RECOGNIZING THE WORK OF
WOMEN FARMERS IN INDIA
Who is a farmer in India? Traditionally, a farmer is seen as one who owns the land and not the one who tills that land. This rather rigid definition overlooks the contribution of a substantial percentage of women who work in the agriculture sector in India - as unpaid workers on family farms or as labourers on others' farms and agricultural enterprises. Despite being involved in crop production and other allied activities, like livestock and fish farming, they do not have access to the same resources as their male counterparts. Yet, women's contribution in the agriculture can not be denied. They carry out the labour intesive work of sowing, weeding and harvesting, and in the event of the men migrating for work they carry on farming while also taking care of the household and providing for their family. Women's role as primary seed keepers and in saving the bio-diversity through traditional knowledge cannot be ignored either. This series of human interest stories aims to build awareness in the media and in the public on the status of women farmers in India, highlighting their struggles and achievements, providing insights into the policies and practices that have affected them, positively or negatively.
India: Meet The Industrious Indian Female Farmer
By Ajitha Menon
Google the words ‘Indian’ and ‘Ifarmer’ and the popular search engine pulls up vivid images of impoverished, downtrodden male cultivators while the accompanying stories are focused on destitution, suicide, adverse impacts of genetically modified crops, landlessness… Clearly, in India, a farmer's life is not just extremely tough and economically challenging but their contribution, too, is largely unacknowledged. Yet, farming needn't be about strife and tears alone, as demonstrated by the resourceful women agriculturists of Kerala, who have emerged as the cornerstone for the food security movement in the state. With the support of a government scheme and easy bank loans, groups of women and girls are tilling their own or leased land profitably, producing a variety of food and cash crops. Today, they have successfully established a solid credit rating for themselves, have money in their bank and food on the table – all through sheer hard labour and some collective enterprise. It is tangible, visible empowerment.
Significantly, these women's groups have busted the theory that agriculture is no longer economically viable in Kerala. They have
transformed the once fallow expanses into profitable pockets of land with hard work and some smart thinking.
WFS REF NO: INDP203
India: It's “Mushroom-ing” Opportunities
By Azera Parveen Rahman
‘Over the last few years, the rains have become quite erratic. Either we have incessant downpours
that end up flooding the whole area or there are long spells of absolutely dry weather.
This uncertainty has severely affected paddy cultivation, which initially had an adverse impact
on our household income as well as nutritional status. Fortunately, that's not the case anymore.
We have a foolproof alternative now.’ In the lush countryside of Assam's Golaghat district women
like Aroti Devi, Jyoti Moni Das and others have discovered a new source of livelihood that
has transformed them from quiet homemakers and agri-workers to “empowered farmers”.
With support from the Mushroom Development Foundation, which works closely with the
North East Institute of Science and Technology, the hardworking wives and mothers
have taken to mushroom cultivation in a big way. As the initial investment is low -
they can grow different varieties of the edible fungi in jute bags or bamboo frames - and the
returns significant - a kilo of oyster mushrooms can fetch anywhere between
Rs 100 to Rs 250 - today, they are relieved that they can build a better future
for their children on their own terms.
“With mushroom farming, we finally have an assured income, no matter how small. It enables me to at least plan something concrete for the future.”
WFS REF NO: INDob17
Women Farmers Try To Harvest A Better Life
By Nitin Jugran Bahuguna
Ravinder Kaur, 45, of Mallan village in Muktsar district, about 300
kilometres from Chandigarh in Punjab, toils diligently from 10 am till
5 pm in her fields, carefully plucking cotton from the bushes under a
harsh sun. “My husband takes care of the hard labour by ploughing
the fields and preparing the soil for cultivation. I help towards the end,
when it is time to collect the cotton,” is how she cheerfully describes
her seven-hour daily grind. For her friend, Sukhanjit Kaur, 43, too,
harvesting the cotton is just “another household chore” she
tackles efficiently along with all the other tasks she handles. Although
formally the women still don't consider themselves as farmers, today,
they are taking baby steps towards developing a sense of self worth, particularly
where their work is concerned. A unique initiative, which especially focuses on
the challenges faced by women involved in cotton farming in four districts of
Punjab, is creating awareness on a range of issues, from equal pay to children's
right to education and safe work practices.
“After I learned about equal pay for equal work, my employer has started paying me the
same as he does the male workers - Rs 150 per day.”
WFS REF NO: INDoa19
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