Challenging Gender Bias through Innovative Farming Practices

Challenging Gender Bias through Innovative Farming Practices

Forty-year-old Shanti Devi (in photo) a woman farmer in Uttar Pradesh, lives in Musadei village (Mitauli block) in Lakhimpur Kheri district with her husband and five children. Earlier, she and her husband practiced conventional farming – chemical fertilisers and pesticides — that was both cost intensive and taking a toll on their health. But she soon gave it up and instead took up organic farming, with the support and trainings from Oxfam India and its partner, Lakhimpur Kheri-based NGO Asian Institute of Management (AIM). 

Not only did she start practicing organic farming, she mobilised other women farmers in the village to do the same. Initially, six women joined her but soon the number grew. 

GENDER DISCRIMINATION FAILS TO ACKNOWLEDGE WORK BY WOMEN FARMERS. READ HERE

In Uttar Pradesh, 65% of the population is dependent on agriculture and most of them live below the poverty line. And, though women comprise 80% of the workforce in agriculture, they are hardly recognised as famers; this is because they have no ownership over land. While the struggle to recognise women farmers in the state has met with some success, they still do not have all the rights and power to take decisions regarding farming practices. 

MOBILISING WOMEN FARMERS TO SECURE LAND RIGHTS IN UTTAR PRADESH

So Shanti Devi’s — and all the other women who joined her — decision to opt for innovative, chemical resilient farming practices in a way challenged the deep set social norms and gender bias that women farmers have to face. Through regular trainings and interaction with agricultural scientists she developed an understanding of organic farming and climate resilient agricultural practices, and learnt to prepare chemical-free pesticides and fertilizers. 

Not only was she able to minimize her cost of cultivation, her productivity increased. She earlier cultivated paddy, tomatoes, wheat, and brinjal but under the guidance of the agricultural scientists, she developed a nursery of cauliflower, okra, and chillies. She shared these plants with other women farmers as well. 

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Shanti Devi went a step ahead and formed a group of 12 like-minded women farmers. The women farmers in the group —Santoshi Mahila Kisaan Samooh, formed in 2016— deposit Rs. 40 every month. In the last couple of years they have saved Rs.11,040 in the back account of the collective. The women use this money as credit for agricultural purposes. Through this farmers’ collective, women have been linked with government schemes, subsidies and seed support. 

In 2019, they were linked with the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM)— a government scheme to provide credit to women Self Help Groups for agricultural activities— and received Rs.15,000 under the scheme. 

All this was made possible with the support of Oxfam India and AIM. Oxfam India trained its partner NGOs such as AIM on building linkages with government schemes and ensuring last-mile delivery for women farmers.

ADDRESSING GENDER INEQUALITY: ENSURING FISCAL JUSTICE FOR WOMEN (a report by Oxfam India)

Text by Binod Sinha, Programme Coordinator, Uttar Pradesh


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