A threat to food security

“Climate change is causing serious repercussions on agriculture and food security. It particularly affects women, who depend more on agriculture for sustenance. Our association with Sodexo intends to implement food sovereignty for women farmers in Maharashtra. A significant part of the farming activity is done by women. Yet they are not recognised as women farmers. Moreover, owing to climate change, these women farmers and their families bear the brunt of migration for work purposes.”

An aim to dignify women farmers

“The joint CSR initiative — Beej Sakhi — has identified 16 villages in Sangamner and Akole blocks under the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. Through this initiative, we aim to build a seed bank, that would act as a storage for high-quality indigenous seeds. Farmers could purchase and barter these organic seeds for a nominal price. The advantage of using these seeds is that they grow climate-resilient, organic, healthy, and chemical-free crops. With this initiative, we are looking forward to preserving and promoting indigenous seeds. Seeds from traditional agricultural varieties help to solve food shortages. It strengthens the traditional food system and prevents the impact of climate change. Local and indigenous seeds promote resilient and diversified production of sorghum, millets, and many more indigenous varieties, which also protects the biodiversity of the area.”

“Most importantly, this initiative would empower female farmers. We refer to them as Beej Sakhi as they can recognise the indigenous seeds effortlessly. In this way, we could help the farmers achieve food sufficiency, which would eventually eradicate hunger and restore the farmers’ dignity. When farmers are food sufficient, they are healthy, and they could look to enhance their lives in terms of educating their children, awareness about their health, keeping their environment clean, and enhance their living standards. We also want to present women as the key workforce because they are the ones who do everything in agriculture and follow the ecological order.”

The road ahead

“Of course, there are constraints on this project. There is patriarchy. Further, the farmers strongly believe that hybrid seeds and chemical fertilisers would help increase yield. They prefer mono-cropping as it is easy. But awareness and the spread of our intent are slowly paving our path to progress. The number of Beej Sakhi volunteers is increasing. In 2021, we had 10. In 2022, the number has increased to 20. These Beej Sakhi volunteers hold weekly meetings in the village with gram panchayat members to gain the support of key people. They create a focus group of women farmers to conserve and cultivate indigenous crop varieties. Gradually, our initiative is gaining success. Once a year, 10 villages come together to exchange seeds. This occasion is known as Beej Mahotsav.”

The mutual vision

I’m thankful to Sodexo for understanding our vision and supporting this project. I am sure this partnership of Sulabh International with Sodexo India – Stop Hunger will contribute immensely towards achieving food security and establishing a successful model of food sovereignty. 

Together, Sulabh International and Sodexo India, are contributing to eradicating poverty and gender inequality.”


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