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A Rice Farmer in India

Lakshmi Venugopal, 58, belongs to a caste that used to be known for its prosperous role in business and for its hospitality. Over the years, however, its status has changed and its members are no longer generally so affluent. 

Lakshmi Venugopal and her family live in a house in Chettinad, in the state of Tamil Nadu in the very south of India. She is married and has four children. The family makes its living growing rice.

Income, basic costs, retirement provision

From December until March, Venugopal earns money by growing rice. Two years ago, she was still able to hire four female workers, because her rice plants produced a higher yield and therefore more money. Since last summer, the family of six has had to survive on just 100 rupees a day, the equivalent of about €1.30. During the remaining months, her husband tries to make money by weaving rooves out of palm fronds, getting paid just under €12 a month for this. Since this is not enough to subsist on, their oldest son helps by trading in second-hand goods. Venugopal has to pay about €10 a year in taxes for the paddy field and the house.

What does working mean to you?

That is my life. Without it, I cannot survive; it is everything to me. Many farmers are selling off their fields at the moment, because they have been offered money for them. I would never sell my rice paddy, because if I did I could no longer grow rice.

What is the most important thing in your life?

My family. My husband has lost a leg; that is why one of our sons still lives with us, to help him.

What would you like to change in your life?

I don’t know. How can I change anything? I would like to have enough water at all times.

What are your biggest problems and how do you deal with them?

If it doesn’t rain in the summer, we have no water for the paddy field, which is bad for the plants. So we have put up a small barrel in which we can collect water when it rains.

What do you want from the future, and what are you doing to achieve that?

That is a difficult question to answer. In Germany, you seem to think about the future a lot. Here in India, it is different. We don’t think about what the day may hold until the next day. We live in the present.

What would you do if you didn’t have to worry about earning a living for one year?

I would visit all the temples in our local state, Tamil Nadu, lingering there for a long time. Everything there is so nice and colourful.

What distinguishes a good rice farmer?

Always working hard.


Population: 1.38 billion
Currency: Indian rupees (INR)
(73.5 INR = €1)
GDP per capita (2016): €1,557
Human Development Index: 131st place
(Germany: 4th place out of 188 countries)

Current average costs

1 litre of petrol: €1
1 kilo of chicken breast: €2.77
1 pineapple: €0.80
1 kilo of rice: €0.70
12 eggs: €0.80
1 packet of cigarettes: €1.95