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Creating an oasis in rice: the women farmers of Nagwa Village, Uttar Pradesh

posted May 11, 2016, 7:48 PM by Rowena Baltazar ‎(IRRI)‎   [ updated May 11, 2016, 8:18 PM ]

Starting in 2015, STRASA highlighted success stories on its seed dissemination and multiplication, benefiting farmers, especially in remote and marginalized areas, particularly women. For its launching story, we featured an article by Ms. Lanie Reyes, editor of Rice Today magazine produced by IRRI, on benefits of Sahbhagi Dhan, a drought-tolerant rice variety disseminated to the women farmers of Nagwa Village in Uttar Pradesh, India. Ms. Reyes’ article is included in the Deep Roots publication of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in partnership with Tudor Rose. The book was published in celebration of the International Year of Family Farming in 2014. Excerpts of the article follow.

A car can usually travel down the narrow concrete road in Nagwa Village of Maharanjganj district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. However, during this second week of November – harvest time in the fields surrounding the village – piles of rice straw clogged the way, making passage virtually impossible. Most of the women, including Prabhawati Devi, were busy cutting the straw and piling it neatly on jute sacks that were cut open to serve as mats for the straw. As she was gathering the edges of the stalks, Mrs Devi said with a smile, “These are Sahbhagi.”

Sahbhagi is what the farmers and villagers call Sahbhagi dhan, a drought-tolerant rice variety released in India in 2009. The straw of Sahbhagi dhan is popular among the women in Nagwa, who feed it to their cattle. Brick and mud houses, scattered along the road of Nagwa, are not big enough to shield from view the residents inside as they go about their daily chores. One woman was cooking just inside her front door, squinting under the almost midday sun and shielding her eyes with her hands from the smoke of the burning fuelwood. Outside her house, another woman was threshing rice manually – raising her arms as high as she could as she smashed a bunch of rice stalks on a surface covered with fine mesh net. She gathered the separated grains with her hands, placing the grains at the centre of the net and putting the empty stalks neatly to her side. She rose once in a while to straighten her back from her squatting position. Yet another woman had just returned from harvesting rice bundles in the field. Women often harvest rice in staggered shifts because they want to give the fresh rice stalks to their cattle. (Full story in Deep Roots, pages 168-170)

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