Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune, Maharashtra
Contact: Ms. Seema Kulkarni
Dates: March 2021 – September 2024
Total Budget: Rs. 15,00,000
2023 Budget: Rs. 5,00,000
This project (where PPI is one of the donors) is being implemented in six districts of Maharashtra and includes 238 women farmers. PPI’s grant supports women farmers in Yavatmal, the district most affected by farmer suicides. The program in Yavatmal has grown from 25 women in 2021 to 65 in 2023.
This year, the 39 women farmers in the program were provided seed kits, manure, and training. Seeds were provided to an additional 26 women who expressed interest. Like previous years, the seed kit includes a mix of cash crops (non-BT cotton/ soybean), vegetables and pulses. Women-friendly equipment suitable for agro-ecology-based farming was introduced in 2022, and women have continued to use it. Women have benefited from exposure visits and sharing of experiences.
Many of the women in the program are widows, who, in addition to the usual challenges faced by small farmers, have had to deal with a patriarchal mindset and ridicule from other farmers. After several years of implementing agro-ecological farming, they are gaining respect due to their farming successes. For example, the tur (pigeon pea) crop on one women’s farm survived while her neighboring farmers struggled to maintain their crop despite a lot of expenditure on fertilizers and pesticides. Another farmer in the program was surprised when an upper caste woman visited her farm to see the diversity on her farm, especially the rare varieties that were grown and asked her to share her seed.
After three years in the program, the women want to continue with the agro-ecological model as they see many benefits, such as the variety of produce, improved soil quality, and reduced expenses. Women are very happy that their families have nutritious food to eat, and they are also able to sell the surplus vegetables and the pulses they grow in the local markets.
A new focus of the program in 2023 is to mentor women who have shown leadership qualities to become champions for spreading awareness of agroecology. They will monitor farms as well as take the lead in building decentralized seed banks for local seed varieties, thereby reducing the reliance on markets for seed and other inputs. Of the 40 champions who have been selected, 11 are from Yavatmal. Additionally, women from Yavatmal have built strong collectives in their villages and this has helped them develop confidence in approaching government officials and other village-level functionaries.