Eswaramma is a farmer in the Scheduled Caste (SC) colony, Diguvapalle, Pakala Mandal. When Viji Shamanna and I (AID volunteers) visited her village, she insisted we should visit her field. It was not excitement and pride to show us the fruits of her labor as we may have hoped – rather it was despair due to her failed crops and a need for acknowledgement of her pain from everyone/anyone.
Such woes were a constant theme in other villages in Chittoor district, that we visited as well, such as Kotha Vaddepalli (BC village) – we heard about plant disease and all kinds of crops dying in spite of spraying of pesticides, fertilizers, etc. Many women farmers were also beginning to connect the dots between pesticides use and health and mentioned that doctors have been asking about pesticides usage in cases of infant abnormalities. The women farmers were eager to try out a new way of farming, without the use of chemicals that could help them save on input costs as well as protect their families health.
While Andhra Pradesh State Government has been proactive in taking up many positive policy steps in terms of ecologically sustainable agriculture, women are still systematically left out of training and extension systems, marketing systems, risk insurance systems, credit and other support systems. The women farmers’ rights project, implemented by Women’s Initiative (WINS) is trying to assist women farmers in chittoor district in A.P, to better understand their rights and utilize the resources available to them, at the same time increasing gender sensitivity in the Agriculture (extension) Department.
The project is in the very beginning stages and Ms.P. Anitha and P. Alivelu, community workers are collecting baseline data (e.g.) on women tenancy details. There is plenty to be done to realize the long-term objectives of gender sensitivity in the agriculture (extension) department and women farmers leading from the forefront and emerging as a reckoning force.
— Priti Narasimhan