by Rucha Chitnis
One woman is making a difference in India by sharing traditional ecological knowledge of organic farming systems and local seed-saving to bring life back to flood-devastated communities.
Manju Devi is a farmer, a single mother of three and a dedicated field worker with a local grassroots organization called Nav Jagriti in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. Manju is on a mission to build the self-reliance of women in her community who are affected by poverty, food insecurity and climate change. Women farmers in her community are particularly affected by floods and prolonged waterlogging issues.
Manju was clearly inspired and invigorated by the training, and she returned to her community with a plan to make a difference. First, she set up her own organic kitchen garden as a demonstration site to show women farmers how they could grow a variety of vegetables right at home even if their farms were flooded. She went on to organize 11 women’s groups, training 144 farmers on seed-saving practices and growing a variety of vegetables and grains using mixed farming techniques. Finally, she educated women on their rights as farmers and shared information on beneficial government programs that women could access to improve their economic and food security.
“My vision is that women in my community stand on their own feet and embrace organic farming practices. I am leading by example to show how this can be achieved,” she proudly beamed. Women farmers, like Manju, clearly demonstrate how they play a crucial role in building the leadership capacities of other vulnerable women in their communities who are acutely affected by climate challenges, such as floods and droughts.
As cultural and natural resource stewards of their communities, they are positioned to make a difference by using their traditional ecological knowledge systems of farming, seed saving of robust indigenous crops like millets, which require little to no water for irrigation, and by engaging actively in the political and civic affairs of their communities.