Women and Food Sovereignty

Even during the days when men used to go to the forests hunting animals and collecting tubers and fruits, women used to grow tubers and food crops in their backyards. So the women were the first to grow crops. Even today, in places where the machines have not dominated agriculture operations, 60% of cultivation is done by women. In India, particularly due to social reasons, men always look after the outside tasks while the women stay at the farm all through taking care of crops and livestock. It is the women who are aware of the food needs of the household and are better planners of the crops that need to be grown on the farm for the year. I still remember that my father was against growing mustard as an intercrop with ragi during monsoon season. But my mother used to mix a handful of mustard seeds with out his knowledge, since mustard was very much necessary in cooking. My father used to get angry with her when he found mustard seedlings among ragi seedling in the field, still she did not give up adding mustard seeds every season. Many clever housewives do not allow their husbands to grow only commercial crops and convince them to grow some crops for the family regularly.

In many villages it is still a regular practice where women grow vegetables at their backyards using the waste water from washing and also bathing.  They also grow a few drum stick, papaya and banana trees on the edges of their kitchen garden.  It is not only that they grow enough vegetables and fruits for the family, they also share with their neighbours and also sell them at times.  Of late the back yard and roof top gardens are becoming very popular in the urban areas.  Particularly in the city of Trivandrum in Kerala state atleast 25% of the residents are practicing roof top gardening where they grow 6 – 7 varieties of greens and vegetables, free from poisonous pesticides. As a result, they get fresh vegetables every day saving a good amount of money and time in purchasing vegetables from the market.  Apart from saving money and their precious time it is the pleasure and good exercise they have by gardening at their own place and knowing what they are eating.  The vegetables that are grown at a radius of 30 k.m of the urban areas are being irrigated with sewage water and are being washed with sewage water. Hence anyone can imagine the type of vegetables they are purchasing from the markets.

Women can establish contact with families living around urban areas and make an arrangement with them to grow and transport them at least twice a week. This will save the farmer’s time and the money going to the market. Even relationships can be developed with farmers so that urban families can go there on weekends with their children. They can work with them and learn to grow at least vegetables in their backyards and on rooftops. They can cook healthy and delicious dishes from these home grown vegetables at a cheaper cost.

Women play an important role in growing and preserving vegetable seeds of many varieties according to the seasons.  It is very important to preserve and protect indigenous vegetable seeds for their nutritional value and taste. Since giant multinational companies are releasing genetically modified seeds like BT Brinjal and BT Okra, whose seeds do not germinate if sown. Farmer will need to purchase seeds every time from such companies at the dictated price.  Moreover, there is every possibility of these crops being cross pollinated with the crops we are growing and they may become impotent. Hence, it will be much cheaper and safer for farmers to save local seeds and reject harmful G.M seeds. By doing this we will also be preserving the biodiversity of the nation.

Nobody can understand why BT Brinjal is imposed onto the community in haste. Why should farmer’s sacrifice their interests and preference for their favorite variety of brinjal. When a brinjal can produce 1500 seeds why should we purchase an expensive unfamiliar variety of Brinjal? While we have 10 to 15 varieties in almost each district of India for different recipes, how can one BT Brinjal meet our needs for different recipes?

L.Narayana Reddy

Srinivasapura, (near)  Marelanahlli,

Hanabe Post – 561 203

Doddaballapur Taluk,

Bangalore Rural District


Mobile : 9242950017, 9620588974


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