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Re: Transforming gender relations in agriculture through women’s empowerment: benefits, challenges and trade-offs for improving nutrition outcomes

Anjali Verma
Anjali VermaSwayam Shikshan PrayogIndia

Promoting Women Leadership for Income and Nutrition Security

Swayam Shikshan Prayog’s strategy for sustainable agriculture targets women farmers in landless, marginal and small farmer households across drought-prone regions of Vidharba and Marathwada in Maharashtra. With the third year of drought in these regions, families are caught in a poverty trap due to climate change induced water scarcity and environmental degradation which disrupts agriculture and livelihoods. This in turn, has led to high levels of malnutrition and farmer distress.

SSP’s experience shows that women are most interested in making agriculture viable. They are keen on using basic agriculture equipment, adopting water efficient, low input farming methods and are ready to make a shift in the cultivation pattern - such as use of mixed farming, intercropping and increasing cycles of cultivation.


The programme combines three important objectives— nutritional awareness leading to better food security, and increased food self sufficiency through sustainable agriculture by empowering women as informed farmers and decision makers women’s leadership in their communities. 


· SSP’s has created a unique strategy by focussing on the inter linkages between agriculture, food security and nutrition in its initiatives. Primarily, aiming to bring together the key stakeholders – women farmers, local government and other institutions- during different aspects of the program. 

· The program focuses on equipping community women to take charge of building sustainable livelihoods. The project, aims at empowering women farmers with sustainable agriculture information, enhanced skills and solutions. This in turn supports women to be recognized as farmers and leaders of the communities. At a household level, women will be more aware of the importance of nutrition, health status and adopt better practices for improved health and well being.

· The progressive agriculture leaders play key role as community advocates and catalyze collaborations between women farmers and local government institutions to transfer basic agriculture tools prototyped in their labs in the fields through women farmers, livelihoods increase, there have never been easy bridges to bring the two together.

This three-pronged approach together makes the model innovative and pragmatic.

Approach: Sustainable Agriculture

SSP enables women to become farming experts by linking them to updated information, and use of low input farming techniques and tools. Capacity building of women farmers, formation of groups and recognition of women as farmers, in turn empowers women as decision makers to drive the shift towards sustainable nutrition-sensitive agriculture.

SSP’s addresses the key drivers of nutrition sensitive and sustainable farming in following ways:

  • AWARENESSIncrease knowledge of sustainable agriculture - farming techniques and methods to women farmers through Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) in- low cost input farming methods - bio-composting, seed processing and use of water efficient techniques. At the same time, SSP teams and leaders increases their awareness around safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene practices which reduce the risk of illnesses and nutrient absorption.
  • ACCESS: Train women farmers to adopt nutrition sensitive farming and increase food security. Shift to one acre model of farming- cultivate nutrition dense crops in part of their household farms and move towards self-sufficiency. Women farmers are made more aware of locally available nutritious crops through the leaders and group meetings. 
  • ACTIONIncrease recognition for women’s contribution in agriculture together with increase in decision making with enhanced individual and household income. Also, develop capacities of progressive women farmers by providing leadership training to continue sustainable agriculture intervention.
  • LIASONING & ADVOCACY: Women leaders actively participate in linking women farmers groups for technical support with Government Research Institutions such as  Krishi Vigyan Kendras  (KVK),  Farmer Field Schools, Agriculture University etc.  They support in community advocacy and linking the communities to access various government schemes and programs.