Varsha Jawalgekar reports on a group of inspiring women in Patna who have mastered the art of traditional farming and are collectively doing everything that was once done by men only. Now, they can sell their produce and make money for their families.
From history, it is apparent that women discovered agriculture. But, neither in India nor elsewhere are women recognized as farmers. They don't have access to agriculture. In farming, the hardest process is controlling the plough. And in most places in India, women are prohibited from holding the plough. In Bihar, women have never been recognized as farmers. Social organizations based in Bihar's capital city Patna, namely Ekta Parishad and Praxis, conducted a piece of participatory action research where it was found that only one percent of women in Bihar have ownership of land.
PRADEEP [NGO Worker]
The practice of giving women a low status in a patriarchal society should be abolished. The image of women as farmers needs to be established in the society so that women have access to land and are able to sell their crops in markets.
Coming from a background with such disparities, Munnadevi seems a ray of hope. She is a woman farmer. She is from Bara village in Patna district.
How did you start collective farming?
MUNNADEVI [Bara Village]
I organized a meeting of all the women in this village and collected two rupees from each one. I thought of using this money for the benefit of the women. I also took some help from my brother (an activist from the Ekta Parishad NGO) and decided to start farming for a living. So we got seeds and started sowing them. Since there is not much rain here, we started irrigating our land by renting a water motor.
What is your opinion about women taking up farming in your village?
RAGHUNI MANJHI [Bara Village]
Good to see every girl and woman from this village being part of this collective effort.
DHORA CHOWDHARY [Bara Village]
There are always gains and benefits.
How do you feel about this initiative?
I feel nice. This collective farming will definitely yield fruits in the future.
These women like to work hard to earn money for food.
What do you have to say when men laugh at you?
They should continue laughing while we will continue farming.
In Bara village, women started collective farming in 2008. Taking inspiration from this, women from neighboring villages have taken up collective farming.
Munnadevi has decided to farm. Once again, there are changes afoot in Bihar. I'm Varsha, reporting for IndiaUnheard from Bihar.