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Rural Indians struggle to increase income

JULY 23, 2011 BY EMILY WALKENHORST 1 COMMENT Muhammed Ayub stands behind his wife, Sitara. The Ayubs farm one hectare in Rampur-Mathura village in India. Muhammed said his family is not happy with the money he makes. | Photo by Emily Walkenhorst

Story by Emily Walkenhorst Muhammed Ayub hunches over as he plants rice in ankle-deep water near Rampur-Mathura village in India. Ayub, who is working with three laborers today to get the crop ready for harvest in November, says he works his farm from dawn to dusk. But his work day is even longer. To support his family, he has to do odd jobs in town. Life is hard for those who farm small plots of land like Ayub. Beside depending on finding extra work to supplement their income, they face unforgiving weather and still must depend on odd jobs to feed their families. Because Ayub farms only one hectare — about 2.5 acres, like most farms — the extra work is the main source of his family’s income. Ayub’s income supports his wife and three children. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), guarantees workers at least 100 days of employment in a year. But Satyemdra Pratap Singh, the founder of a school of 800 students in Rampur-Mathura and a farmer, said not everyone gets those 100 days. Ayub said his family is not happy with the amount of money he makes. They want a nicer home and more money, but he doesn’t know what work he would do to make it a reality. Instead, Ayub farms rice, wheat, sugar cane and mint oil, and his family helps him do it. His wife, Sitara Ayub, plants in the paddy, weeds and sows wheat. Sitara farms because she feels she has to. “I don’t like it,” she said in Hindi. When monsoon season comes, fields flood and odd jobs can be hard to come by. That can make food and money even more of a scarcity for the Ayubs, who normally live off about 100 rupees, a little more than $2, a day. During the monsoons and the six-month off-season, the family has to buy food from the village, even though it is more expensive for them than eating from their own farm. Sitara said she wants to work on her own, running a small shop in the village selling food and drinks. But she does not have the resources or skills. According to Singh, small shops in villages make about 50 to 60 rupees a day. Sitara said her family is not happy. “But we have to be happy,” she said. “We have no option.”  


Rural Indians struggle to increase income