Women in India Find Power in Taking Back Farming Practices
Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last ten years. Contemporary, westernized farming practices require poor farmers to take out loans for expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and to dig wells for the additional water necessary.
When the wells dry up and crops fail, many farmers have taken their lives out of desperation. (Perhaps not coincidentally, a study conducted by Dr. Robert Stewart from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London, in conjunction with scientists from Tongde Hospital in Zhejiang Province, China, determined that high exposure to organophosphates was linked to higher rates of suicide thoughts.)
But women are fighting back. Forming groups called sanghams, women in rural villages across India are teaching each other traditional methods of farming that don’t require the use of chemicals. Sanghams meet regularly to share experience about different crops, to decide on giving loans to farmers, and to help each other cultivate land. With the help of the Deccan Development Society, many women have become landowners, feeding their families and earning an income from selling surplus produce.