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International Year of Family Farming: Seeds for Women Farmers Key to Food Security

International Year of Family Farming: Seeds for Women Farmers Key to Food Security


La Via Campesina (LVC), along with other organizations, has launched Seeds: Heritage of the People for the Good of Humanity, a global campaign aimed at reinforcing and defending the survival of traditional and indigenous seeds as well as guaranteeing food sovereignty worldwide.


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Indian Women Turn to Ancient Grains to Feed Their Families and Their Futures

Until 15 years ago, residents of the semi-arid Vizianagaram district in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh did not cultivate any millets. For that matter, they did not cultivate any food crops.

“Many people here were disconnected from their fields. They would work in nearby towns as daily-wage labor and depended on the public distribution system for subsidized but nutrient-sparse white rice,” says K. Saraswathi, executive secretary of SABALA, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen community food security via millet farming, describing the scene she encountered when her organization first began working in the district. “A few farmers who were growing rice had lost their entire crop due to the absence of rain. People sorely felt the lack of food and livelihood security.”

Similar narratives are common even today in other parts of the country, where farmers have either stopped farming completely or focus on cash crops such as cotton, sugarcane, and tobacco, leaving them with little nutrition or financial security. Rice and wheat cultivation were heavily promoted during the country’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, when farmers were given incentives for using hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, the production and consumption of millets in India fell dramatically. But with nearly 60% of the country’s agricultural area under rain-fed (non-irrigated) farming, rice and wheat farmers are overly reliant on weather conditions that are becoming less conducive to farming with climate change.

Vizianagaram district is one of several places in India experiencing the revival of millet cultivation. When SABALA first approached villagers in the district about millet farming back in 2006, the women came forward because they and their children were suffering from anemia, stunted growth, and other disorders caused by the lack of proper nutrition. Today, SABALA works with nearly 2,000 female farmers in the district who are cultivating millets, mainly for their own consumption.

A foxtail millet field in Cheedivalasa Village, Vizianagaram district, India. Photo from SABALA

Janaki Bobbili, a 29-year-old married mother of two, is one of them. She belongs to the marginalized “backward class” community in the Veerabhadrapuram village of the Vizianagaram district. In the past, she felt disadvantaged not only because of her gender but also because she belonged to the lowest tiers of caste and class.

Slowly, though, that feeling began to change after Bobbili attended a meeting organized by SABALA about five years ago, where she was introduced to the nutritive value of millets. Soon after, Bobbili began cultivating millets for her family’s sustenance on a 1-acre plot belonging to her father-in-law. Thanks to millet farming, she has become a leader in a local millet cooperative and says, “I finally have recognition in society.”


Watch the video: Seeds of change - a CABI food security project