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.

1,290 words
Photographs Available


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.”

1,200 words
Photographs Available


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.”

1,180 words
Photographs Available


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