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Thriving in Morra

With her own hands, Sita transforms her life and her community.

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Flourishing in Trying Conditions

On a small farm in Morra, a village in northwest India, the work is hard. Breaking the soil in this arid land means exactly that. Tilling creates large, jagged chunks of earth that more closely resemble rocks than anything that could support crops.

Finding water is harder. For generations, farmers have dug wells to capture the rain that falls during the year, if it comes at all. Roughly hewn wells must penetrate at least 60 feet of the unyielding stone that’s indigenous to the region. Deeper and deeper farmers dig in hope of harnessing precious, life-sustaining water.

All of this work—and more—is done by hand, day in, and day out.

Yet, in this inhospitable environment, a farmer named Sita thrives. She does not have a tractor or modern precision agriculture technology—but she has ingenuity, she has passion, and she has the growing agricultural expertise provided to her by JIVA.

More Than Life-Sustaining – Life Changing

JIVA is the Joint Initiative for Village Advancement, a multi-year program created by the John Deere Foundation and PYXERA Global dedicated to improving the lives of those in three adjacent villages in rural India—Morra, Madara, and Sakrawas. JIVA traces its roots to a volunteer project led by John Deere CEO Sam Allen in 2011, when a team of the company’s employees worked for a week side-by-side with Sita and other farmers to learn firsthand the challenges they face.

“JIVA has introduced many new agricultural practices to hundreds of farmers, including improved crop management, vermicomposting, and crop diversification. Apart from traditional farming techniques, JIVA promotes fruit and vegetable cultivation and gardens on a small scale, which supply a source of nutrition and income to the families.” - Virendar Khatana, Program Manager the Joint Initiative for Village Advancement (JIVA)

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Inspired by this experience, the John Deere Foundation reached out to PYXERA Global, a non-profit organization with a quarter century of experience enhancing the abilities of people and communities worldwide to solve complex problems. Together, they worked in the three villages to identify the most pressing needs and to help the communities determine for themselves how to best meet those challenges. Improving their primary livelihood—farming—was their unanimous priority. The program’s name, JIVA, honors this primary concern. “Jiva” means “life” and “livelihood” in Mewari, the language spoken in the three villages.

With the guidance of JIVA’s agricultural experts, Sita began growing vegetables as part of a nutrition garden. Her garden has become so successful that it not only produces enough to feed her family, but also grows extra quantities that Sita sells to support the needs of her village and beyond. The garden has transformed the lives of Sita and her family. Sita lives in a part of India where the average person earns only 60 rupees, or 1 dollar, a day. Average annual income is close to 22,000 rupees, or $365, per year. Because of the success of Sita’s nutrition garden, her annual income has increased by almost 45,000 rupees, or $750, a year.

While Sita is certainly a role model she is not alone. Today, JIVA supports 200 women growing produce in nutrition gardens and small farms.

Because of the extra money our kids get better clothes, better food to eat, and better schools because we can afford it.”

—Sita, Farmer in the JIVA program

Transforming Farming By Teaching Farming

In addition to working with farmers like Sita to grow their own vegetables, JIVA has helped strengthen traditional agriculture in the region. In northwest India, farmers commonly grow cotton, corn, sorghum and wheat, and JIVA has provided comprehensive training to nearly 700 farmers growing these crops. The instruction covers the entire cropping cycle, including land preparation, soil and water quality testing, sowing, pest management, application of crop protection products and nutrients, irrigation, harvesting and storage practices. The significant yield and profit increases that were achieved speak volumes.

“JIVA is powerful because it focuses on improving farmer knowledge. When you improve a farmer’s knowledge, and she uses this knowledge to become a stronger farmer, you create permanent economic and social change,” said Liza Herb, Program Manager for Enterprise and Community Development, PYREXA Global.

Bolstered by education from JIVA, farmers now invest more of their hard-earned profits to expand their individual farm operations. Farmers are installing technologies like drip irrigation and solar powered irrigation pumps. Just as importantly, they have become confident in their abilities, thanks to the support they receive from JIVA’s agricultural experts and they’re experimenting with growing new and more profitable corps.

“A potter used to come to the JIVA meetings and he used to sit. He was asked why he came when he was not farming. He said, ‘I just want to listen.’ Now, after learning from there, he has started growing vegetables,” said Sita .

Nearly 400 farmers have started growing fruit crops like pomegranate, papaya and lemon that require at least two years to start bearing fruit. These crops hold the promise of even greater profits for those who grow them.

“A potter used to come to the JIVA meetings and he used to sit. He was asked why he came when he was not farming. He said, ‘I just want to listen.’ Now, after learning from there, he has started growing vegetables.” - Sita, Farmer in the JIVA program

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A Bright Future

The John Deere Foundation’s support of JIVA goes beyond simply providing a check. It reflects a commitment from the very highest levels of John Deere to Sita and farmers like her around the world who will be needed to help overcome the challenge of feeding a growing global population. If Sita’s story is any indication, John Deere believes this challenge will be met.

In the months ahead, please visit the John Deere Journal for more stories from JIVA.

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Thriving in Morra

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