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Women in Organic Farming: Agents of Change

What is the current scenario of organic farming in India?

1. According to the World of Organic Agriculture 2018 report, India is home to 30% of the total organic producers in the world but accounts for just 2.59% (1.5 million hectares) of the total organic cultivation area of 57.8 million hectares.

2. At the same time, most organic farmers are struggling due to rising input costs and limited markets.

3. Farmers have also complained of low productivity during the transition from conventional chemical farming to organic farming.

Why are women important in the field of organic farming?

1. According to NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) reports, the agrarian sector nearly employs 80% of women workers.

2. Despite such high numbers, both the sector and the macroeconomic policy framework are yet to recognize them as farmers.

      3. 81% of the female agricultural labourers belong to SC, ST and OBC communities (ILO, 2010).

      4. Women are critical agents of change in their local communities by strengthening livelihoods, ensuring a steady supply of quality seeds for cultivation and increasing the availability and access to pesticide-free food for consumption.

      5. Therefore, women are at the centre of implementing the objectives of organic farming initiatives.

Which parts of India have involved women in organic farming?

1. Indian tribal women of the Sundergarh district of Odisha have chosen to produce safe and nutritious food, achieving food security and a better livelihood through organic farming.

2. Members of Olivia Women Farmers Collective have received several accolades for growing about 12 crops- brinjal, chilly, onion, tomato, cowpea, watermelon, beans, bitter gourd, ladies finger, sunflower, pumpkin, and leafy vegetables-in a single season by dedicating a row to each crop.

3. Janadhanya, an association of women farmers in Karnataka seeks to protect agro-biodiversity and organic farming.

4. Representatives from a cluster of five to seven villages are nominated to be the Board of Directors of Janadhanya.

5. From Janadhanya’s network of 3000 women across 17 villages, 694 have formed smaller Producer Groups (PG).

6. Bhimdanga village in Odisha empowers women farmers to manage their own seed enterprises and enables them to become decision makers in the community.

7. Pitchandikulam Bio-Resource Centre (PBRC) is working with 27 women’s SHGs within the Kazhuveli bioregion and along the Coromandel Coast.

8. Pitchandikulam helps these groups to access government and micro credit schemes which are of great benefits to SHGs and communities in general.

9. Women’s centre has been recently constructed at Nadukuppam Field, which enables woman’s SHGs to meet independently in a safe, stimulating environment.

How is it beneficial?

1. Multi cropping and organic fertilizers have transformed the practice of traditional subsistence agriculture into a dependable livelihood option for more than 2000 tribal farmers.

2. Organic farming is promoting agro-ecosystem health, including bio-diversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activities.

3. Women are no more just low wage labourers but are farmers and producers reviving locally sustainable agricultural practices.

Hence, the emphasis on small scale integrated organic farming systems has the potential to revitalize rural areas and their economies.