Community nursery offers means for economic empowerment of women farmers

By SUGANDHA MUNSHI | Specialist on Gender Issues | IRRI



Source: IRRI 2017

Women-focused intervention plays a pivotal role in IRRI’s work with farmers. With the climate changing, innovation that results in better management practices for farmers is essential. This becomes more crucial, though, when it comes to smallholder marginal women farmers in rice production.

Under the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) project, a focused intervention has been taking place in Bihar, India, under four themes: identity, knowledge bank, leadership, and economic benefits.

At Muzzafarpur District in Bihar, Kisan Sakhi’, or a group of women farmers, is the identity with which hundreds of women farmers associate themselves.


Community nursery women/

At the grassroots level, in the districts of the Muzzafarpur block, we found the women in agriculture to be smallholder and marginal farmers. Working with a women’s self-help group as well as with individual farmers, we observed a shift in their perception, attitude, and behavior, in varying degrees.

Majorly at the grassroots of India, a woman is generally recognized as the wife of a certain farmer rather than as a farmer herself. In a society deeply entrenched in social and structural barriers that decide the role of a woman in defined often ‘watertight’ compartments, women like Sumitra Devi, Guddi Devi, and other members of the farmer self-help group we worked with have planted the seeds of a paradigm shift in grassroots agriculture in India.

A community nursery set up by Sumitra and Guddi with other women farmers from the villages in Bandra created an environment where smallholder women farmers are slowly but continually moving ahead toward becoming progressive farmers. The opportunity to sell seedlings to fellow farmers in the village also upsets in a positive way a domain traditionally run by males.


Kisan Sakhiwith her rice nursery./IRRI

“Having learned techniques for developing a good-quality nursery, I have been able to contribute to the income of my household. Being a woman able to do that makes me feel good, “said Sumitra. “In 2015, after learning and applying community nursery management practices, I made a profit of Rs 4,000 from selling healthy seedlings. It was a new initiative for me at a small scale and, in 2016, I plan to do this again in a more organized way.”

She added that she has reached this level from a point where her knowledge and awareness about community nursery farming was nil. She acknowledged CSISA for the training and knowledge that helped her become an informed farmer.

Sumitra’s case is an example of the benefits that participatory extension and research impart for women farmers, providing them opportunities for exposure to improved practices, thus increasing their confidence and opening up for them, in Sumitra’s words, “a new world to explore.”

It is important to note that it is not easy for women like Sumitra to become part of such initiatives in which she has to learn, make decisions on, and practice new technology. But with her increased knowledge on better-bet agricultural practices came development of her self-esteem and confidence—something foreign to her experience, until now.

Development of the community nursery and practices learned in nursery management reduced drudgery in her work, and improved nursery management increased opportunities for her to generate income.

Teaching a woman nursery management increases the chances of learned better practices getting passed on to the next generation. The skills they learn not only add value to their ‘knowledge bank’ in agriculture but also increase the scope for income generation, as in the case of Sumitra.

Guddi, for her part, describes how her own situation went for better: “When our group developed the community nursery in the village, my plot became the most talked about in the area. Hundreds of fellow villagers came and saw it, and many of them were surprised to see how it had shaped up! I received many praises, which made me feel happy and confident.”

For a smallholder woman farmer like Guddi, the task seemed more challenging, as she had to fight for a chance for exposure to such capacity building programs. Being part of the self-help group and of the Jyoti Mahila Samkhya federation helped her greatly in making decisions.

Woman exploring the opportunity for income generation through nursery management and quality nursery had been unheard of in the area.

Development of the nursery by the women farmers also had the effect of spreading awareness among farmers on the importance of having such a nursery, and managing it properly, said Pankaj Kumar, CSISA scientist.

Sunita Devi, a member of the federation, acknowledged how the community nursery has enabled women farmers to start new enterprises at the village level. “Women-focused intervention in agriculture is increasing their ‘knowledge bank’ and capacity, with on-field training. It is a new beginning for women farmers, learning new techniques and being able to explore an added source of income through the community nursery.”

With the experiences of these women farmers, in the kharif season of 2016, other members of the self-help group in the area are now ready to take the lead to develop the community nursery further and generate income through its sale of seedlings.

Women farmers are on the lookout for opportunities as well as better-quality seeds and training on better management practices. They are keen on exploring new opportunities for generating income, such as through community nursery as described above, and perhaps even become entrepreneurs someday. It is a difficult task, but it has begun, and in the grassroots of Bihar, India, CSISA plays catalyst in this noble goal with partner organizations and farmer groups.

The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) promotes durable change at scale in South Asia’s cereal-based cropping systems. Operating in rural ‘innovation hubs’ in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, CSISA works to increase the adoption of various resource-conserving and climate-resilient technologies, and improve farmers’ access to market information and enterprise development. CSISA supports women farmers by improving their access and exposure to modern and improved technological innovations, knowledge, and entrepreneurial skills. By continuing to work in synergy with regional and national efforts, collaborating with myriad public, civil society, and private-sector partners, CSISA aims to benefit more than 8 million farmers by the end of 2020.

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This article originally appeared on IRRI and was retrieved on 02/06/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at

New planters promote environmentally-friendly farming in Pakistan


Direct seeding of rice with a multicrop direct-seeded rice planter in Sheikhupura, Punjab. Photo: Abdul Khaliq

ByJune 23, 2017

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CIMMYT and retrieved on 06/23/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.



Fighting Hidden Hunger in Tanzania: Provitamin A Maize Platform is Launched


PVA Maize. Photo James Gethi (CIMMYT)

By Joyce Maru – Capacity Development & Communication Specialist (BNFB project – CIP)

In Tanzania, Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is considered a major public health problem requiring appropriate nutrition interventions. The overall magnitude of VAD in Tanzania is 33 percent (Global Nutrition Report; 2014), affecting mostly children in preschool and women of reproductive age.  VAD causes morbidity, nutritional blindness, and even death. Even mild levels of VAD may damage health leading to low school performance in children and poor productivity for adults.

A farmer prepares maize porridge using Provitamin A maize. Photo: R.Lunduka/CIMMYT

Provitamin A Maize (PVA) maize is a special type of maize that is biofortified and contains high levels of beta-carotene. Beta-Carotene is an organic, strongly-colored red-orange pigment abundant in plants and fruits. Beta-carotene is what gives PVA maize an orange color and is converted to Vitamin A in the body after consumption to provide additional nutritional benefits.   As a staple food, maize is produced and consumed by most people in Tanzania, and can, therefore, be a cheap and sustainable source of Vitamin A especially for the vulnerable rural poor populations.  To address micronutrient malnutrition (hidden hunger); biofortification works to increase the nutritional value of staple food crops by increasing the density of vitamins and minerals in a crop through either conventional plant breeding; agronomic practices or biotechnology. Examples of these vitamins and minerals that can be increased through biofortification include Provitamin A Carotenoids, zinc, and iron.

The PVA maize was recently introduced to Tanzania through collaborative efforts of multiple institutions including the Government of Tanzania, Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI); Seed companies (Meru Agro-Tours & Consultants Co. Ltd (MATC) and Tanseed International Ltd) and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), working as a partnership under the Building Nutritious Food Baskets Project (BNFB). Two Provitamin A maize varieties – Meru VAH517 and Meru VAH519 –were released for commercial production by Meru Agro Tours and Consultants in September 2016.

To catalyze efforts to scale up PVA maize, different actors along the maize value chain launched a PVA maize platform for Tanzania.  The event took place at the Kibo Palace Hotel, Arusha Tanzania on 19 April 2017  international hosted by the BNFB project.

Participants celebrate launch of PVA Maize Platform

Participants included Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC); TOSCI; Seed companies; processors; farmer groups representatives; researchers, policy makers and CIMMYT.

Speaking on behalf of TFNC Dr. Towo Elifatio remarked that in order to effectively and sustainably fight hidden hunger, a platform that brings together key stakeholders is critical and strategic to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and exchange of ideas, innovations, and solutions on production, supply, and utilization of PVA maize. Elifatio noted that all actors along the PVA maize value chain need to be involved in advocating and promoting production and utilization of new technologies such as the PVA maize.

The PVA maize platform will advance the agenda of fighting hidden hunger in Tanzania by linking different stakeholders to relevant authorities on matters relating to PVA maize; as well as provide an opportunity for capacity development for members on critical gaps relating to PVA maize knowledge and biofortification in general. In other words, the platform will become a ‘One stop shop’ for information and knowledge on PVA maize in Tanzania.

Membership of the platform is expected to grow to become multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary to include actors from the ministry of health, nutrition and education, school feeding programs, academic institutions, national agricultural research systems (NARS) among others. The platform will be led and sustained by the national partners who understand the bottlenecks in the sector and can better drive their own agenInternational

The Potato Center (CIP) is collaborating with a consortium of CGIAR research centers; Governments of Nigeria and Tanzania and national partners on an initiative called BNFB, which is testing a scaling-up model through a multi-crop (food basket) approach to address hidden hunger by catalyzing sustainable investments for the production and utilization of biofortified crops that are ready for scaling up including; Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP); vitamin A (yellow) cassava, vitamin A (orange) maize and high iron/zinc beans. The project mainly targets rural populations, especially young children under the age of five and women of reproductive age, in Nigeria and Tanzania.

Read more on BNFB: BNFB  Click here to watch video on BNFB

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the International Potato Center and retrieved on 06/20/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Supporting creation of institutional platform of 45 million women for social and economic empowerment in rural India: The National Rural Livelihoods Mission


Source: World Bank’s People, Places, and Deliberation. In Photo – Jasmine cultivation



Source: World Bank’s People, Places, and Deliberation. In Photo – Jasmine cultivation

In the early morning at Dadar station in metropolitan Mumbai, a common sight is unloading of tons of jasmine and marigold flowers packed in jute sacks. Flowers come from Jawhar block located in the district of Palghar in Maharashtra. At the village the flowers are procured from each producer, weighed and packed in jute sacks. These are collected from the village bus stands and transported to Dadar in Mumbai by either bus or train. Floriculture has emerged as an alternative source of livelihood for small and marginal farmers in the region. Collective marketing has allowed small producers to aggregate and sell their flowers. Aggregation has enabled producers to realize better incomes through collective bargaining. About 3,500 women farmers have been mobilized as producer groups, and their annual turnover is expected to be around US $ 1 million in the next season.

Similarly, in four tribal districts (Koraput, Rayagada  Gajapati and Mayurbhanj) of Orissa in the eastern part of India, 6,300 women mango producers have been organized to facilitate creation of a Producers’ Company with annual turnover of US $260,000. They planted high-quality mango trees in their land with the help of Government’s horticulture department. They were provided training on pre-harvest, post-harvest management & market information and price discovery. The producer company was able to do local value addition through grading, sorting, packaging and loading through trucks. The producer company has been able to sell products to wholesale and high value channels like retail outlets and have become aggregators for large food retailers and companies. The producer company has helped the members to realize additional income of US $800 for each household.

Mango value chain: sorting, grading and packaging


Many such enterprise clusters have been catalyzed as part of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in 30 states in India. The program so far has mobilized more than 45 million women from deprived and poor households and covers more than 40% of rural India.  Women meet regularly within their self-help groups to save and inter-loan money to each other; represent their self-help groups in the village and cluster-level organizations to work on collective economic action and deliver financial and economic services to members.  Based on their savings and lending track record, the members of self-help groups have become clients of commercial banks and borrow from banks to launch businesses and enterprises of their own. They are also provided extension and skills based training to expand their livelihoods. They have also initiated producer organizations and companies to start higher level economic enterprises.  Over last six years women have formed 3.2 million self-help groups and 145,465 village-level organizations. Collectively they have saved US $1.4 billion and leveraged US $ 20 billion from commercial banks.

Women self-help group meeting


NRLM has emerged as the flagship program for women’s economic empowerment in Government of India.  The World Bank funded National Rural Livelihoods Project (NRLP) has provided support to Ministry of Rural Development, in Government of India to set up professional architecture and systems for implementation of NRLM. The project aims at establishing efficient and effective institutional platforms of the rural poor that enables them to increase household income through sustainable livelihood enhancements and improved access to financial and selected public services.
The project has been a site for rich experimentation and innovation, particularly, in addressing challenges common to other development projects: How, for instance, do we efficiently scale and expand a community-led project? How can we bring in innovation and social enterprises into the work of a large-scale government program? And finally, how do we retain and grow human resources within government organizations?

Some of the key innovations in project implementation and scaling up is harnessing community level social capital from all over the country to develop peer learning and extension networks among communities. Community Resource Persons have been a crucial resource for scaling the project across, low-income states in India. Nearly 20,000 rural women, who have successfully come out of poverty, serve as Community Resource Persons. These “poverty-reduction champions” travel outside their villages and to other states to identify the poorest households, using participatory methods. Community Resource Persons train new self-help groups on various sub sectors like financial inclusion, microcredit, agriculture, horticulture, dairy, poultry, and fishery. Through these programs, new women members learn about potential livelihoods opportunities and pathways to take them out of poverty. They use Information Communication Technology (ICT) for providing extension services to members through creating local content and creation of short videos highlighting both internal and external best practices. Video content typically consists of technical demonstrations customized after local experimentation, discussions, or success stories of best practices. After content generation, the existing social networks are used for dissemination.

Community Resource Person preparing learning video


Through “Innovation Forums”—akin to the World Bank’s Development Marketplace—the project brought together social enterprises, grassroots innovators, private sector players, and the government on a common platform to exchange innovations in health, nutrition, livelihoods, skill development, and energy access. Many of the innovations presented at these forums have gone on to be implemented and scaled through the project. Partnerships between the project, social entrepreneurs and private sector agencies have been an avenue to bring innovation to the government. These private sector agencies have connected rural women to wider domestic markets, and, to larger urban and foreign markets as well.

With the help of the World Bank, in each of the NRLM progressive and agile human resource policies were put in place: from recruiting at India’s leading social science, engineering, development studies and management institutes, providing competitive compensation to staff, to implementing a Young Professionals (YP) program. Through the YP program, over 500 young professionals have been placed in low-income states. Many of these young professionals have gone on to start their own social enterprises, drawing from their experience with the NRLM and with implementing a complex, multi-sectorial community-led program.

In 2017, Government of India is working to expand and deepen the program in two directions.  Firstly, it wants to scale up the current program of social and economic mobilization of rural women from 45 million to 87 million ensuring that very women from a deprived household becomes a member of SHG and the related institutional platform. Secondly, it wants to develop 5,000 local economic development clusters across the country to trigger a women enterprise ecosystem throughout the country, especially in low income states and with bottom of pyramid populations. The lessons from these programs are currently being shared in many countries globally through South to South experience sharing and have generated strong interest. The program has demonstrated that designing and implementing a large scale women’s economic empowerment program requires participating women at the center and needs creation of an institutional platform and an enabling ecosystem.

Authors acknowledge contributions by Varun Singh, Vinay Kumar Vutukuru, Debaraj Behera, Anjani Kumar Singh and Paramveer Singh for the case studies, data and pictures.

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Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the World Bank and retrieved on 06/18/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


France is offering US scientists 4-year grants to move to the country and do research


REUTERS/Thomas Samson/Pool

By Jun. 8, 2017, 11:41 AM

If you are an American scientist, student, teacher, or business person working on climate change solutions, France would love for you to stay awhile.

Following President Trump’s June 2 decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement — a multi-country pact that acknowledges global warming poses serious threats to humanity and the environment — the French government has created an outlet for people from all countries who still want to fight climate change.

The website is called Make Our Planet Great Again.

Researchers, teachers, and students can apply for a four-year grant that allows them to continue their studies or instruction, fully financed. The site also provides information on how to move to France by obtaining a work visa and residency permit.

The website explains: “You will be able to stay in France at least for the duration of the grant, and longer if you are granted a permanent position. There is no restriction on your husband/wife working in France. If you have children, note that French public schools are free, and the tuition fees of universities and ‘grandes écoles’ are very low compared to the American system.”

Businesspeople and heads of NGOs can also apply to receive funding from the federal government, which issues grants to organizations it considers deserving.

Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential election May 7. Since his victory, a video his campaign posted in February has been making the rounds on American social media. The Facebook video was addressed to American climate scientists who feel alienated by the Trump administration. Looking straight into the camera, speaking English, Macron tells American “researchers, entrepreneurs, [and] engineers working on climate change” that they have a home in his country.

“I do know how your new president now has decided to jeopardize your budget, your initiatives, and he is extremely skeptical about climate change,” he said. “I have no doubt about climate change.”

Macron went on to promise robust funding for climate initiatives. In Europe, as a general rule, climate change is less of a political issue, with few major political parties arguing against established science.

Macron’s opponent in the second round of the election, the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, was a bit of an exception to this rule. Le Pen opposed various environmental initiatives and did not acknowledge outright that humans are the primary cause of climate change.

Macron defeated Le Pen 66% to 34%.

You can watch Macron’s appeal to American scientists below.

Rafi Letzter contributed to an earlier version of this article.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Business Insider and retrieved on 06/14/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Can African grantmakers transcend past development strategies

Jenny Hodgson

21 July 2015


In 2014, the outbreak of Ebola in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone sent a chill around the world. The disease claimed over 11,000 lives, the majority in those three countries. However, it was the handful of cases that were reported in Europe and the United States that really fuelled the headlines. Suddenly the world’s attention was on ‘Africa’ and a continent made up of 54 countries and over a billion people, which shrank dramatically in the popular imagination to a rather tiny corner of West Africa.

One of the effects of this global panic was that the Third African Grantmakers Network Conference that had been due to take place in Ghana – in West Africa yes, but not affected by Ebola – in November 2014 was cancelled. Cancelled, that is, until the Foundation for Civil Society in Tanzania stepped in and proposed Arusha, Tanzania as an alternate venue, for a July 2015 date.

It was highly appropriate, therefore, that a topic for discussion at the conference was that of African philanthropy’s role in disaster response.

‘How can we challenge the perception that Africa is always “saved” by outsiders?’ asked Theo Sowa of the African Women’s Development Fund, ‘When, in fact, the people who ‘saved’ Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, were from those countries, not from International NGOs.’ In the case of Ebola, it was a small grant from the Urgent Action Fund-Africa that had sent a Ugandan doctor to West Africa to raise early warnings about the outbreak of the disease. And further south, the Southern Africa Trust organized its own response: although far from the epicentre of the crisis, the organization was quick to see the knock-on effects that Ebola was having across the continent.

Increasingly, observed Kepta Obati, local African institutions – because they have strong local networks and an ear to the ground – are being called upon to respond to emergency situations, whether or not it is their area of expertise. Certainly, that has been the experience within the Global Fund for Community Foundations’ network, where local partners have found themselves at the epicentres of floods, hurricanes and earthquakes: they respond whether this moves them ‘off-mission’ or not.

Conference participants heard many powerful stories of the local, often ‘below the radar’ responses of different kinds of African philanthropic institutions, responding creatively to extraordinary situations on the ground. They are developing new business models that build communities’ capacities and assets as an alternative to the ‘projectization’ of traditional development aid. An underlying theme throughout the conference was the idea that ‘African philanthropy’ is nothing new and that practices and cultures of solidarity and support are stronger and more established across this continent than other regions of the world. They may even be a defining feature of African communities. While speakers emphasised the implicit strengths and potential of African philanthropy, however, a number of questions and dilemmas emerged, both explicitly and by implication:

  • Being a local philanthropic institution in Africa can certainly offer all manner of advantages and benefits when it comes to fostering local development: a long-term view and institutional memory, proximity to the ground, an appreciation of the complexity of context. However, none of it means anything if an African grantmaker simply adopts all the behaviours – so hotly criticized in Arusha – of external donors, with their upward accountability and power dynamics.
  • Reconciling the philanthropy of the wealthy with the philanthropy of the poor. Organized African philanthropy is rapidly growing and much of is it associated with the assets of the extremely wealthy. At the same time the established narrative of African philanthropy tends to emphasise giving and solidarity systems – the survival strategies, if you like – of the poor. How to bridge the two? What is the role of multi-donor institutions that can unlock assets across different demographic groups, including the middle class, who still have few organized giving options at their disposal?
  • Encouraging organized systems of giving is one thing, but how do we ensure they address and do not reinforce long-term structural issues of inequality and marginalization? The ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ campaign, for example, raised more than US $7 million for drought and famine relief in the north part of the country, but did it result in long-term changes for poor communities there?
  • Learning from the experience of decades of ‘bad’ development practices. More than any other region of the world, Africa’s civil society sector and its communities have been on the receiving end of poorly formulated, costly and often ineffective development programmes. How can its emerging local foundation sector learn from those mistakes and resolve to do things differently?

The complex questions need to be addressed if the African philanthropic sector is to start to define its role, its values and its way of working. A good job for a regional network perhaps? With a new name, the Africa Philanthropy Network, new director, Karen Sai, and a new board, let’s hope this home-grown network is up to the job.

Jenny Hodgson is the Global Fund for Community Foundations executive director for UK and South Africa.

This article was published at the Alliance Magazine and was retrieved on 08/30/2015

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