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Bihar woman among top 25 Asian farmers
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, May 6
She does not represent the who’s who of Indian business or industry. Her views are not being considered to chalk out the roadmap to bring the underdeveloped state of Bihar back on tracks of progress.

She is not even a member of the Bihar Development and Industrial Council (BDIC), formed last year to provide a common platform to business and industry tycoons who are concerned for Bihar and get together to deliberate and suggest ways for development of the state.

But the semi-literate, daily wage earner Lalmuni Devi of Azadnagar village in Patna district, now figures in the list of top 25 Asian farmers following her adoption of mushroom farming under the guidance of Indian Council of Agriculture and Research (ICAR).

It was the challenge to survive that prompted Lalmuni to take up mushroom farming despite the fact that she had no land of her own. But this did not deter her from undertaking the venture with a small initial investment of Rs 500.

This small step ultimately resulted in her recognition as an “enterprising” farmer and today her name figures among the top 25 Asians in Mexican Gallery of the CIMMYT, a well known Mexico based institute engaged largely in research for improvement of maize and wheat crops.

Lalmuni is not the only one to have taken up the venture. She has inspired 22 other women of her village to take up mushroom cultivation.

According to Lalmuni, turning point in her new profession came when a group of instructors from ICAR taught her the skills to grow mushroom. “The method taught by ICAR instructors convinced me that it did not require much land. I learnt to grow mushrooms in my house and later found that they yielded good profit,” she said.

Explaining the reasons as to why her indigenous method of mushroom cultivation has been widely acclaimed, Lalmuni says that she uses balls of wheat husks and rotten hay to grow mushrooms.

Packed in polythene bags, the balls are arranged in rows under her thatched roof which nourish the oyster mushroom shoots in humid setting.

For the first two years, it was the ICAR that provided free seeds to her. But now she purchases it from this institute at Rs 60 per kg. One Kg of seeds yield 12 to 14 Kg of mushrooms.

While winter variety fetches Rs 60-70 per Kg, the summer variety fetches around Rs 80-120 per Kg. It just takes about four weeks for the crop to be ready and it can be grown round the year with just a little effort.

However, unfortunately Lalmuni has failed to attract attention from Indian authorities despite the fact that she has international recognition in her kitty.

The BDIC, involving top industrialists of the country, which met in Patna on April 23 under the chairmanship of Nitish Kumar, identified agriculture and agro-based industries as one of the key areas to bring economic prosperity to Bihar. Lalmuni, as expected, was not invited to share her experience at BDIC.

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