Grassroots Indian women leaders improving food and economic security

Manju Devi, a farmer, NGO field worker, and a single mother of 3 from Bihar, attended the WEA/GEAG 2011 India Women, Food, and Climate Change Training. After returning to her community, she set up her own organic kitchen garden as a demonstration site and organized 11 women’s groups, training 144 farmers on seed saving to grow a variety of vegetables and grains in their homes and small farms.

In 2011, WEA and the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), India partnered to design the India Women, Food and Climate Change Training. This year-long project provided ecological farming and climate change resilience training, appropriate technology, rights education, and seed funding to 20 teams of rural grassroots Indian women leaders to improve their food and economic security, preserve the environment and traditional knowledge, and build political will.

This program supported women farmers, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, unsustainable farming practices, and climate change — a crisis that impacts their farming livelihoods, health and well-being through recurring droughts, floods and change in the rainfall patterns.

Meet the Women Leaders


Soma’s story demonstrates the power of what can happen when grassroots women come together and learn from each other. In Soma’s community, women are moving from a place of dependency to a place of self-reliance. Soma’s leadership has helped spread needed information and solutions that can help families survive during the rainy season. Soma has helped herself and other women leaders in her community unlock their leadership to take control of their own livelihoods.


Manju Devi, a farmer, NGO field worker, and a single mother of 3 from Bihar, who attended the 2011 India Training. After returning to her community, Manju set up her own organic kitchen garden as a demonstration site and organized 11 women’s groups, training 144 farmers to grow a variety of vegetables and grains in their homes and small farms. Today, many more farmers are practicing sustainable farming techniques, setting up their own gardens, and saving indigenous seeds thanks to Manju’s action.

Down Arrows


Agriculture in India is considered a woman’s occupation. More than three-quarters of Indian women make their living as farmers — a far higher percentage than men, who seek non-farm jobs. Yet less than 13 percent of land is owned by women.*

The yield gap between men and women averages around 20–30%, and most research finds that the gap is due to differences in resource use. Bringing yields on the land farmed by women up to the levels achieved by men would increase agricultural output in developing countries between 2.5 and 4%. Increasing production by this amount could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world in the order of 12–17%.*

Giving women the same access to land, credit, advice and markets as men could increase yields on their farms by more than 20%, boosting total global agriculture output by up to 4%.*

Down Arrows

"My vision is that women in my community stand on their own feet and embrace organic farming practices. I am leading by example to show how this can be achieved."


Down Arrows



  • Grassroots women trainers, farmers and NGO field workers from four flood-affected states shared personal experiences with climate change and strategized women-led sustainable solutions to strive in the face of these challenges.
  • Participants were equipped with information about sustainable agriculture practices and mixed farming–growing diverse food crops on small farms and making natural pesticides and fertilizers using farm inputs.
  • Farmer-to-farmer visits provided participants with opportunities to learn how women are farming ecologically and are innovating to diversify their food production and improve their self sufficiency.
  • Participants learned firsthand about advocacy campaigns that are led by rural women to assert their rights as farmers and demand for their entitlements from the state.
  • Each participant team designed their own action plans and received seed grants to launch community-specific projects addressing climate change and food security issues. Action plans include projects like launching seed and grain banks of indigenous seeds, improving food security through mixed farming, preparing natural pesticides and building rainwater harvesting systems.


  • GEAG created a training manual on climate change, food security and sustainable agriculture which today serves as a resource to other rural trainers and activists and civil society groups
  • 4 educational films were developed by GEAG to support and inform women farmers
  • 15 seed grants provided to teams of rural women from grassroots groups in North India to run community-based projects. These projects offered farmers skills in sustainable agriculture, seed saving and strategic support to access government services for farmers
  • 8,200 saplings of indigenous trees were planted by trainees through their network of women’s groups and NGOs
  • 2,400 additional women farmers were trained on sustainable agriculture practices and climate change awareness by training participants
  • 1,825 women farmers adopted one or more climate change adaptive practices in the states of West Bengal, U.P, Bihar and Uttarakhand

Special thanks to Dr. Shiraz Wajih, Dr. Seema Tripathi, the GEAG Team and trainers, Arshinder Kaur and Rucha Chitnis.