Women rice farmers: Agents of change in eastern India

Post date: Aug 31, 2016 5:43:43 AM

by Swati Nayak and Manzoor H. Dar

The project Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) has rolled out initiatives to ensure farm productivity and food security and lessen climatic vulnerability in eastern India through women farmers. STRASA has established significant new strategic partnerships and convergence in the region. Its planning and convergence activities include giving women farmers access to stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs)—the most important input in the agricultural production chain.

These initiatives not only target women’s inclusion. They also provide systemic development, capacity building, and livelihood enhancement with the vision of establishing women as recognized farmers, seed growers, disseminators, and agents of change within their own communities and beyond.

Eastern India is dubbed a critical zone because climatic aberrations and abiotic stresses, such as floods and droughts, repeatedly occur in the region. Women farmers are ranked high in vulnerability mapping. In this context, the mass introduction, use, and seed multiplication of STRVs through women’s groups can be a potential game-changer in the socioeconomic and food production dynamics in the region.

An underlying framework of involving women-led institutions has been proven as one of the most effective means of socioeconomic and political empowerment of women. As an entry point for seed and technology-related interventions for women farmers, STRASA has identified, planned, and converged with many umbrella agencies involved in promoting grass-roots and women’s self-help groups (SHGs), federations, producer groups, etc. Each of the agencies has the expertise for developing and enhancing the lives of millions of women farmers in the region.

STRASA has ensured that seed interventions made are not isolated and random initiatives, but rather active catalysts that can contribute to the overall livelihood of the women and their households in stress-prone areas. The project has achieved this goal by converging seed initiatives strategically with many successful integrated livelihood projects such as farm activity, nonfarm activity, nontimber forest products, forest livelihood, renewable solar energy, efficient irrigation models, as well as cereals-, millet-, and pulses-based integrated farming.

The goal is to make a tangible impact on women’s livelihood by giving women farmers access to knowledge, technology, information, inputs for several value chain processes, and relevant institutions. These strategic initiatives have created research opportunities for comparing, learning, and sharing different models of interventions along with various agencies. (For full story, click in Rice Today Online.)