Mountain women live and work with bent backs

See original article here

Durga Devi deftly digs up a fistful of rice saplings and transplants them on to an empty space in the pliable soil. As her hands work without a pause, so does her tongue. She chatters non-stop with Chandrakala Devi, her sister-in-law, who is transplanting rice in another corner of their field. They talk about their children, the food they have cooked, the weather, and other household matters.

“Old age caught up with us while we were working,” Chandrakala laughingly tells VillageSquare.in, as she progresses through the field. At 34, Chandrakala considers herself an old woman.

Durga and Chandrakala spend the entire time in the field bent over double, progressing a step at a time through their little plot of land in Mandal village of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. Their work is strenuous, leaves them with aches and pains, but they must continue. They are surrounded by mountains, and a stream gurgles down the slopes near the fields. The Himalayan village is home to 108 families, and has a population of 452.

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Scaling up the System of Rice Intensification in India

See the original article in Farming Matters here

Authors: BISWANATH SINHA & TUSHAR DASH

It is said that ‘rice is grown on women’s backs’. Globally, women provide between 50 and 90 percent of the labour in rice fields. They perform backbreaking tasks like seedling removal, transplanting and weeding in bent posture and under wet conditions for more than 1000-1500 hours per hectare. In addition, they are exposed to chemicals. Women working in flooded fields for long hours come into contact with various disease causing vectors exposing them to multiple health risks like intestinal to skin diseases and female urinary and genital ailments. This affects their ability to work and earn, and furthermore, it drains out their money on health care, sometimes making them indebted.

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Rural women have resilience to cope with climate risks: study

See original post in vigyanprasar.gov.in

Author: Dinesh C Sharma

Climate change impacts are being felt in many parts of the country, as manifested in erratic rainfall, extreme weather events and changes in cropping patterns. Adapting to these changes at farm and household levels is critical. A new study says women, particularly in marginalised communities, possess necessary knowledge to cope with climate risks.

The study assessed the role of individual women in coping with climatic risks, particularly in managing agriculture, energy and nutrition in flood and drought-prone paddy growing region of eastern India. It was found that women’s participation and involvement is much higher in managing nursery as well as in other farm-related functions like transplanting and weeding. Women resort to exchange of knowledge and resources at their level to face exigencies of climatic variation, given the absence of timely governmental interventions.

For instance, women use creative ways to manage food and nutrition security in their households in lean months. Many of them plant cucurbits like bottle gourd, pumpkin, satputia (a small cultivar of ridge gourd) and okra in their homesteads, catering to vegetable needs of the family since these are costlier in summer. A few women ensured food security by processing fruits and vegetables and storing them for consumption later. They harvest weeds and segregate them for consumption by human and some for cattle, while non-edible ones are composted.

Women in high-risk zones, especially arid and semi-arid zones choose leaves and stem of many plants available throughout the year for food. “This becomes an important coping strategy to fight food shortage or famine. Many of these plants have been used in traditional medicine systems for their therapeutic effects,” the study says. Researchers have documented such weeds used in three villages in the study area. Their expertise and knowledge about non-agricultural food sources help in dealing with food and nutrition availability resulting due to fluctuating climate, the study says.

” This becomes an important coping strategy to fight food shortage or famine. Many of these plants have been used in traditional medicine systems for their therapeutic effects “

“In a situation when not many technological alternatives are available and climate risks have to be coped with, there are ways in which individual women find creative ways by managing resource exchange and pooling, overcoming class and cultural boundaries,” explained Dr Anil Gupta of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, who conducted the study along with Anamika Dey and Gurdeep Singh of Indian Institute of Technology, Dhanbad.

The research is part of a long-term study on loss of agrobiodiversity underway in three villages (Isoulibhari, Shivnathpur, and Kharella) in Faizabad district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The villages, located in floodplains of the Sarayu river, are flood prone and mostly follow rain-fed rice-wheat cropping system. The region is facing vagaries of climate change. Data of the past 25 years obtained from Narendra Deva University of Agriculture and Technology showed high fluctuation in onset and withdrawal of monsoon, number of rainfall days, total rainfall received and average rainfall received per number of days.

“We found that knowledge networks of women contribute immensely to tide over the adverse effect of the risk episodes. But these informal channels of dissemination of the knowledge are often not recorded in formal scientific discourses,” Dr Gupta told India Science Wire.

Instead of ignoring the role of such informal networks, they can be used as channels for targeting climate adaptation policies and programmes, the study has suggested. If women groups become focal points of knowledge and resource dissemination in situations like crop failure due to flood or drought, there are fair chances that they will share these more openly. In addition, weather information needs to be provided according to local calendars, which are different from the Gregorian calendars, the study has suggested. The study has been published in journal World Development.

True victims of farm crisis

From DNA India. See original article
Author: Kota Neelima

The impact of drought on women farmers remains unregistered by the state, which considers them only in their non-farm roles in rural households and village communities. The new drought relief manual is no different as it merely provides an alibi for the state to abdicate its responsibility towards farm crises and utilises gender to reduce its intervention in agriculture by addressing only one half of the population.

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Innovative Protest By Women Farmers Demanding Fair Price For Their Produce

According to this article, there are nearly 98 million women who work in agriculture in India. Yet they do not have the rights or access to markets that they have been promised and that will help make their work dignified. Women who adopt the System of Rice Intensification and other improved farming techniques can produce the food, but they need policy support to see their work reaping the dividends it should.

See original article from The Logical Indian

Their protest is not a general sit-in demonstration. The women are seen carrying the commodities in a basket on their head. The products are necessarily the ones whose MSP is less than the cost of production. They have been in conversation with CACP officials, but no action has been taken.

So, today, they gathered in front of the gates of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ welfare to draw public attention.

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Women farmers need policy attention

by Hema Swaminathan
The Hindu Business online

With men migrating to cities for better jobs, women are now playing a critical role in farming, but they face many odds

Women have made significant contributions to agriculture in India. The current situation of rural transformation has brought to light women’s roles in agriculture. Typically, any discussion on this topic tends to focus on the most obvious trends; the proportion of women working in the agricultural sector as self-employed, unpaid help or wage labour.

What is ignored is an important and interesting shift in women’s roles: women are increasingly participating in farms as managers and decision-makers.

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A Farmer, a Leader, an Entrepreneur and a Businesswoman

By: Sabnam Aferin
Edits: Kanna K Siripurapu
From Nirman Odisha

With an electrifying smile and fire in her eyes, the story of Smt. Mahakud is exemplary!

A Farmer, a Leader, an Entrepreneur and a Businesswoman, Smt. Binodini Mahakuda (63), is the resident of Nuamunda village located in Tumudibandha Gram Panchayat, Tummidibandha Block of Kandhamal Distirct, of Odisha. The village has 54 households (HHs) and the population predominantly belongs to the other backward castes (OBC) category. Only one HH of the village belongs to the scheduled tribe (ST). Smt. Mahakud, lives with her family, which includes her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. Her family belongs to economically backward class and falls in the below poverty line (BPL) category. The family has no patta land to cultivate but owns only .50 decimal homestead land.

Indigenous agriculture practices, crop diversity and indigenous heirloom seed diversity had been eroding in the region, including Nuamunda village. Residents of the village have been gravitated towards cash crops and abandoned the traditionally grown food grains of millets. The government had been pushing the local farmers to adopt high yielding hybrid varieties, chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers under the state supported OTELP programmes. In addition, close proximity of the village to local market had been also contributing to local farmers gravitating towards cash crops, use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. However, maize and finger millets are the only indigenous crops still cultivated by local farmers and much of the traditionally cultivated indigenous food crops have been disappeared from the village. As a result, food and livelihood insecurity of local communities in the region, including Nuamunda village has spiked over the years.

NIRMAN with the project support of CWS (Centre for World Solidarity) has intervened in the area in the year 2011. A Jaibika Krushaka Sangha had been formed at Nuamunda village by the NIRMAN to create awareness about the impacts of toxic chemicals and synthetic fertilizers and the benefits of organic farming. Smt. Mahakud had been one of the active participants of the Krusaka Sangha. NIRMAN has supplied heirloom seeds of few indigenous vegetables to farmers of the village. Smt. Mahakud has also received her share of heirloom seeds, she has cultivated them in the kitchen garden of her own backyard land with the support of her daughter-in-law. In the first year she reaped a good harvest and the family used it for own consumption. The same year, she has collected and preserved good quality vegetable heirloom seeds from the harvest and saved them for the next cropping season. She says that kitchen garden produces enough vegetables for her family. She has started sale of surplus produce of eggplant and okra at the local market. During the present harvest season, she already collected and preserved heirloom seeds of ridge gourd, eggplant, okra and cow pea, which she will use during the next cropping cycle. She says that the seed collection and preservation techniques she learned during training organized by NIRMAN on heirloom seed extraction and preservation very useful.

A Leader, Entrepreneur and Businesswoman, Mrs. Mahakud, dons many hats, she is not just a farmer, she is an avid heirloom seed collector and seed conservationist, in addition and most importantly, she is a local leader, an entrepreneur and a seasoned businesswoman. She is the President of the local self-help group (SHG), Maa Gojabayani Swayam Sahayak Dala. She says that village HHs, especially women suffered from inadequate financial circumstances and lack of proper access to credit during emergencies. They were bound to borrow money, often for healthcare, funerals or even food, from local, private money-lenders for a very high interest rate. To address this issue, she along with few other progressive women folk of the village took the lead and formed the SHG. Members of the SHG saves little amounts on a monthly basis. The pooled amount is used for giving soft and loans with interest to members of the group.

Mrs. Mahakud, also played a major role in motivation of SHG members to start business. The SHG under her leadership started sale of rice, which unfortunately did not taste success. The SHG then tried at sale of oil, but suffered a serious setback. However, neither the SHG members nor she were discouraged from the unfavorable outcomes. They remained determined and took up processing and sale of medical forest products of amla, harada and bahada. The SHG under her leadership has signed an agreement with the Dabur to supply value added NTFPs (amla, harada, and bahada), and the SHG has already supplied 20 quintals of Amla, 10 quintals of harada and 10 quintals of bahada, to Dabur during the current year. While most of the SHGs of this region have either sunk in debts from default bank loans or become defunct, the SHG of Nuamunda sailed and tamed the tides. Smt. Mahakud, set an example of good leadership, with her clear vision and active participation the steered the SHG towards profits and doing profitable business, that too without taking any loans from the bank or other credit institutions. With an electrifying smile and fire in her eyes, the story of Smt. Mahakud is exemplary!