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Women Farmers in India #MakeItHappen (Part 1)
Global Harvest Initiative Celebrates International Women’s Day, March 8th
Accessing information, updated technologies, financing and marketing options is a challenge for many small-scale producers. In India, it is particularly challenging for women farmers due to social norms that limit women’s mobility, access to skills-training and financing, and control over their incomes and household investment decisions. Global Harvest Initiative’s 2014 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) provides several examples of programs that are addressing these issues.
The Sunhara (“Prosperous”) Project in Uttar Pradesh, India, demonstrates several successful approaches for empowering women farmers.* From 2009 to 2013, Sunhara increased economic opportunities for 25,000 smallholder farmers engaged in fruit and vegetable production by introducing improved production and post-harvest technologies and practices, and by linking farmers to buyers, local retailers and exporters. Participating farmers increased their incomes by 87 percent and established hundreds of farmer groups – 277 of which are women-only – that facilitate cooperative action, economies of scale and ongoing access to financing, inputs and high-value marketing options.
From the beginning, the project set a goal of ensuring women comprised at least 25 percent of participants. Training extension agents in gender awareness and equality was a critical factor in the project’s ability to increase the stature, productivity and incomes of women. Agents were innovative and enthusiastic, going beyond the scope of their duties to respond to requests for advice and training from men and women alike.
Women’s farmers’ groups also played a key role in their empowerment. In areas where these groups were established, there was greater management and control by women over production and marketing decisions. According to a gender-impact assessment of Sunhara conducted in 2013, women participants had notable increased in mobility, decision-making in the household and control over their incomes.
* The project was conducted by Agribusiness Systems International (ASI) in partnership with several Indian NGOs and six private sector partners, including PepsiCo and Bharti Walmart. ASI is an affiliate of ACDI/VOCA, a GHI Consultative Partner Organization