In December of 2015, twelve women from a village in Northeast India attended a meeting where FRB’s local partner NEICORD was mobilizing Self-Help Groups as part of its India-Umsning program. The women liked the idea of receiving training designed to help farm families achieve maximum productivity on their land. The concept of Self-Help Groups also appealed to them since they often had difficulty making ends meet, despite the hard work their families did as day laborers.
These women formed a Self-Help Group of their own, and since then have participated in a number of workshops on a wide range of topics, from farming to group management, bookkeeping and leadership. The new agriculture techniques they’ve learned include Sloping Agriculture Land Technology (SALT), System of Rice Intensification (SRI), kitchen gardens, composting, water harvesting and livestock rearing. All 12 members have now planted kitchen gardens, and their families enjoy the nutritional benefits of a wide variety of vegetables. A group member declared that, “The kitchen garden has increased our nutrition security in the family.” Most have either begun or will soon begin using SALT and SRI practices as well.
The women all take part in monthly lessons organized by NEICORD on health, hygiene and nutrition. They also started raising pigs, using their savings to buy piglets and rear them as a group income-generating activity.
They’re saving small but significant sums of money every month. Says one, “Now we have access to loans through the internal-lending aspect of our group.” They even opened a group account at a local bank where they deposit their savings after every meeting. The members make loans to each other when requests are approved by the group. These women are looking forward to a better future. They understand that lasting change takes time, and they are willing to work hard and wait patiently for the best results for their families.
India-Umsning encompasses 12 communities, 190 households, and 950 individuals
Thanks to new farming technologies that make better use of their hilly land in the mountainous tribal area in the country’s northeast, farmers like Mr. Omoilo and Mrs. Dibi who participate in FRB’s India-Patharkhmah program are harvesting more food for home consumption and income.
Mrs. Dibi is a poor farmer with two sons who farms a small plot of land her parents gave her at the time of her marriage. She has participated in the farmers club program in her village since 2009, and, after attending various trainings through the years, she is practicing several of the methods she’s learned in order to take full advantage of her farmland.
Shanti is a 36-year-old participant in FRB’s India-Patharkhmah program who lives and farms with her husband and son in a small village. They are a poor family, but as a result of their hard work they were able to buy an acre of land on which they cultivated rice.
In 2010 Shanti joined a farmers’ club in her village. She participated in as many club events as she could, including various trainings and exposure visits on kitchen gardens, Sloping Agriculture Land Technology (SALT)
In Part 1, I talked about how this International Women’s Day coincides with the start of LWR’s Learning for Gender Integration (LGI) initiative, where we hope to learn how to create equal opportunities for men and women to benefit from our work in communities around the world. In part 2 I’d like to talk a bit about why a gender-integrated approach is better and what we’ve learned so far.
Talking to Men & Women Farmers
In the design stage of our three model projects — located in India, Uganda and Nicaragua —
Today, March 8, we observe International Women’s Day, an international holiday created to inspire women and celebrate achievements toward gender equality.
It just so happens that this year IWD coincides with the start of a very special initiative that Lutheran World Relief is undertaking toward the same goal. We are kicking off three special model projects as a part of a project we’re calling Learning for Gender Integration (LGI).
You just never know what might happen when two or more people from different cultures get together, but from my experience the results are always surprisingly great! This past summer FRB invited two women from the India Banka program to visit the US. Unfortunately, one of our invited guests, Suggamuni Kisku, a small-holder farmer, was unable to come. To honor the lengths that Suggamuni and local partner PRADAN went through to try and get her to the US, we invited her to join us on a program to program visit to the India-Partharkhmah program in the chilly Northeast of India.
His father left the family when Bipro Diya was only seven. Bipro’s mother raised him and his three brothers on the meager produce of their one acre of land. Farming was their main source of food and income, but it was far too little for Bipro’s family; they lived with food insecurity six to eight months a year. The family survived by working as day labourers so they could at least purchase rice from the market. In 2009 Bipro joined ‘Umsaw Green Field,’ a farmers’ club formed by the Patharkhmah Food Security Project (supported by FRB and World Renew).
In mid-December, as part of an expression of Week of Compassion’s partnership with Foods Resource Bank (FRB), I traveled to two very different states in India, Bihar and Meghalaya, to see some of the results of the food security programs we support through work with local on-the-ground partners and members of FRB’s ecumenical network. From the sleepy mountain town of Shillong to the chaotic bluster of Kolkata, India’s diverse people, landscapes, and cultures absorbed my attention, begged many questions, and gave me much to ponder, even weeks later.
FRB is partnering with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) on three new programs which are focusing on the impact of gender on food security. The following blog post was written by LWR on the new India-Jamuni program.
Food security — or all the factors that provide for sufficient, safe and nutritious food — is an issue that is at the heart of LWR’s work around the world. Our work to improve agriculture among small farmers and provide clean water for consumption, or irrigation, is so that families around the world can have a greater amount of food security. With food security comes greater health, independence and economic well-being. Of the many factors that contribute to food security, there is one that we have been looking at recently that may come as a surprise: gender.
Foods Resource Bank’s members and their overseas partners put in a tremendous amount of care and attention to the needs of local communities when designing overseas programs. Understanding the local context including the root causes of hunger, are essential for helping a community design a program that best fits their needs. The root causes of hunger and poverty are often things unseen on the surface that are complex and intertwined.