“Recognizing the contribution of women to agriculture is critical to achieve global food security,” said Dr William Dar, Director General, ICRISAT. He was addressing over 1500 women farmers from across 12 states of India at the Women Farmers Day at the ICRISAT global headquarters. Dr Dar stressed that “women farmers are the backbone of agriculture, and meeting their needs equals a better world.”
The ICRISAT Women Farmers Day is a celebration of the achievements of India’s outstanding women farmers whose ingenious and resourceful ways have placed them at the forefront of the fight against poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation. Of the 2 billion smallholder farmers in the developing world producing majority of the world’s food, 70 per cent are women, mostly living in extreme poverty. “If we are to eradicate hunger and poverty, we need to level the playing field by economically empowering women farmers,” Dr Dar added. A UN study shows that empowering women farmers with new technologies and resources could result in yield increases by 20-30% and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.
ICRISAT regularly conducts Farmers Days to share new technologies, best practices and information about science-based innovations to benefit farmers. The Women Farmers Day was held in 2014, designated as the ‘Year of Family Farming’ as well as ICRISAT’s Year of Gender. At the event, ICRISAT recognized the achievements of women farmer leaders, especially chosen for the leadership qualities they have displayed in their communities and their achievements despite personal and social hurdles.
Thirty women were recognized as Golden awardees, and another 53 women as Silver awardees as a token of recognition for their exemplary leadership, and to encourage them to help more women farmers in their regions and motivate others to come forward to take leadership roles.
“Earlier, we were practising blanket application of fertilizer to the soil. Through ICRISAT, soil testing was done and we now apply fertilizer based on recommendations and adopt organic farming, allowing us to cultivate healthy food with reduced cost,” said Ms Rajeshwari V Patil, a woman farmer leader from Karnataka, who shared her mission to bring awareness and educate women farmers on organic farming and adoption of new technologies in dryland agriculture.
On this occasion, profiles of these women farmer leaders were compiled into a book. During the day, the women farmers had the opportunity to interact among themselves and with ICRISAT scientists. Demonstration fields and exhibits were set up to showcase the institute’s scientific solutions for them.
“It is important to recognize the role of women in agriculture so that they can be an important engine of growth and poverty reduction,” said Dr Suhas P Wani, Director of the ICRISAT Development Center. The number of rural women living in poverty has doubled since the 1970s. Rural women produce 50% of the world food but own 1% of the land.
“ICRISAT declared 2014 as its Year of Gender to highlight both internally and externally how the institute can better provide opportunities for women farmers to succeed. We will continue to work with them in finding scientific solutions to ensure vibrant, well-nourished, and happy future generations,” Dr Wani added.
Farmers from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand took part in this activity at the ICRISAT global headquarters in Hyderabad on 12 September.