Empowering women, one step at a time

Empowering women, one step at a time

In a country where women struggle to achieve equal status, women farmers from Munger and Bhagalpur District of Bihar are leading by example. They got together and formed the Karn Bhumi Krishak Producer Company Limited in 2018, a Farmer Producer Organisation (FPC) registered under Section IXA of the Indian Companies Act 1956. According to this, only farmers/producers can be part of the FPC and have to manage it themselves. This is a remarkable achievement for women farmers in Bihar, keeping in  mind the gender disparity across the agricultural domain of the state. It has helped them address issues related to procurement and establish linkages with traders to sell their produce directly, eliminating the role of middlemen.

Agricultural activities in Bihar provides livelihood to approximately 80% of its population. While women farmers play a key role in the state’s agricultural growth, unfortunately only 7% of them have land holding rights.

In 2016, with the support of Oxfam Germany and Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Oxfam India in collaboration with SEWA Bharat (a federation of women-led institutions providing economic and social support to women in the informal sector) started a 3-year  joint project in two districts of Bihar — Munger and Bhagalpur.

The project was aimed to directly engage with 3,000 households to enable them to avail government scheme benefits in 35 villages in 6 blocks of Munger and Bhagalpur districts (1650 households in 3 blocks of Munger and 1350 households in 3 blocks of Bhagalpur) of Bihar. Since 2016, nearly 1400 women farmers have been benefitted by this.

It also focussed on encouraging vegetable farming among women farmers from the marginalised communities. They were trained in sustainable practices of vegetable cultivation, which helped them improve their produce and increase their income. Emphasis was laid on weaning away the farmers from chemical inputs and introducing new methods of innovative farming. They were trained on vermicomposting and drip irrigation; low-cost net houses and polytunnels were set up to grow saplings.

“We received training to increase our crop productivity through sustainable agricultural practices. Following these practices has increased our yield. We need to increase our income to take care of our family expenses and education of our children,” says Sarita Devi, a woman farmer from Munger. 

Working with Oxfam India and SEWA Bharat, women farmers like Bhagalpur’s Nitu Devi have left behind the traditional practices of vegetable cultivation and become quite the expert on drip irrigation.

She explains “After we learnt to install drip irrigation units in vegetable cultivation, we sowed potatoes on wider range of our field on recommended line to line and plant to plant distance and installed drip irrigation in our field. We put liquid plant nutrient in the water tank. It has helped in providing required moisture and nutrition to every plant and has saved water. Now, I am getting enhanced crop production and good quality of vegetables.”

Training, awareness sessions and group activities were conducted for all to not just grow individually but also as a community. Women farmers were trained and encouraged to bargain for their produce and demand the price they rightly deserved, respectively. Over the years, women farmers have become adept in supply chain management. In fact, the Farmer Producer Company was formed to streamline the procurement process.

Highlighting the importance of Farmer Producer Companies in Bihar, Ranjana Das, Regional Manager- Bihar and Jharkhand, Oxfam India, says “Our intervention has been majorly in three areas- developing this producer company, helping them to get registered and supporting them to enhance productivity in their farms. In Bihar, women involved in agricultural activities do not get technical support to enhance their productivity or improve the quality of their produce. We have a package of practices which has helped them to improve their productivity and connect with the local market.”

The success of these powerful women has inspired others to join them. It is a remarkable revolution for women farmers. They are breaking patriarchal norms and are becoming self-sufficient to overcoming all kinds of obstacles to grow both socially and economically.

Click here to watch their amazing journey- Her Veggie Basket

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