Saturday, May 23, 2009

Women Action For Ecology making waves in villages

A sequel to Bhotna food mela
Bhotna Food Mela cum Women Meeting on 2nd April 2009
The second women meeting at Bhotna village was even more interesting. Many more traditional dishes were prepared and the method of preparation was explained by the women. Many kinds of sweets called Bhoot Pinne, Gur ka Sharbat, Chibran di Chutney, Jowar di roti, Chaulan dian pinnian, Kanak da mithha dalia, moth bajre di khichri, lassi, nimbu da khatta mittha achar, etc and rather five different varieties of Bhoot Pinne were prepared. Bhoot Pinne are a kind of laddoos prepared from jaggery millets like Jawar, bajra or wheat. Women explained the method of preparation.

Seven children were also present at the meeting. At the end of the meeting the mouth watering dishes were served. Everybody, particularly the some seven children present at the meeting liked the dishes and said that they would ask their parents to prepare these dishes. A video of all the dishes where women were explaining their method of preparation was also made.

Moth Bajre ki Khichri and Bajre ki Roti cannot become a routine affair because of the onset of summer season and such dishes are generally consumed in the winter season.
Some women gave in their names that will plan for Bajra cultivation in Kharif season. There names are as under.
1. Amarjit Kaur
2. Jaswant Kaur
3. Balwinder Kaur
4. Manjit Kaur
5. Mukhtiar Kaur
6. Manjit Kaur
7. Manjit Kaur
8. Surinderpal Kaur
9. Harbans Kaur
Bajra and Jowar is already cultivated for fodder purposes but not for human consumption. Punjabi farmers have this additional excuse that birds destroy their Bajra fields. I am still looking for reasons to combat that.

An exercise to find out the number of local greens that can be identified by women and the ones that are still being used as food and medicinal herbs was done by showing them a book called Nourishing Traditions Local Greens published by Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems Project. Some women identified with 30% of the greens. They are not much aware of the medicinal value of most of the greens. Perhaps a wider exercise needs be done with the older women.

A session on traditional seeds was part of the meeting. A woman named Harbans Kaur possessed the traditional seeds of almost all the vegetables. Many women possess one ort the other kind of traditional vegetable seeds, but they don’t store a good quantity of seeds for the next season and seed exchange among them is yet to be introduced.

The issue of Crop residue burning (wheat straw) was also discussed among the women. Women were already aware of the fact that residue burning causes immense harm to their crop field but due to a lack of will, and the haste of farmer at the onset of kharif season to sow as early as he can and a lack of proper system in place, crop residue burning is still widespread. A committee of women was formed from among the ones who were present in the meeting who will start a campaign in the villages against the crop residue burning. The members include:
1. Amarjeet Kaur
2. Harbans Kaur
3. Mukhtiar Kaur
4. Shinderpal kaur
5. Balwinder Kaur
6. Manjit Kaur
7. Gurdial Kaur
8. Harbans Kaur
9. Sukhveer Kaur (student of 10th Standard)
10. Manjit Kaur
11. Mohinder Kaur
12. Harpal Kaur
13. Angrez Kaur
14. Mandeep Kaur
15. Shinder Kaur

Another meeting was planned in which women will be apprised of the distinction between friendly pests and those that destroy our crop; Practical demonstration of Jeev Amrit and the general concept of natural farming will be discussed. A need for natural farming and the role the women can play in pest management will also be discussed.

Women initiative at Bhotna –III
Women hands sow seeds of health and safety
Woman offered space for kitchen gardening to landless woman
April 15, 2009, village Bhotna, Barnala

Twenty five women of village Bhotna have started growing vegetables in their courtyards. Earlier they were dependent on either the vegetable purchase from the local vendors in the village or the vegetables grown in their fields which were sprayed with different pesticides. Vegetables were even earlier grown in the farm fields and also the courtyards but fertilizers and pesticides were used on them. Now the vegetables are not sprayed with any pesticides. On the top of it most women have sown the traditional varieties of vegetables. This is the first step towards poison-free food and farm self-reliance.

This happened after three village level meetings with women on the effects of using pesticides on our foods. Most women already knew this. This is not the scenario of just this village. People are very well aware of the health impacts of using pesticides, but a fear of shift towards an alternative agriculture that they have shun for decades has stopped the ecological agriculture from finding a better space among them.

Even during the meetings the women were reluctant to take up atleast in the talk in the homes for a 1 acre shift towards natural farming. The first argument is who will listen to their voice. The green revolution has badly hit the social fabric of Indian agriculture particularly the Punjabis. The women who used to select and preserve their seeds of the next sowing season are bereft of that because of the invasion of seed companies. They no longer go to their farms, thanks to the virtual money with the farmers be it bank loans or the cash flow and thus the fascination of using motorbikes to go farms; women don’t even carry food to the farms for farmer would go home and have lunch at home. The virtual affluence and the responsibility of selecting and preserving seeds have reduced the status of womenin Punjabi homes.

Women are not aware of which crops are affected by what kind of pests. Many of them don’t know what land holding their family own and are vaguely aware of how much of what is sown in each part of the land.

It slowly happened that even if not the talk of sparing 1 acre of land for natural farming,women find it clicking to take up atleast the cultivation of vegetables in their courtyards for a poison-free food for the family. Some seeds of traditional varieties were distributed among them and were readily taken up by the women. Now twenty five women are already working on kitchen gardening inclusive of the ones who will not let the spray of pesticides in the farms if the vegetables are cultivated in the farm land.

Women are made to grow seeds of traditional varieties and an exchange of seeds is already taking place though not at a larger level. With some discussion on the policies of seed companies, women are finding it good to save for the next season, at least the seeds of vegetables. Some seeds of traditional varieties will be distributed among the ones who don’t possess them.

Women were asked to talk within their families about reserving one acre of land towards natural farming which may include vegetables, rice, jowar, bajra, maize and some oilseeds. Some women have already reserved some space for natural farming and that too for maize. It was resolved that women should follow bajra cultivation as an important agenda and seeds was decided to make available the seeds for the same.

While we were jotting down the names of the women who are into kitchen gardening, one woman who had provision for growing vegetables at home but don’t keep good health and busy with children offered the privilege to another woman to grow the vegetables at her place, who does not possess any such space at home.

Another fascinating experience was that a practical demonstration of preparing the Jeev Amrit was given at the meeting and the demonstrators were none other but the two womenfrom the village who are already into natural farming. The women liked the idea of using Jeev Amrit instead of using Urea and Pesticides in their farms. The usage and the effect of using jeev amrit was also discussed with women, who said they would discuss the same with their husbands.

A flipchart containing the friendly and crop destroyer pests was also discussed. The different stages of a pest were also discussed. Since women are the first and the worst victims of using pesticides, they need to understand the natural ways of pest management so that they can take up the work of discussing this within families in order for a shift towards natural farming.

!n the end women vowed to attend and bring more women to the training workshop in the village which is a part of kharif training to natural farmers by Kheti Virasat Mission. A date was fixed for monthly meeting in the village.

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