Sunday, November 28, 2021

Himachal women become agents for climate resilient farming

IANS | October 22, 2021 11:18 AM

SHIMLA:  Women farmers of Himachal Pradesh are breaking the mindset barriers not only at home but also in society with the new confidence attained through the latest information and knowledge about natural farming, discarding the conventional practices that have effects on both -- environmental and human health.

The movement, launched in the state in 2018 to adopt natural farming under the state-run Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana, is gaining ground.

This year, October 22 is being observed as 'Mahila Kisan Diwas' or Women Farmers' Day.

Project officials told IANS on Friday that with a growing concern about the intensive usage of pesticides in farming, there is a noticeable change as more and more women, either individually or in self-help groups, are turning up as catalysts.

One such group with over 20 women farmers is in Chagaon village in Tapri block of Kinnaur district.

They have adopted the low cost, non-chemical and climate resilient Subhash Palekar Natural Farming (SPNF) technique being promoted under Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana on some portion of their farms for cultivation of apples, rajmash, garlic, maize and traditional crops like ogla phaphra and koda.

Like other womenfolk, middle-aged farmer Charna Devi from Chagaon village is happy after switching over to natural ways of farming as she believes it contributes significantly in saving humans and nature from the harmful effects of pesticides.

In an interview, Devi told IANS, "I could have never thought of going beyond Shimla. The travel not only changed my outlook towards agriculture but taught me so many other things."

She, along with others, got an opportunity to visit Kurukshetra in Haryana, some 400 km from her remote village, for exposure to natural farming.

As per official records, the women farmers are doing natural farming individually on around 12.5 bigha of land. The SPNF technique has helped them take multiple crops alongside apples, like pulses and vegetables, which not only supplement their family income but the farm health also.

"Women have an important role in agriculture. Their inclusion in natural farming as trainers and master trainers will certainly give good overall results," Project Executive Director Rajeshwar Singh Chandel told IANS.

Over 1.5 lakh farmers in the state have been trained in SPNF technique. The number of women participants in all training sessions is reasonably good. The results in the field are encouraging too, he said.

Unlike her, the journey has not been not so smooth for Jaswinder Kaur, 50, from Kanshipur village in Paonta Sahib block in Sirmaur district while adopting natural farming in family farm.

"Everyone doubted me when I talked about adopting SPNF technique at home. My husband once threw away the dung and urine of a desi' cow that I collected for natural farming. However, when I persuaded him to try it and get training, he agreed. He was happy with the results. Both of us are now doing natural farming on more than five bigha and growing 20 types of fruits and vegetables," said Kaur.

She is now a part of the women farmers group and markets the produce via social media.

Even the women groups are collectively making pickles, chutneys and garlands to supplement their livelihood from agriculture.

Officials say the knowledge imparted to the women farmers and their capacity building through trainings and exposure visits to other farms are doing more good to them than just providing them the option of healthy and sustainable agriculture for livelihood.

The knowledge has visibly instilled confidence in women farmers in totality that has led to their inclusion in decision making even at home.

An elated young woman farmer Harshita Rana Bhandari, 28, who is the Prakritik Kheti Mahila Khushhal Kisan Samiti president, said, "Our apple orchards were not giving good yield due to overuse of chemicals. Moreover, the expenditure on cultivation was rising every year. When we were specifically trained for natural farming and motivated to contribute significantly with knowledge, we adopted natural farming."

Educated up to Class 12, she is now leading the natural farming initiative by propagating it among other women in the village.

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