April 2024 \ News \ News

Bhubaneswar: It often requires strong determination, perseverance and immense struggle to become a successful entrepreneur and when a woman achieves the same her struggle inspires countless others. Odisha’s Jayanti Mahapatra, a former banker, is such an inspirational woman who received accolades for her struggle. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also shared her success story with countrymen during his Man Ki Baat programme in February.

Mahapatra quit her high-salaried job in Bengaluru and came back to her husband Biren Sahu’s (a management professional) native village at Salebhata in Kalahandi district to embark on her journey of entrepreneurship. She started a company, Manikstu Agro Pvt. Limited in 2015 with the mission, “Agriculture as business enterprise to enhance communities” in Kalahandi, once considered as one of the poorest districts of the country. Mahapatra tried to improve the financial condition of the farmers through community rearing of goats, a neglected segment of the animal husbandry sector. The company is named after the popular goddess of Western Odisha, Maa Manikeswari.

She initially worked in collaboration with Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Maharashtra. “My husband and I were determined to start something in Odisha, our motherland and contribute something to the state GDP. Another factor that motivated us to choose farming is the widespread concept linking poverty to the farming sector and the dislike among the young generation for farming,” Mahapatra told IANS. “Our goal was to make farming activities enterprising by utilizing our knowledge and experience in the agriculture sector. Our second goal was to make Odisha synonymous with the revolution in goat farming and related products,” Mahapatra added.

Every entrepreneur faces various challenges during his or her struggle for success, so did Mahapatra during the initial two-three years. “Initially everyone thought we were not serious and came here to start the business just as a pastime by spending the extra money we possessed. Kalahandi’s black soil is suitable for cotton farming and most of the local inhabitants migrate to other states after the end of the annual cotton farming session. It was a challenge before us to convince them to adopt goat farming,” stated Mahapatra. She noted that people started taking their initiative more seriously after they witnessed improvement in the financial condition of the farmers who initially joined hands with the firm.

“Another big challenge before us is cultural stereotypes regarding the farming of goats which are mostly used for meat. However, people slowly realized that this is a science and our culture also supports such flexibility in some cases. The small and marginal farmers are getting revenue from rearing goats, the manure and the feed and fodder the firm has been procuring from them. It became profitable for them due to the easy market access,” Mahapatra said. “We first select marginal farmers, especially women. We train them and then give two female goats for 24 months. We also provide other support services like insurance, seed, fodder, health and diet. We also impart training on disease prevention, treatment, breeding, delivery, etc. to local unemployed youths engaging them as Pasu Seva Adhikari (PSA). They get paid per visit to any farmer for treatment of their animals or awareness related activities aiming to assist the farmers connected to us,” stated Mahapatra.

The goats usually give birth to 9 to 10 kids and out of these, four to five goats are kept by the bank, and the rest are given to the family engaged in goat farming within two years. Currently, around 1,000 to 1500 farmers are connected to Mahapatra’s firm in Kalahandi only. Many small and marginal farmers in the neighbouring districts are also getting financially self-sufficient due to Mahapatra’s initiative.

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