“Recognizing the contribution of women to agriculture is critical to achieve global food security,” said Dr William Dar, Director General, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
Addressing over 1,500 women farmers from across 12 states of India in Women Farmers Day at the ICRISAT global headquarters, Dr Dar stressed that with “women farmers as the backbone of agriculture, meeting their needs equals a better world.”
The ICRISAT Women Farmers Day is a celebration of the achievements of India’s outstanding women farmers whose ingenious and resourceful ways have placed them at the forefront of the fight against poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation. Of the 2 billion smallholder farmers in the developing world producing majority of the world’s food, 70 per cent are women, mostly living in extreme poverty. “If we are to eradicate hunger and poverty, we need to level the playing field by economically empowering women farmers,” Dr Dar continued.
He added that a UN study showed that empowering women farmers with new technologies and resources could result to yield increases by 20-30 percent and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.
ICRISAT regularly conducts Farmers Days to share new technologies, best practices and information about science-based innovations to benefit the farmers. The Women Farmers Day was held this 2014, designated as the ‘Year of Family Farming’ as well as ICRISAT’s Year of Gender.
At the event, ICRISAT recognized the achievements of women farmer leaders especially chosen for the leadership qualities they have displayed in their communities and their achievements despite personal and social difficulties.
Thirty (30) women were recognized as Golden awardees, and another 53 women as Silver awardees as token recognition for their exemplary leadership, and to encourage them to help more women farmers in their regions and motivate others to come forward and take leadership roles.
“Before, we were practicing blanket fertilizer application to the soil. Through ICRISAT, soil testing was done and we now apply fertilizer based on recommendation and adopt organic farming, allowing us to cultivate healthy food with reduced cost,” said Ms Rajeshwari V Patil, a woman farmer leader from Karnataka.
She also shared her mission to bring awareness and educate women farmers on organic farming and adoption of new technologies in dryland agriculture. To commemorate the occasion, profiles of these women farmer leaders have been put together into a book. During the day, there were various opportunities for interactions among women farmers and ICRISAT scientists. Demonstration farms and exhibits have also been set up to showcase scientific solutions for women farmers.
“It is important to recognize the role of women in agriculture so that they can be an important engine of growth and poverty reduction,” said Dr Suhas Wani, Director of the ICRISAT Development Center. The number of rural women living in poverty has doubled since the 1970s. Rural women produce 50% of the world food but own 1% of the land.
“ICRISAT made 2014 its Year of Gender to give extra attention both internally and externally on how the institute can better provide opportunities for women farmers to succeed. We will continue to work with them in finding scientific solutions to ensure vibrant, well-nourished, and happy future generations,” Dr Wani added.
Over 1500 women farmers from 12 states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Jharkhand – participated in today’s activity at the ICRISAT global headquarters in Hyderabad.