Feminisation of Farming In UTTARAKHAND

By- Asha Ramachandran

Feminisation of Farming In UTTARAKHAND

During the sowing season in the farmlands of Uttarakhand one can spot scattered dots of gold from a distance. But the whole field converts to gold when the time of harvest comes. The first one is dangling gold earrings of women farmers during the showing and subsequent seasons. But in harvest season the whole field looks old since the wheat crop is ripe and ready to be cut.

This unusual narrative shows how in the hill state of Uttarakhand particularly Champawat, former capital of Kumaon women farmers have taken charge just because the men folk have left the villages for jobs in towns are no more interested in the hard labour.

At the same time the women farmers are facing all the challenges that confront farming in the hills. In addition, they have an added responsibility of running the house and caring for the family. Migration has been a major issue in the hills as rising education levels and better prospects in cities have lured the able-bodied men and the younger generation, leaving behind women, the elderly and children.

Increasing tourism in the state has also taken away young men and women, as they are employed as guides, waiters and drivers in various places of tourist interest, including wildlife parks, pilgrimage places and trekking, thanks to their knowledge of the terrain. The mushrooming tourist resorts and hotels are another source of jobs for them. The women and older men left behind find it difficult to tend to their fields as farming in the hills is hard work. Since the older generation is unable to do much hard work, the bulk of the farming burden falls on the shoulders of the younger women.


Crop depredation by animals like wild boars is the most common problem farmers face in the hills. Wild boars have emerged as severe vertebrate pests in India. The impact of wild boar damage is particularly pronounced in fields located near forested areas. Though several measures are available for managing wild boars and keeping them away from the crops, they are not economical and always effective.

The women are also unable to protect their fields and cattle from wild animals that stray from nearby protected forests, including the Corbett National Park. “Earlier, there were more farmers to collectively guard the fields and fend off boars and deer that rampage the crops,” informed Saraswati Devi, an elderly woman from Malla Baur village of Mohan district, bordering the world-famous Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. “Now with scattered fields and fewer hands to guard them, the animals destroy whatever little we grow.”

There is a sore need for more irrigation systems, updated farming techniques, adequate utilization of fertilizers, availability of high- yielding crops, greater awareness among farmers regarding modern technology and optimal practices in the field. These needs have constrained the farmers’ capacity to adopt innovative farming techniques for increased productivity and a regular source of adequate income.


Champawat, a little explored district in the eastern part of the Kumaon Himalayas of Uttarakhand, is just a few steps from becoming a commercialized tourist site. Located in this district and bearing the same name, the township of Champawat, is known for its rich biodiversity and temples of high artistic value and cool climate. But why are we looking at Champawat?

The inhabitants of this district have managed to balance their culture while progressing with the times. The gender roles witnessed here aren’t entirely traditional. Men and women equally share the work and responsibility both in the fields and doing household chores. But with the younger women generally out in the fields, the older male members help out extensively in the kitchen given that this is one area they can physically work in.

The district has about 65 per cent of forest land, but only nine per cent is under irrigated agriculture. Champawat has much potential in the agriculture sector, but certain limitations hinder the growth of farmers from creating a sustainable livelihood.


Kolidhek, a small village of Champawat, witnessed the start of an Agriculture Input Resource Centre, of the people, for the people. Working on the issues surrounding women farmers in the hills, an emerging knowledge leader on rural development issues in India, NGO S M Sehgal Foundation, formed a company for the farmers named Champawat Monal Farmer Producer Company (FPC). This initiative allows the farmers associated with Sehgal Foundation, especially women, to avail of high-yielding seeds at a subsidized rate. The concept of FPC is to nurture small and marginal farmers and provide them with the necessary skills and information to improve the farm output.

Cutting through the social communication gap, the first approach was mobilizing the farmers through community and village meetings, where the needs for the project and plausible solutions were shared. With support from the interested farmers, Farmer Interest Groups (FIG) were created, one in each village, consisting of small and marginal farmers. These regular meetings help identify the gaps in attaining a sustainable livelihood. To manage these 50 FIGs, a Farmer Producer Company (FPC) was formed, as mentioned. The primary purpose of the FPC is to create market linkages for the farmers, build the capacities of the members, and provide them with the needed support to manage the company for their further development.

The Foundation has male farmers associated, but their roles are limited to beneficiaries and Farmer Interest Group members only. This project builds focus on creating women representatives to take the company forward though the target beneficiaries do include male farmers.


A modern nursery was established as one of the business entities of Champawat Monal FPC. The nursery has necessary facilities, such as a shade net, farm pond, and irrigation systems for effective plant cultivation through constructed ponds. Additionally, to support the production of high-value horticultural plants, the nursery supplies farmers with high-quality seeds, fertilizers, and essential tools.

Good quality seeds are provided to farmers to ensure that crops can withstand adverse climatic conditions, the seedlings produced are fast-growing and resistant to pests and disease. Moreover, the crops have uniformity in their growth and maturity, which makes it easier for the farmers to get reasonable prices for their produce.


A wholesome angle to establishing this FPC is that the company has 528 female shareholders, furthering the growth independently. Most women associated with the company have struggled to juggle education, work and home, but have balanced it quite well.

Pushpa Chaubey works in four villages of Champawat: Kheskandi, Kolideh, Pahu and Phurti. She is associated with Sehgal Foundation as a vocal advocator, mobilizing the women farmers as shareholders in the formed company.

Many more hidden stories are yet to be unfolded as this project diversifies.

Source: Himalayan News Chronicle