The fruits of joint labor: Indian women are joining forces to protect food Global growth

When all the shops were closed due to the coronavirus lockdown, small gatherings were the key to self-sufficiency for the backward farmers in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

“We had plenty of grain and vegetables at home, while others in the village wanted government help,” said Poongani, a 46-year-old Dalit widow among the nine members of Sevanti Po farming in Thothampati village. .

Adihamal, a 60-year-old Dalit widow from Klanjim farming in Sohanwar village in the same state, emphasizes Pongani’s satisfaction with food security: “No shops in the village were open during the lockdown. We were the only source of vegetables for the villagers.

They are facilitated by small, informal farming groups to which Pongani and Adhimal belong. Women’s collective, A grassroots non-profit organization in Tamil Nadu, encourages poor women who neither own their own land nor can rent it on their own, to cultivate and collectively collect land. To lease

A group of women's collective farming



Yield is distributed evenly across the fields, giving members access to nutritious food. Photo: Women’s Collective

Shiloh Francis Is one of the founders of the organization. “We started five collective farms in 2010 with the intention of helping homeless people or widows achieve food security,” he says.

In rural India, More than 70% of working women are farmers, Even less 13 land Hold the title of land. Women are often underpaid and exploited, and it is impossible to lease land if they are unmarried, widowed or separated. For a backward caste woman like India’s lowest caste – Dalit, lack of access to land affects the health and nutrition of her family.

“With collective farming, we ensure nutrition and food security for landless women at home,” says Frances.

The initial success of the gatherings resulted in more women joining. Today there are 89 collective farms with a total of 695 members spread across Tamil Nadu.

Each group has five to 10 members. Provides training to women from collective crop selection to natural fertilizer preparation. No chemicals are used. Depending on the size of the plot, women grow millets, rice, peanuts, and a variety of pulses and vegetables. Typically, one-third of the crop is rented to the landlord while the rest of the members participate.

“Production lasts for about six months,” says Pongani, adding that any excess money is sold in the village markets.

The work is equally shared and all decisions are discussed and agreed upon collectively. If for any reason a member is unable to come to work on a particular day, they may at another time select a family member or make up for the lost day.

Kapalmal, 40, belongs to the Coronji Collective of Thattikalai, which has seven members. “In the six years we’ve been working together, we’ve rarely had a problem with each other,” he said. If there are any differences of opinion, let us resolve them amicably. “We’ve gotten closer over the years.”

Frances says, but there are other challenges as well. He said that initially farmers used to rent land from private landlords. When the landowner sees the full harvest, he immediately. They would demand the land back.

To avoid this, women landlords were identified in the village and invited to join en masse.

Land has also been leased from non-existent landlords, especially villagers who have moved to nearby cities like Chennai or Bangalore for work. The house is sold as part of the house, and the money is deposited in their bank account.

Now landless, married women are also joining the gatherings. Sindhia, who hails from the Owai community of Bomanur village, is happy to be four months pregnant after trying to conceive for more than a decade. She attributes her pregnancy to the nutritious and organic produce she is eating.

“It is the cultivation and consumption of natural foods that has made this pregnancy possible.”

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