attention to the problem because storing grains is a task traditionally performed by women. As the women struggled to make ends meet due to the hassle of storage, they reached out to the Mahila Sanyukta Samitis, a collaborative body of SHGs in a village

In light of this problem and subsequent demand for grain storage units, the Sanyukta Mahila Samitis in the project villages decided as a group to purchase the grain storage units and provide them to the women through a social outreach activity. The women applied for grain storage units through their village welfare and self-help groups, and received the units at subsidised rates. Only households with low incomes or resources were provided with the storage units.

A hundred and twenty-six grain storage units were distributed in the five project villages. Rohini Halnoor, a recipient from Sawargaon, said, “The women in our communities have always had trouble storing food. Mice would make holes if kept in sacks, and pest infestations would occur, incurring us significant losses. When I was travelling from Nagar (Ahmednagar) once, I came across these grain storage units. Later, during a SHG meeting, after a discussion with all the women, we proposed the idea of acquiring the grain storage facilities with the aid of women empowerment schemes. Since we all demanded the units in unison, the process started soon. We all received the units, which have entirely removed our drudgery.”

The grain storage units are made up of materials such as steel and aluminum, which preserve nutritional quality. These containers are airtight, preventing any kind of bacteria or pests from entering and causing grain damage. The temperature and moisture content inside of the container is also maintained at optimal levels, irrespective of the climate outside, thus curbing pest infestation.

It has been noted that the storage units have made these women beneficiaries’ lives less demanding and more nourishing. Samina Pathan, social development officer, WOTR, who was a part of the social mobilisation, said, “For an average family of up to four members, grains can be stored for up to six months in the units, reducing the anguish. For larger families, it is likely four or less than four months.

The grain containers, according to Ninnajwadi beneficiary Rohini Ghodke, enable them to maintain nutritious quality. Furthermore, because they are constructed of metal, they may be left outside the home even when it is raining without fear of pest infestation.

The women chosen from the five project villages come from the lowest-earning households. Engrossed in several duties and tasks, including monitoring grains, the daily drudgery made it almost impossible for them to relax. With these grain storage units in place, the time spent on grain monitoring has decreased, giving them more time for themselves.

This activity was enabled through the Wasundhara Village Development Project, a partnership between Tata Projects and WOTR.

(Courtesy: WOTR)

December 2022