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Power of One: How Bihar's Female Farmer is Changing the Game

“The future of farming lies in women supporting women,” says Kanchan Devi

Mrini Devnani
Women farmers are creating a change (Photo Source: Pexels.com, Kanchan Devi)
Women farmers are creating a change (Photo Source: Pexels.com, Kanchan Devi)

In the heart of Bhagalpur, Bihar, where the rhythm of life is set by the fields and the toil of daily labor, Kanchan Devi's story is a tale of resilience, empowerment, and the transformative power of community.

Born into the soil, Kanchan's journey in farming began in her childhood, hand in hand with her mother. Growing up in a small village where agriculture sustains 134 households, Kanchan absorbed the wisdom of the land, learning the intricate dance of seasons and crops.

In a community marked by its challenges, where a mere 15% female literacy rate cast shadows of limitation, Kanchan's spirit remained undaunted. Her village, like many others in the region, grappled with economic uncertainties, where women's voices often echoed faintly against the backdrop of tradition.

However, in May 2016, a glimmer of hope illuminated as Oxfam India and SEWA Bharat started to show support to empower women farmers through the vegetable supply chain. Kanchan, initially cautious, found herself drawn to the promise of change.

As the project went ahead, Kanchan emerged as a catalyst for transformation. She rallied her fellow women farmers, igniting sparks of hope. Through training sessions and shared experiences, she championed sustainable agricultural practices and women's rights. From the fields of her 0.5-acre land, she cultivated more than just vegetables—she sowed seeds of empowerment and reaped the fruits of solidarity.

She says, “Cauliflower, potato, coriander, spinach, white radish, and beans are some we grow. When I first started in my home after my marriage, I felt a bit nervous about being able to talk and share queries with others. But in due time, I overcame that and soon we were able to establish a community.”

Through Integrated Nutrient Management and Integrated Pest Management techniques, Kanchan witnessed a remarkable 30% increase in net returns from her crops. Her newfound prosperity was not confined to her fields; it rippled through her home, repairing walls and nourishing dreams.

At present, Kanchan is a leader—a president of a village-level women's vegetable producer group and a member of the esteemed Board of Directors of the Farmer Producer Organisation in Bihar. Her story echoes across the fields, inspiring hope, and heralding change.

In Bhagalpur, amidst the whispers of the wind and the rustle of leaves, her journey is one of the triumphs of the human spirit, the beauty of community, and the boundless possibilities that lie within each seed sown with purpose.

Recognizing her exceptional contributions, Kanchan received accolades from the Agriculture Production Commissioner of Bihar as an 'Agent of Change' on April 26, 2018. Subsequently, she was honored at the 'Aprajita Samman' by Prabhat Khabar on May 27, 2018, for her pioneering role in establishing the first women-managed Farmer Producer Organisation.

Kanchan acknowledges the profound shift her community has undergone. From a narrative of struggle to one of empowerment, she dreams of a future where rural women nationwide write their own success stories in agriculture and rural business.

“We began with 10-15 women who started to train together and then we established an entire neighborhood. Like this, many misconceptions were cleared due to a knowledge-sharing process.” Rooting for equality, Kanchan says, “Farming is for men and women both. It is a collective and collaborative profession. Moreover, the future of farming is bright in India, and I hope to continue to work for it. I wish to seek further support from the government and the community at large.”

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