Meet ‘inspirational’ Lal Muni Devi from Patna

For Lal Muni Devi, the challenge was to survive on her farming skills without having any land of her own to plough. So the poor, uneducated woman from Azad Nagar village in Patna district used her dank, thatched house to grow mushrooms.

And now she is in a Mexican gallery of top farmers from Asia. A photograph of Lal Muni and the story of her achievement have been put on the website of CIMMYT (www.cimmyt.org/english/wps/news/ 2006/feb/whats_wheat.htm), a well-known Mexican institute engaged in research for improvement of maize and wheat crop.

Lal Muni Devi finds mention as an inspirational farmer among 25 from seven Asian countries.

"I have heard that my photo has been published in America. I want to see it," said Lal Muni, who wanted to know how she could go to America to see her photo.

Till four years back, Lal Muni used to work for other farmers as a daily labourer. Then instructors from Indian Institute for Agricultural Research (ICAR) brought together 25 women from the village and taught them how to grow mushrooms.

Lal Muni says what made her happy was that she did not need any land to grow mushrooms, a plant she had never even heard of till the ICRA training. It also helped that market was easily available in nearby Patna city.

"I learnt that I could grow mushrooms them in my house and later found that they earned good profit too," she says with a broad smile.

The reason why she got a compliment from a wheat-promotion agency is that balls of wheat husk are used for growing the mushrooms. Packed in plastic bags, the balls hang in rows under her thatched roof, nourishing the oyster mushroom shoots in the humid setting.

For the first two years, ICAR provided free seeds but now the women buy it at Rs 60 a kg. "One kilogram of seed yields 10-14 kg of mushroom. The winter variety sells at Rs 50-60 per kg while in summer they get Rs 80-120," said A R Khan, principal scientist at ICAR in Patna.

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