When Sunita Kamble and other women in Salgara Divti village in Osmanabad district decided to join farming the men in the village ridiculed them. “ Despite putting huge efforts and money we are not able to grow anything. Men are committing suicide because of crop failures and what miracle you are going to do by joining cultivation?” was the frequent question village women had to face.
But Sunita and other women were determined to grow foodgrain and vegetables. While men were after cash crops that guzzled water, women wanted to grow food grain and vegetables for their families. “ Not many men were ready to allow women to join cultivation. We decided to take a barren land on rent and do farming” Sunita said.
With water scarcity and lack of money, women resorted to traditional farming. “ There were no pesticides and fertilizers earlier and still our forefathers did farming. We are not producing for masses but for our families” she says. Experts are talking about organic farming in recent times, but these women have been traditionally doing farming that excludes synthetic inputs.
This farming relies mostly on agronomic practices such as cropping systems, green manuring, on-farm inputs such as crop residues, farmyard manure, enriched composts, vermicompost, oil cakes and bio-fertilizers for nutrient management of crops. Pests and diseases are managed by eco-friendly farming practices of crop rotation, trap crops, bio-pesticides like neem-based formulations, bio-control agents, mechanical traps, etc. This contributes to reducing environmental pollution and maintaining clean surroundings.
When women insisted on such farming they were ridiculed but in the last few years, Sunita and hundreds of women like her have toiled hard to prove their point. Today, these women are not just growing food grain and vegetables for their families but are also earning profit by selling the surplus in the market.
The market for organic produce is multiplying not just in Maharashtra but across the country.
As per a study conducted by the Yes Bank in association with Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and Association For Indian Organic Industry the domestic market was approx. Rs. 500-1000 crore during the year 2014-15 in India.
The Organic Farming Policy, 2005 seeks to promote technically sound, economically viable, environmentally non-degrading, and socially acceptable use of natural resources in favour of organic agriculture.
Rahibai Popere, an Adivasi farmer of Ahmadnagar district, has conserved about 43 varieties in the case of 17 crops (paddy, hyacinth, millets, pulses, oilseeds, among others) by establishing a germplasm conservation centre . She says that we cannot feed poison to our people. She adds that food grain grown using massive fertilizers and pesticides have already started affecting humans and the environment.
In another study conducted by ASSOCHAM during the year 2016-17 the Indian domestic market was estimated at Rs. 4000 crore and it was projected to increase by Rs.10,000-12,000 crore by the year 2020. According to ASSOCHAM India has witnessed the market growth to Rs 4,000 crore in 2016-17 from Rs. 675 crore in 2009-2010 with an annual growth rate of 25%.
As feminization of agriculture gains root, more Sunitas and Rahibais will join the new Green Movement in Indian fields to secure a better future for the next generations and also strengthen the economy of their families and villages.