Agriculture is the largest employer and contributes to nearly 20% of India’s GVA. Although it is critical to local and national economies, most of India’s farmers face chronic economic issues and are unable to escape poverty traps. The landscape of India’s agriculture industry has also recently shifted. Women play a pivotal role in agriculture and their contribution to agriculture in terms of the number of tasks performed and time spent is greater than their male counterparts and they are responsible for more than 80% agricultural activities, they are still considered as helping hand and not recognized as farmers, preventing them from accessing specific loan and benefit programs to expand production. Additionally, the agriculture industry is becoming increasingly feminized. Male migration to cities has increased, leaving women in charge of agricultural activities and production. However, little has been done to strengthen capacities of women farmers who contribute greatly in pre and post production processes in vegetable sector.
SEWA has identified three main issues facing women in the sector:
- Production: Many farmers suffer from difficulty in producing adequate yields, due to the quality of inputs (such as poor soil and poor seeds), ineffective resource management (for example overusing pesticides and fertilizers), and the use of traditional methods.
- Market Access: There is an information gap between producers and buyers. Agriculture producers often sell to middlemen and contractors who are able to under-pay producers due to asymettric knowledge of market prices and production. Additionally, poor infrastructure and difficulty in marketing limit market pentration to local sources, forcing farmers to rely on a limited market.
- Leadership: Women have almost no recognition within the industry due to lack of ownership of assets. Additionally, women are underrepresented on boards and government bodies at the local and national levels making it difficult for long-lasting, policy changes.
SEWA takes a three pronged approach to addressing the economic and social barriers that women face in the agriculture industry. SEWA is increasing the yield and production of individual farmers, investing in the creation of women-run institutions to overcome market barriers and creating local leaders to create long-term change.
Increasing the Income and Production of Women Farmers
In order to increase the sustainable income of women farmers in the agriculture industry, SEWA Bharat has organized a series of important training sessions on agriculture practices to help improve the output and yield of women’s farms. These include:
- Soil Testing in order to improve soil micronution, improve fertilizer use, and prevent soil pollution. This training is also intended on creating women as experts in their community and as leaders.
- Vegetable cultivation, production and storage in order to increase the yield of women farmers, SEWA Bharat is leading trainings on different cultivation, production, and storage techniques.
- Insect, Pest, and disease prevent a lot of farmers’ crops from producing their full year. This training would include identification of insect, pest and diseases and their effect on vegetables, use of indigenous technical knowledge and bio-insecticide pesticide and reduction in chemical insecticide and pesticide.
- Land use and cropping systems Land use planning will help the family to allocate their human and financial resources per agricultural season and for optimum utilization of the resources. It will also help the families to assess their nutrient requirements and plan the cropping patterns to support that nutrient requirement.
- Vermin Composts provide plots of land a valuable source of micronutrition for higher yields. The compost can be used on the own farm and in case of surplus can also sell to others. Selling worms to others is another income generating option for them. Compost will be constructed by bricks, because there are termites and bamboo made pits would be destroyed soon and not convenient for demonstration.
- Drip Irrigation can provide crops a constant source of irrigation will not wasting water and providing a source of fertilizer. Women farmers are given demonstrations of drip irrigation techniques to build the capacity and experience of using drip irrigation to improve the output and yield of crops.
- Technical Assistance can provide farmers with a resource that can be referenced and can be used to refresh lessons. SEWA Bharat is piloting mobile technology to help disseminate knowledge through videos.
Women become experts in production and resource management techniques, improving not only production but also their position within communities. Women are seen as important knowledge resources and help mentor and advise people throughout their community, giving them the platform to become leaders within their communities and within their industry.
Reducing Market and Institutional Barriers
Women farmers are often unable to penetrate the market to earn consistent and fair wages. In order to overcome these gaps, SEWA Bharat:
- Supports collection centers allowing communities to sell their vegetable produce and sell its marketable quantity at larger market. SEWA Bharat does this through their existing network of community centers as well as the creation of local, community run centers.
- Supports the formation of farmer producer organizations which collect, market, and sell products directly to consumers. SEWA operates cooperatives in Uttarakhand of organic spice producers and in Gujarat. Women farmers in these cooperatives produce and market at scale and are able to make business and industry decisions.
- Creation of Custom Hiring Centers: SEWA operates CHCs, called SEWA Sahara Centers, where women pool together resources to purchase mechanized inputs. Women are then able to rent out tools such as tractors, zero-tillage machines, and other inputs to help increase production and yields.
Investing in Local Leadership and Influence of Women Farmers
Increasing dialogue between women farmers, public bodies, male farmers, and investing in women’s leadership is critical. SEWA engages district level conventions of women farmers to develop local leadership skills, provide a platform for learning from different experiences women have, and creating a united identity of women farmers. Additionally SEWA invests in the leadership development of women through capacity building, rights based training, and connecting them directly to government resources. Women have also developed as local leaders by learning new skills and expertise, such as becoming community experts in soil testing and crop rotation. SEWA members mentor men and women farmers to help improve the yields and crops of others in their communities as well.
You can learn more about SEWA’s agriculture programs here.
SEWA Bharat is constantly looking for new, innovative project opportunities. Please write to us at email@example.com to partner with us.