Raindrop in the Drought: Godavari Dange
Raindrop in the Drought is a comic book based on the life of Godavari Dange, who has spent decades organising women farmers and promoting sustainable farming methods in the drought-prone Marathwada region. The book is dedicated to these women and offers an insight into the ongoing agrarian crisis in India. It was written by Mumbai-based journalist and researcher Reetika Revathy Subramanian, with drawings by freelance illustrator Maitri Dore – as part of an initiative by Goethe-Institut Indonesien. This document contains the book in English as well as Marathi.
She was named after the river Godavari – worshipped as Goda Maai, the mother who nurtures, in the arid terrains of Marathwada. Born into a farm household in Maharashtra’s Tuljapur taluka, Godavari was forced to drop out of school and get married at the age of 16. Five years later, she lost her husband to an accident and returned to her mother’s house with two young children.
Godavari joined a small savings group in Ghandora where she was introduced to women who too were trying to rebuild their lives, devastated by the 1993 earthquake and continual droughts. This is when she began learning about and promoting sustainable farm models – informed by local climate patterns and the social pressures faced by women in the region. Her work has had an impact on over 60,000 women farmers since, giving her the opportunity to share platforms with activists and practitioners from across the world.
The Marathwada region suffers from severe droughts, made worse due to the trend of growing water-intensive cash crops among rich farmers. While such crops fetch good money for those who can afford to grow them, wells run dry, pushing poorer farmers to exhaust all their savings in digging borewells. Against this backdrop, Godavari Dange brought together a group of women farmers in Marathwada who grew food crops such as millets and pulses in whatever land they could spare – often as little as half an acre. This “one-acre model” of farming supported 36 varieties of drought-resistant and short-term crops on small pockets of land. The goal, the book notes, was to ensure “food for all, all year round."
This book engages with different facets of Godavari’s life, which in turn reveal the larger structures of oppression and solidarity which women in rural India encounter. Women farmers are pushed to contend with upper caste village headmen, unhelpful local authorities and abusive husbands – who often refuse to even acknowledge women as ‘farmers’, wholly disregarding their immense labour in agricultural work. Amidst this, Godavari draws strength from the women around her. Godavari’s aai who never discriminated against her daughters and encouraged them to study, her childhood friend Archana who put faith and labour into Godavari’s farming methods, and Kulkarni tai who introduced young Godavari to the benefits of organic farming, are crucial characters in her life story. The illustrations in the book are sharp and vivid, adding incisive details and rooting the story further in the lived realities of the characters.
The book notes that the women farmers have remained undeterred even during the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it precipitated. In the past 10 years, Godavari has travelled to 17 countries, sharing her experiences with activists across the globe. Like the river she was named after, Godavari hopes, “I will never cease to flow.”
Focus by Dipanjali Singh.
Reetika Revathy Subramanian
Illustrator: Maitri Dore
Reetika Revathy Subramanian and Maitri Dore