How Natural Farming Empowers Through Education
Supporting Small Farmers & Women in India
How do we empower farmers? The state of Andhra Pradesh is discovering some fascinating answers.
At RySS (Rythu Sadhikara Samstha) in Andhra Pradesh, India, they believe that natural farming is the solution to farmer empowerment. The Zero-Budget Natural Farming program enhances the welfare of small and marginalized farmers through training and education on climate-change resilient, low-cost farming practices.
By giving farmers the tools they need to become truly self-reliant, initiatives like this create lasting, meaningful impact. The global crises of climate change, hunger, and poverty will not be solved by policy alone. Billions of farmers around the world must be part of the solution.
The key method in this farmer empowerment work is their farmer-to-farmer knowledge dissemination and training strategy. This approach relies on the fierce dedication of Community Resource Persons (CRPs)—farmers who have experienced the transformational benefits of ZBNF in their own fields, and now work to encourage and train more farmers to adopt these practices. The program has grown manifold as it works intensively with women’s empowerment groups.
And how does it empower women specifically?
“If women farmers had the same equal access to resources as men, the number of hungry people could fall by 150 million.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, women make up 43% of the global agricultural labor force.
However, legal and cultural constraints that exacerbate in developing countries translate as less of an opportunity for women to gain access to resources such as education or credit loans. Which, in turn, impedes further access to simpler, but no less vital, commodities like fertilizer. Leading not only to a 20-30% yield gap between male and female farmers but also leaving women as less likely to own land or livestock.
It is also worth considering that in many places around the world the bulk of the responsibility found in the care-taking of children and the elderly falls on women. The type of stalemate reached with such inflexible circumstances bars them from opportunity, and the world from progress, equally. Women are vital to rural economies, providing 60-80% of food production in developing countries—upholding the dignity of their rights isn’t just a pending goal, but also the most sustainable way of fighting poverty and hunger around the world.
Respecting fundamental human rights of bodily integrity, promoting education and literacy, facilitating access to loans, water, and machinery, helps them empower themselves as well as provide for their families.
Anna Fälth, program manager and policy advisor at UN Women, added a key observation to the discourse: “Empowered women have healthier and better-educated children.” Because women who are given the chance to self organize and take part in decision making benefit the community as a whole, and the world at large.
From the Indian countryside all the way to the food on your plate, every step along the agricultural value chain matters. The more we empower farmers at the grassroots level, the more you can enjoy your food, knowing that it was grown using healthy, natural, and sustainable practices.