Divya Rawat’s inspiring life story is a narrative of hard work, empowerment and success. Hailing from a small village in Uttarakhand, she has revolutionised the agrarian sector in a smart way using the region’s resources to provide for effective livelihood through the cultivation and marketing of mushrooms, earning her the title of the ‘Mushroom Lady’ by locals and the media alike.
After losing her father at an early age she had to face a lot of hardship in life. She pursued her higher education from BHU after studying in Amity University, Noida. She further went to Delhi to attain her Masters in Social Work from IGNOU in order to help contribute to the society. After completing her post-graduation, she was at a good place in her career and had several high paying offers in multi-national companies. But it was her dream to uplift and empower rural women and to fulfil this she went back to her native state. This decision of hers was greatly questioned and challenged by many but Rawat remained undeterred. She consequently learnt about the mushroom business from the Department of Horticulture in Dehradun.
After learning the ropes and kick-starting the business, she soon became the Managing Director of her very own mushroom plant which has a turnover in lakhs. She has been honoured and felicitated appropriately for reviving farming through awards and recognition like the Sanjivani Rattan for agri-entrepreneur from the State government. Rawat’s three-storeyed home in Mothrowala area comprises of a mushroom plant on the first and second floor. It also harbours learners whom she provides the most relevant training by teaching not just practical skills, but also theoretical knowledge, making her home no less than an institution of its own. This epitomised by her words, “Do your work yourself and then teach others.”
The farming of this fungus has many advantages. Commercially, mushroom or “Dhingri” as it is called in our country, is considered to be a cash crop, thus the rate of per kilo is greater than other crops. Plus, it can be produced indoors, which shields it from unfavourable weather conditions. Even a small room will do, not much area or capital is required. The common belief was that mushroom production could be possible only in low temperatures (20-22° C). But Divya carved her own path by achieving the same in temperatures as high as 35-40° C. She has changed the lives of many by pulling off this feat. Another beneficial factor is that mushrooms can be cultivated all year long.
Thus, her plant is able to produce three kinds of mushrooms throughout the year, namely ‘button’ in winters, ‘oyster’ in mid-season and ‘milky’ mushroom during summers. Button takes a month to prepare, whereas oyster and milky take 15 and 45 days respectively. The preparation cost of a bag of mushrooms costs ₹50-60, which upon harvest gives a handsome 2-3 times profit return.
The Mushroom Lady has successfully helped people earn their keep by providing livelihood opportunities. This has led to new employment opportunities to the people of her area. She is and will continue to be an inspiration to those who feel that employment opportunities can only be found in the cities. What she has achieved is not at all small, considering people from Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Bihar are pouring in to learn about her social enterprise.
Despite being the managing director of her company (Soumya Foods), you might find her preparing manure for the mushroom cultivation in a pile of straw bales, just like any other worker. It is thus safe to assume that despite all the success, Divya Rawat remains rooted to the ground, just like a mushroom!