Women are Farming India’s Future

Posted by on March 8th, 2018 | 0 Comments »


Photo: LWR/Jake Lyell

Women farmers play a critical role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for food security, nutrition and poverty reduction.

Yet many women farmers struggle to access and control the means of production (land, mechanization and inputs like seed and fertilizer), as well as the sale and profits from what they produce.

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the agriculture community is highlighting the need to #FillTheGap so that women have equal access to the inputs, technologies and practices that can make their farms more productive and improve the lives of their families.

This is the second Harvest 2050 blog featuring a woman farmer who is thriving thanks to agricultural technology, training and access to markets. The first blog can be read here, and both stories can be found in the 2017 Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®).

Tomatoes for Sale - Gita’s Story

Krishna and Gita have a thriving five-hectare farm in India’s cotton belt. Gita is concerned that the family relies too much on cotton for their income and decided to diversify by growing specialty vegetables that are popular in urban markets.

Gita expanded her backyard garden so she can grow tomatoes for sale at the local mandi. Mandis are state regulated produce markets that buy from small farmers and consolidate the products for sale to larger buyers.

Krishna and Gita have used improved cotton varieties and drip irrigation to make their five-hectare farm thrive. Gita grows tomatoes for sale at the local market and has ambitions to expand her vegetable business.

Tomatoes are a staple in Indian cooking, so the market opportunities are good even for small producers like Gita.

Nevertheless, producing and marketing tomatoes for sale requires specific knowledge.

In a training session at her mandi, Gita learned how to use the right amount of nitrogen and potassium fertilizer to produce the size, taste and color of tomato that the market demands. She also learned how to “grade” her own tomatoes before bringing them to market.

Selling to the mandi is convenient, but it does not have enough cold storage to keep fresh all the tomatoes it collects. If her tomatoes spoil at the mandi before they are sold, Gita is paid less.

Gita would like to sell directly to private buyers, but will need to increase her planting area, purchase more inputs (seed and fertilizer) and acquire storage equipment to make it economically viable.

Her family has been supportive of the tomato business, but when it comes to investing in inputs and equipment or allocating land and labor, the cotton crop still takes priority.

Women farmers in India are growing “exotic” vegetables such as broccoli and cherry tomatoes for urban markets.

Someday Gita would like to expand into “exotic” produce, such as cherry tomatoes, broccoli, red cabbage or cucumbers.

India’s rapidly growing middle class has developed a taste for fruits and vegetables that are more commonly found in Western or Southeast Asian cuisines.

The market for “exotic” produce is growing by 15 to 20 percent per year, so Gita could take advantage of this new market opportunity.

Gita’s story demonstrates the important contribution women farmers make to household income and food security. It also shows the need for women to obtain equitable access to and control over the resources they need to reach their full potential.


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