Supporting Landless Women Farmers in India

Project: Grassroots Indian women leaders improving food and economic security

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Basanti Dehuri, center, with the land title she received through a Women's Support Center (Photo: New York Times)
Basanti Dehuri, center, with the land title she received through a Women’s Support Center (Photo: New York Times)

Tina Rosenberg, in her article Letting (Some of) India’s Women Own Land, addresses how little land is owned by women in India even though more than three-quarters of Indian women live as farmers.”Without [land] title,” Rosenberg, a Pulitzer Prize award winning author, says, “female farmers acting on their own don’t have access to credit, subsidies, government programs for seeds, irrigation or fertilizer.”

In the face of this reality, WEA’s 2011 partnership with Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) provided ecological farming and climate change resilience training, appropriate technology, rights education, and seed funding to women farmers in India to improve their food and economic security, preserve the environment and traditional knowledge, and build political will. The year-long training program focused on strengthening foundations to support women leaders and farmers through asserting their rights as farmers, better managing their farms and resources, upholding their traditional knowledge systems, and encouraging the leadership of others.

Read Tina Rosenberg’s full article here.

India has the Most People Without Clean Water

Project: Together for H2OPE

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Water Aid, the international charity, released a report this week titled, “Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water in 2016” revealing that 75.8 million of India’s 1.25 billion people (5%) lack access to safe and affordable water.

Photo: U.S. News / AP photo, Bikas Das
Photo: U.S. News / AP photo, Bikas Das

Poor Indians without water access are forced to spend an average of about 72 cents to buy 50 liters (13 gallons) of water a day, the amount recommended by the World Health Organization, according to the report. That’s nearly 20 percent of their typical daily income, according to the report. By comparison, people in Britain spend about 10 cents a day for 50 liters.

Misappropriation of funds, resources, and the planning and execution of waterways and projects throughout india has also resulted in water shortages in areas where it was once plentiful.

Read the full article from U.S. News here, and read Water Aid’s report here.

A Glimpse at Women-Led Movements

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

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Source: Rucha Chitnis, Yes! Magazine
Source: Rucha Chitnis, Yes! Magazine

Dayamani Barla, the Indian journalist who led an extraordinary movement in an effort to stop ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company from displacing thousands of indigenous people in Jharkhand. She discusses her views on development and explains them from an indigenous world-view:

“We want development, but not at our cost. We want development of our identity and our history. We want that every person should get equal education and healthy life. We want polluted rivers to be pollution free. We want wastelands to be turned green. We want that everyone should get pure air, water, and food. This is our model of development.”

In addition to Barla, there’s a group of Maasai women in Loliondo, Tanzania, who in 2013 braved threats and violence to prevent a “land grab” east of the Serengeti National Park. Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), fosters leadership and personal transformation in Latina immigrant women and promotes change for social and economic justice. After the Nepal earthquake in late spring of 2015, it became quickly evident just how crucial the leadership of women has been in rebuilding Nepal -from caring for the sick and injured, looking after children, growing food, to literally rebuilding the cities. You can read about these organizations and more, and the incredible women behind them, here.

Biodiversity’s Impact on Women

Project: Traditional agriculture solutions for women farmers in India

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For many women, biodiversity is the cornerstone of their work, their belief systems and their basic survival. Apart from the ecological services that biodiversity provides, there is the collection and use of natural resources. For indigenous and local communities in particular, direct links with the land are fundamental

The United Nations Environmental Programme, has a series of chapters, or in-depth articles about women and their relationships with various aspects of nature. One of those chapters touches on Biodiversity, land protection and sustainable development. Aside from the ability to provide food, shelter, and resources for their survival, biodiversity in any given area has a profound impact on the inhabitants of said area. Loss of overall diversity can be devastating.  Biodiversity allows women the world over to sustain their livelihoods, bring themselves up from poverty and empower their children to follow in their footsteps.

You can read the full article here.

Passing the Knowledge of Seeds and Ancient Farming from Mother to Daughter

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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Source: Rucha Chitnis, Yes! Magazine
Source: Rucha Chitnis, Yes! Magazine

In the northeastern mountain state of Meghalaya, is the Khasi tribe, a matrilineal people, where the women own the land, and harvest numerous crops from their fields. Indeed, women are quick to note that by farming in the modern, monoculture way is ineffective, instead create jhum fields, following an ancient shifting cultivation method. Karamela Khonglam grows 35 different crops on her land. A diverse crop of foods leads to overall health and in this way, knowledge of different ancient grains and ways are passed down, generation after generation.

Indigenous women are also holders of traditional knowledge that enables them to gather medicinal plants and wild edibles in the surrounding forests, and gives them deep understanding of the ecology

That is not to say the Khasi aren’t facing problems. Today’s rice monoculture is encroaching ever closer to Khasi land, as is the market economy. You can read more about the Khasi people, the food festival hosted by  Meghalaya and see the beautiful photo essay by Rucha Chitnis here.