Women action for pesticide free and safe food Why this project?
Punjab, once known for rich fertile lands, is facing one of the most serious environmental health and ecological crises created due to excessive use of pesticides since the Green Revolution. Much more than acceptable level of pesticides have been reported in all the agricultural produce from Punjab, its soil, water and even in the veins of people. Dramatic increase in the rate of cancer and various other diseases has been reported in the state, specifically in the Malwa region where pesticide consumption is highest. Women and kids are the worst victims of increasing environmental toxicity, with severe increase in the reproductive health problems and incidence of congenital diseases.
What does this project do? This project, currently supported by AID-DC Metro area chapter, is aimed at building a strong womenâ€™s movement against pesticide toxicity with a slogan of 'Feed your children with pesticide free food' 'Make your kitchens pesticide Free'- 'Grow your own pesticide free and safe food'. In collaboration with Center for Sustainable Agriculture-Hyderabad, Kheti Virasat Mission has started the project in 4 villages in Faridkot district in Decâ€™2011. The project tackles the challenge of pesticide toxicity by encouraging women to provide nutritious, healthy, diverse and safe food to their family through organic kitchen gardening. In the long run, a successful organic kitchen garden will not just provide safe food to the family, but will also set up a good example for the farmers to adopt these practices in their fields. How does the project address the issues identified? The project focuses on the following: 1. Strengthening the role of women in providing nutritious, healthy, diverse and safe food to their family through organic kitchen gardening and ultimately make their villages pesticide free. 2. Creating awareness about harmful effects of pesticides on health and environment and reduce their use. 4. Encouraging knowledge sharing on traditional and nutritional food varieties and mobilizing participation of more women via Nav-Trinjans (a self-help group sort of platform) and an annual BebeDi-Rasoi (food festival) To achieve the above, the following activities are carried out: 1. Weekly corner meetings or farm field schools are organized in each village where women are trained in preparation of various natural decoctions to protect vegetables from unwanted pests. They are also trained to recognize useful/friendly insects found in the fields. 2. Technical training workshops and visits to a model organic farm are organized on a regular basis, where women learn techniques for preparing their gardens for vegetable cultivation and selecting suitable vegetables for growing in their backyards.
3. Training is also provided to save seeds for the next season. 4. Field coordinators visit the every kitchen garden in the village every month to monitor the progress and provide any assistance needed. 5. Various wall writings in the community spaces are put up which create awareness about harmful effects of pesticides and emphasize the importance of pesticide free farming. 6. Seeds for growing vegetables such as pumpkin, gourds, cluster beans, lady’s finger, tindora etc are distributed to the women participating in the project for this season. 7. The coordinators of this project specifically try to involve women from the landless labour families in the villages. As they did not have have a backyard to practice kitchen gardening, in some of the villages other women participants from the village agreed to offer them a small piece of land to raise a kitchen garden. Impact and Achievements: 1. Over 150 women from four villages have signed up to participate in this program 2. With support from KVM team women in Village Karirwali, Faridkot (dist.) organized Nav- Trinjan festival to celebrate and share knowledge about millets and diversity in food crops.More than 350 women and girls actively participated and prepared millet based food preparations; women collectively spun thread from a charkha and sang traditional songs. 3. The project progress in covered by many local newspapers 4. Farmers’ in two of the project villages have expressed interest in starting pesticide-free farming in parts of their fields and asked KVM for technical support. A project proposal for the same has been sent to us, ‘Non-pesticide Management of Agriculture (NPM)’. An account of a volunteer’s visit to this project can be found here.