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Natural Farming is Becoming Popular Amongst Rural Women in Himachal Pradesh

"I chose natural farming a couple of years ago when I watched the success of women doing it in the nearby hamlet of Dugri," Radha Devi, 45, of Koti village in Solan district, stated.

Shruti Kandwal

Women in rural Himachal Pradesh are rising as pioneers in the implementation of non-chemical, low-cost, and climate-resilient natural farming after years of working in quiet. The environmentally friendly and sustainable approaches have improved their lives and livelihoods, and they are now an example to others.

In 2018, the Himachal Pradesh government created the Prakritik Kheti Khushal Yojana (PK3Y) to promote this zero-budget natural farming (ZBNF) approach, which has now been called Subhash Palekar natural farming (SPNF). Given women's important role in agriculture, the Yojana focused on them, bringing them out for capacity-building seminars, field trips, and a forum to discuss their experiences.

So far, 1,74,396 farmers in Himachal Pradesh have been educated in natural farming practices through PK3Y, with 1,71,063 adopting the practice in varying degrees, covering an area of 9,421 hectares. Women account for more than 60% of the state’s trained and practicing farmers. The plan has reached around 99% of the state’s panchayats.

The natural farming approach lowers farmers’ reliance on the external market and concentrates on the use of agriculture supplies derived from “desi cow” dung and urine. This dramatically cuts cultivation costs while increasing farmers’ net revenue.

Despite early objections, a lot of women accepted this practice. They shaped their families’ perceptions by demonstrating the outcomes on a tiny plot of land or in the kitchen garden.

"I chose natural farming a couple of years ago when I watched the success of women doing it in the nearby hamlet of Dugri," Radha Devi, 40, of Koti village in Solan district, stated. On 5 bighas of land, I am presently cultivating garlic, onion, spinach, and a variety of other veggies. Apart from reducing my yearly agricultural spending from 20,000 to 500-700, it has provided me with opportunities to improve and inspire others."

“All these years, my life was limited to travelling between my in-laws and parents’ homes. Since joining PK3Y, I’ve attended several seminars, provided training, and my social connections have increased,” she added.

This self-belief among women farmers is really working.

A group of ladies from Peja in the inner Chirgaon region of Shimla district who switched to natural red rice growing three years ago had even received a ten-lakh rupee award from the government of India. Their success has inspired other farmers in the village to switch to organic farming.

Rakesh Kanwar, secretary agriculture and state project director of PK3Y, stated that in the current fiscal year, a special emphasis is being placed on women farmers under the initiative in Himachal Pradesh. "Because hill women play an important role in agriculture, efforts are being made to reach out to more and more of them for better outcomes in natural farming," he explained.

According to statistics given by the State Project Implementing Unit (SPIU), the state has recognised over 100 women farmers as natural farming trainers. In addition, many women's organisations are being created at the village/panchayat levels, with the goal of jointly adopting natural farming practises following training.

The extension authorities working under PK3Y provide frequent assistance to these groups, including financial support for new activities. The rural development department has taught 502 "krishi sakhis" in natural farming across the state as part of the National Rural Livelihood Programme (NRLM).

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