Trendsetting Women Farmers in New Roles as Decision Makers, Leaders and Trainers
Sushila’s day begins like any other woman in her village in Rajasthan. She starts by milking the cows, cooking, cleaning and doing other household chores. But after that, her day is quite different from other women in her community. At 9 a.m. she is dressed in her official Krishi Sakhi green colored sari, and heads out into the fields to teach scientific farming practices to the women farmers of her village.
Under an innovative agricultural awareness project, called Krishi Chetna (agriculture awareness), Sehgal Foundation has trained nine illiterate women farmers in the Alwar district of Rajasthan to be Krishi Sakhis (farmer’s friends). The women have been taught about soil health management, application of micronutrients, seed treatment, line sowing, optimum seed rate, proper plant spacing and other scientific agricultural practices. Over the last two years, these Krishi Sakhis formed farmers’ groups to train other women farmers in 14 villages.
According to Pawan Kumar, Program Leader at Sehgal Foundation, “In India, women are responsible for 80% of the total food production. But they play a negligable role in agricultural decision-making. Men mostly make farming related decisions as women are often illiterate and lack access to information. We have tried to change this dynamic through the Krishi Chetna project in which we have used the Krishi Sakhi model. Woman can be the best medium to spread awareness and knowledge among other women in the conservative rural set up.”
© Mick Minard/REEF Reports
Krishi Sakhi Sushila says, “Soil quality has be worsening lately as ground water has been being either too alkaline or saline. Soil testing helps us to identify deficiency of micro and macronutrients in the soil such as phosphorus, nitrogen, magnesium etc. As Krishi Sakhis, we go to the fields to show women farmers how to collect soil samples for testing. Based on the soil test report, we advise the farmers to use only those nutrients in the field that the soil needs. These micronutrients help improve soil health and crop yield. We advise women farmers about the ill effects of using excessive chemical fertilizers, which have over the last few years resulted in decreasing the health of our soil and have degraded our land.”
Harpyari, another Krishi Sakhi, states, “Earlier the farmers used to put 40-50 kilograms of seed in one bigha of land. Putting more than the required quantity of seed resulted in not enough space for the crop to grow. Now we tell the farmers to sow only 30 kilograms of seed in one bigha of land using the line sowing technique. An optimum seed rate ensures that the plants get enough space to grow, resulting in a better crop yield. We also teach women farmers the process of treating seeds using medicines. This ensures that the seeds remain free of pests and give better yield.”
Under the Krishi Chetna project, field days are organized in the villages before harvest time. Krishi Chetnas demonstrate the difference between scientific methods of farming and local practices that the farmers have used, so that other farmers can see the difference in yield with their own eyes.
Memuna, Leader of Kranti Women’s Federation in Kariria village, states, “The new scientific farming practices taught to us by the Krishi Sakhis have helped increase agricultural productivity of mustard, wheat and millet crops in our area by 35– 45%. This project has brought about a lot of change in the attitude of men and women farmers in the Alwar district. More than 2000 women farmers have been trained in scientific agriculture and are in turn teaching the men in their families. Women who were treated like unpaid labor on the farms are now learning to assert themselves. We are seeing an increased role of women in farming related matters.”
Krishi Sakhi, Sushila, states, “Before I became a Krishi Sakhi, I did not know anything about the new scientific farming practices. I was just an illiterate woman farmer. Nobody knew me. I was not allowed to go anywhere on my own. As a Krishi Sakhi, now I have a social identity. People give me respect for the knowledge I give them. I really enjoy my work as a Krishi Sakhi. It has helped me earn a lot of respect in my family and society. The men folk in my family feel proud of me after seeing the scientific agricultural knowledge I have gained. I wish to keep learning more for my personal growth.”
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