Climate change is a global phenomenon that affects all lifeforms everywhere. Compounded with rapid human interventions, natural disasters are becoming more frequent due to intermittent rainfall, decreasing groundwater levels and increasing temperatures, resulting in adverse impacts on local livelihoods, availability of natural resources and overall development.
Uttar Pradesh (UP), the most populous and impoverished state of India, is a vital Indian agrarian state. A majority of the state’s rural population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Eastern UP’s fertile Indo-Gangetic plains are prone to erratic rainfalls, increased floods and more intense and longer summers.
The farmers’ limited exposure to climate-informed agricultural practices, lack of support and necessary resources further exacerbates poverty, food insecurity, loss of livelihood and lack of development.
Women have always been critical in India’s agricultural production, and as men shift to non-farm activities, agriculture is becoming feminised. However, deep-seated patriarchal traditions prevent women equal access to land, assets, technologies, credit and markets, hampering them from fully realising their potential.
Furthermore, climate-change-induced hazards continue to disrupt agricultural undertakings, increasing women’s household and economic burdens. This deteriorates their and their children’s health, nutritional, educational and psycho-social status. Closing this gender gap is essential for agricultural growth and for women to realise their potential as agro-entrepreneurs.
Therefore, ChildFund India has been working towards empowering 15,000 women farmers in Eastern Uttar Pradesh since 2020 under the “Strengthening Civil Society Organizations towards Fostering Women Empowerment in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India”. The project aims to address these gaps and foster their empowerment through the local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
Nootan from the Barabanki district was a shy housewife who never stepped out of her house. Just like thousands of women like her, Nootan was never considered in any family decision — including her own children’s education.
“One day, my neighbour asked me to join her group and I simply went long. I started learning about smart and climate-friendly agricultural techniques which I shared with my family members. We started adopting these practices in our own field. Despite the challenges this year, we’ve had a good season,” says Nootan.
Through various trainings, we help women adapt climate-informed farming practices, achieve their rights, collectively transform communities and become successful entrepreneurs with sustainable businesses.
Jyoti, a participant from the Siwan district, has had a whole new perspective.
“After joining the program, I have become aware of various climate-resilient agricultural techniques and women rights. Before this project, I was not allowed to step out of the house independently and was discouraged. But not anymore. Now, I go for these trainings and other work with various government officials. I am also planning to start a personal business,” says Jyoti.
Shalini, a farmer from Bhikhpur village in UP, has learned a lot about agriculture through this project.
“I feel so happy visiting my field and looking at the healthy crop of paddy growing in systematic rows! Previously, I didn’t have the technical know-how of agriculture. But at ChildFund workshops, I experimented in 1 bigha (0.62 acre) land after learning how to make organic compost, planned sowing, harvesting methods, etc., and it was a success.
“I am confident of a good harvest this time, so next time, I plan to expand my crop to 1 acre!” says Shalini.
But more importantly, Shalini also knows about her rights as an entrepreneur and a woman.
Four hundred Women Farmer Groups (WFGs) are further strengthened to build sustainable, independent cooperatives or Farmer Consumer Partnerships (FPC); 20,000 male relatives of women farmers are engaged to enhance their understanding of gender equality and gender-related issues.
The gram sabhas/local administrations help women farmers benefit from various government schemes after becoming sensitised to climate change, climate-informed farming and gender mainstreaming approaches.
The project has impacted women in more than one way.
“Before joining the project, I was not in favour of a girl’s higher education or empowering the girls in my family to be independent. But, now I have changed. Today, I ensure that all the girls in my family go to school and engage my other family members in these conversations. Now, I will ensure that all girls in my family have higher education,” promises Pushpa, another participant from Ghazipur district.
This project ‘Strengthening Civil Society Organizations – Towards Fostering Women Empowerment’ is funded by the European Union and supported by Barnfonden.