This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Surbhi Kumari. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

This Organisation Is Making Women Farmers Self-Dependent With Mushroom Farming

More from Surbhi Kumari

According to the Economic Survey of 2017-18, the agricultural industry employs more than 50% of the total workforce in India and contributes around 17-18% to its GDP. Talking about women, India’s agrarian industry employs 80-100 million female farmers. From preparing the land, selecting seeds, transplanting the seedlings, applying manure, fertilisers or pesticides, and then harvesting, winnowing and threshing, women work harder and longer than male farmers.

Despite all their hard labour in the field, the National Commission for Women’s data suggests that Bihar’s agricultural industry employs 85% of females, but they are not officially deemed farmers; they’re either labelled “agricultural laborers” or “cultivators”.

It is rare to hear narratives of women working in agriculture and its allied activities in Bihar. Be it farmers’ suicide, drought, flood or any government scheme, the entire media is seen flooded with male farmers’ visuals only. But here, I will tell you how SumArth, a for-purpose initiative is dedicatedly working on feminisation of agriculture.

SumArth is a non-profit social enterprise headquartered in Gaya, Bihar, which supports women farmers in their economic growth by providing 360-degree solutions for crop planning and ensured market linkage. SumArth works primarily in the Gaya district, which has one of the largest Mahadalit populated district of India. It has a number of women farmers from Dalit and other marginalised communities.

women farmers growing mushrooms
As many of the farm equipment are not female-friendly, they possess a greater risk of injuries. Project ‘Magical Mushroom’ by SumArth came as a boon to women farmers. There is no usage of big farm machinery in growing mushrooms. The image has been provided by the author.

SumArth launched a project named ‘Magical Mushroom’ whose focus was giving good livelihood and nutrition, and making women farmers self-dependent with minimal investment. Mushroom can be grown in a closed area that is not exposed to sunlight, it is grown in off-farm conditions under a controlled environment.

The project ensures daily income to farmers and provides a minimum of double return within 45 days. Also, Mushroom’s production is devoid of big land or space. It’s primarily grown within the household, or sometimes, in a low-cost hut. Even its production process can be taken care of by a single person, and doesn’t require many.

Keeping in mind women empowerment, SumArth launched this project for the betterment of women farmers from Dalit and other marginalised communities. As many of the farm equipment are not female-friendly, they possess a greater risk of injuries. This project came as a boon to women farmers. There is no usage of big farm machinery in growing mushrooms. It is grown in mushroom bags that are kept inside the house. This helps women take care of it at their convenience.

Co-founder of SumArth, Prabhat Kumar, said, “In Naxal-affected and rural areas, men primarily do the agricultural activities at the field, as women hesitate to go to the field because of social and security reasons but Mushroom can be grown inside house, therefore it benefits the women farmers to great extent.”

Women are considered the “weaker gender” when compared to men, so they are paid less, despite working for the same time and under the same circumstances. But the scenario completely changes here. Women are the sole stakeholder and the prime decision-maker. This encourages women to work for themselves and feel confident.

Access to education, agricultural training and extension services for women have been predominantly low as compared to men. But SumArth has trained and educated more than 500 women farmers for this project to inculcate confidence to be able to face the community.

Women farmers from small and marginalised communities in India lack adequate access to marketing facilities due to lack of basic infrastructure like market yards, roads and transportation, storage including freezers, and processing units. Further, women farmers have no representation in agricultural marketing committees and other similar bodies.

Thus, SumArth provides the women farmers with local markets to sell their products and earn from them. On average, a woman farmer earns Rs 10,000-12,000 with a small investment of Rs 4,000-5,000. They earn this amount in just 30-45 days in one go. And this process continues for at least four consecutive months. After that, the residue of compost bags can be used are a fertiliser in kitchen garden or fields.

Since ages, women have not been considered tech-friendly and have not been encouraged to use technology. But SumArth introduced their women farmers to agricultural technologies, which reduced the gender gap in agricultural productivity and food security. In this project, women farmers were taught to use laser equipment to detect room temperature and automatic sprinkler for watering the mushroom bags. Also, small videos are shown to them at various stages and interventions of mushroom-agriculture. These technologies and videos ease the women farmers’ work, also allowing them to explore new technology.

Women’s economic empowerment can reduce poverty for everyone and this could only be achieved by fixing the current broken economic model, which undermines gender equality and causes extreme economic inequality. The fundamental drivers of sustainable development and economic growth are the people themselves, but if only one gender is encouraged to participate in any activity, the talent pool simply gets halved.

So, this is the condition in agriculture, as women are not being encouraged to do agricultural activities. SumArth is encouraging a number of women farmers by providing them with all needed things. Team SumArth says, “Given equal access to productive resources and services, women are as efficient as men and can achieve the same yields. Reducing the gender gap is very essential in order to accelerate the growth in the agriculture sector.” According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, if women had the same access to productive resources the same as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%.

To make India a progressive country, it is essential to work on rural India, where agriculture forms the backbone. We cannot afford to ignore that, and need to focus on our country’s women farmers if we want the second Green Revolution in India. In my opinion, everything starts and ends with agriculture as it is impossible to survive without food. Therefore, women need to be given lots of opportunities as men.

You must be to comment.

More from Surbhi Kumari

Similar Posts

By Khachuksha Debbarma | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

By raj kosaraju


Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below