Groups of women taking up collective farming in the state under Kudumbasree caught the imagination of Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, professor of political science and development studies at York University in Toronto [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], wrote India’s The Hindu March 11:
It is by far the best method to ensure food security, especially when women are the producers, said Mukherjee-Reed, who was here recently as part of the research project on farming activity by women's groups. The advantage is access to food in the hands of those who need it (are food insecure), she said.
Mukherjee-Reed, whose works include Human Development and Social Power: Perspectives from South Asia and Perspectives on India's Corporate Economy: Exploring the Paradox of Profits and International Political Economy series, said there is a lesson in here that the world can take to fight food crisis.
About 2.5 lakh women in the state in about 30,000 groups are engaged in collective farming. Together they cultivate over 27,000 hectares, growing paddy, tapioca, pineapple, plantain, vegetables and other items that are used to ensure that the growers get enough to eat and the surplus is sold in the open market.
“Most of the groups of women, who started with small areas for cultivation, have increased their production by taking up more fallow land, rejuvenating it and cultivating it,” said Mukherjee-Reed.
Her study involved 100 groups spread across the state. Among her major findings, Mukherjee-Reed said that land is the major constraint of the women engaged in collective farming. Women are unsure about retaining the leasing rights of the vacant, fallow land that they rejuvenate and prepare for cultivation.
About 21 per cent of women groups expressed their wish to become landowners. In fact, it is a major aim of some groups, who have managed to buy land.
In spite of the constraints, women are happy, said Prof. Mukherjee. Most of the women who have been able to leave wage labour are very happy. Organic farming is the aim of at least 45 per cent of the 100 groups she has studied. Some groups among them make organic manure for their cultivation. There are women who have had no previous exposure to go out of the house for any activity, now fully engaged in collective farming and also inspiring other women to follow an activity of economic independence, she said.
In Kudumbasree, she found a strong support system that provides a platform for women. The Mission has an elaborate structure and allows functioning as an institute.
Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.