Posts Tagged ‘Gender’

CSISA-Trained Women Farmers Lead the Way for Agriculture in Bihar

Posted on India-news, News - Homepage, News & Announcements, September 11, 2016

kisan-sakhis

On account of various social and cultural barriers prevalent in rural India, women farmers often lack access to even basic information and training on modern agricultural practices. In the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) is working closely with women’s self-help groups (SHGs) to bridge this knowledge gap. According to the FAO State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11 Report, agricultural output in the developing world can, on average, be increased by 2.5 to 4 percent if women farmers had the same access to agricultural inputs and services as their male counterparts.

In the last two years, working through more than 300 SHGs, CSISA’s focused interventions have led to nearly 4,500 women farmers adopting new climate-resilient and sustainable agriculture practices and technologies. Geeta Devi from Bandra block in Muzaffarpur district, for example, adopted crop diversification by planting soybean on 0.03 hectares of land after harvesting her typically intercropped field of maize and potatoes. This new crop provided a yield of 1.8 tons per hectare providing Geeta Devi sustenance for her household and a profit of US$ 32 from selling the surplus harvest. Growing soybean is a viable solution to the state’s current drought-like conditions since it is a short-duration crop that requires less water. She shares, “This diversification helped improve my field’s productivity despite the unfavorable conditions. The additional income will help cover my household expenditure.” [Note: The term ‘Devi’ is a common salutation used when addressing women in Bihar and not a surname] 

Another farmer from the same block, Rekha Devi, adopted timely sowing of wheat with zero tillage – the first woman in her village to do so. “Initially, my family members were opposed to the decision and some even stopped talking to me. But having seen the beautiful crop standing in our field they are all very proud of me,” she says. By practicing zero tillage, Rekha Devi’s wheat yield increased from 4.4 tons per hectare to 6.1 tons per hectare.

It is important to note that the majority of these women, or ‘Kisan Sakhis’ as they have come to be known, are small and marginal farmers. Even a marginal increase in productivity or decrease in cultivation costs can go a long way in improving their circumstances. “Armed with these new skills and information, we are recording savings on all fronts. But more importantly, our knowledge of zero tillage, timely sowing, new varieties and community nurseries have helped change perceptions about our identity in our community. We are now recognized as able and progressive farmers,” says Bholi Devi.

Sanjay Shah, son of Kisan Sakhi Ashrafi Devi from Bochaha block, shares, “With the training my mother has received from CSISA, she has enabled us to practice innovative and improved farming such as zero tillage wheat and mechanical transplanting of non-puddled rice. We were all naturally hesitant when she first told us about these technologies. But today, we are all glad we listened and happily follow her advice.” A comment that brings a proud smile to his mother’s face.

According to Pankaj Kumar, CIMMYT Scientist, “Through CSISA’s classroom training and hands-on support provided out in the fields, these women groups have not only been able to learn new cost-saving technologies but are now also aware of and better equipped to benefit from various government schemes and subsidy programs.” Kisan Sakhi Sheela Devi from Sakra block, for example, was awarded last year by the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) Regional Station in Pusa for her efforts to increase food productivity using better-bet agronomic practices.

This article is authored by Sugandha Munshi, Gender Specialist, IRRI.

Partnering for Progress

Posted on News - Homepage, News & Announcements, December 15, 2014

 

601814_2866010629163_1615225722_nOne of the biggest challenges for women farmers in Odisha is to gain recognition as farmers and not just laborers. For most development agencies working in the state’s agriculture sector, the word farmer is synonymous with a man. Women farmers, especially those in the state’s tribal regions, remain unnoticed. Flying under the radar, women miss out on valuable opportunities to use and learn new technologies that can help reduce their drudgery. Besides, most agricultural machines are designed with the assumption that men will be the end users, so even when women access to these machines, they sometimes find the machines cumbersome or unusable. Numerous complementary schemes introduced to benefit farmers also often fail to recognize women’s needs and circumstances; the Kisan Credit Card, for example, is allotted based on land patta (legal record of rights), but women mostly do not have land in their name.

Fostering Community Support

Against this backdrop, PRADAN is working with women to make collectives or self-help groups (SHGs) that foster the unity and support of their peers to address different life and livelihood issues such as gender, sanitation and agriculture. Besides sharing relevant success stories and examples, the group also helps women prepare seasonal agricultural plans; understand the importance of different inputs like seed, fertilizer and irrigation; access loans from the SHG/bank; connect with different government departments and provide the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful.

PRADAN also helps women identify the major drudgery-prone agricultural activities and gain access to relevant drudgery-reducing technologies, as well as access improved technologies to store their produce and establish the necessary market linkages to sell it. The objective is to involve women from the start of planning to the sale of the crop.

To achieve this goal PRADAN partners with local women’s federations, such as Sampurna and Swayamsiddha, who serve as the main grassroots-level partners who facilitate the actual social mobilization and technology adoption process among community members. Eventually, PRADAN will remove itself from this equation after having equipped the women with the tools to have greater control over their own agricultural decisions, activities and investments.

A Common Goal

As an example, PRADAN has been working with 37 households and three women’s SHGs in the remote forested village of Kanthikana in Jashipur block for the last six years. The major livelihood activities in the village, which is dominated by the Santhal tribe, are the collection of non-timber forest products and agriculture. This year, while planning their agriculture and other livelihood-supporting activities in their respective SHGs, it emerged that women had expanded the area under agriculture and had introduced new crops into their cropping systems. The SHGs provided financial credit to the women but they needed proper technological support in order to manage larger-scale cropping.

With support from PRADAN and CSISA, the women’s groups planted maize using garden seeders on 10 acres, undertook line sowing of rice in 5 acres, introduced sahbhagi dhan (a rice variety) to all families in the SHGs and facilitated three families to use manual spreaders for seed and fertilizer application. These interventions also allowed women to take up off-season vegetables like tomatoes and other creepers on 6 acres of land. As a result, all 37 families learnt new technologies and women were able to lead on these efforts, receiving direct training and sharing their knowledge with family members.

This collaboration is an example of how PRADAN and CSISA, together with local federations, are supporting women in agriculture by introducing relevant innovative technologies and practices and educating women on modern practices like zero tillage, seed-cum-fertilizer drills, timely application of herbicides and appropriate-scale mechanization. Participating women attained higher yields, reduced their drudgery and established themselves as successful farmers.

The article is authored by Satish Patnaik, Team Coordinator (Mayurbhanj, Odisha) for PRADAN, a national level Civil Society Organization working in seven Indian states with around 3,00,000 women (where each woman represents one family) with a vision of a just and equitable society with change in human conditions. In Odisha, PRADAN through its 52 executives, is working in six districts – namely Kandhamal, Rayagada, Koraput, Kalahandi, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj – with 55,000 poor families.

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