- At the age of eight, Salamma started working in the fields of landowners to support her family. Today she owns 5 acres of land and is the only woman in her village that rides her own bullock cart.
“Being an owner gives me pride and self-confidence”, says Salamma while driving her bullock cart early in the morning. She is in her sixties and lives with her husband in Mamipalli, a small village in Anantapur district. A mother of 2 daughters and 2 sons, she has not only dedicated her life to her family but also to toil hard on lands. She is the proud owner of 5 acres and 2 buffaloes.
Salamma dropped out of school when she was 8 years old to work as an agricultural labourer to help her family. She was the fourth in a family with 8 children. Just two of them, both boys, studied up to tenth grade. “I was one of the elder among my siblings so I had no option” she remembers.
Even after her marriage, she kept working on the land and taking care of the family. However, in the late 80s, she joined RDT’s women sangham and things started to change. After years of attending the meetings she got a microcredit through the Women Development Fund to buy a buffalo. “We have to diversify our livelihoods so as to not depend on rains alone”, she remarks.
You were just 8 years old when you started as a daily wage worker. How was your family situation at that time?
We struggled to survive. My dad used to work for a landlord but what he earned was not enough to sustain all of us. I liked going to school but my parents could not afford it so I dropped out and started working.
I married when I was 16 years old and I continued doing the same work. I have been a farmer all my life. That is what I know and I am not afraid to go all alone to the field. I am the only women in the village that rides a bullock cart! I learned very fast, there was no other option.
Can you tell us a bit about your routine?
I wake up every day at 4 AM. I cook, clean the house, take care of the animals and pick up the labourers in my bullock cart. Then we go to the field.
In the field, I work together with my husband and the rest of the labourers. Most of them are men. I turn on the water pump, check the drip irrigation system…There are always things to do, at home and outside.
Is there something in your life that you regret?
I did not have the opportunity to study. My parents were always very clear that first you have to have something to eat and everything else comes after.
However, society gives respect to educated people. That’s why, in another life I would like to study and have a better future. Without education we are trapped.
For you, which is the worst and the best thing of being a farmer?
The heat and the physical labour are the worst. It is what I have been doing my whole life but I am older now. There is no schedule when you work in the field.
The best thing is the courage that being an owner of 5 acres of land and a bullock cart have given to me. I am not afraid of men. This is in part, thanks to the strength, support and courage that I got from RDT’s women sangham. Joining other women, sharing our problems and our joys has given us the strength to overcome everything! It is very important for women to go out of the house, to work and to have their own income. We have to be independent.
Text: Aina Valldaura