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Organic Farming: A Spirit of Ecofeminism in India

Arcadiana, BLOG, Ecofeminism

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), organic farming is a production management system that is unique and promotes biological cycles, biodiversity, and biological activity in the soil [4]. This is accomplished by using biological, mechanical, and farm-based agronomic approaches while reducing the amount of synthetic farm input from outside sources.

The primary goal of organic farming is to enhance the interdependent communities of flora, animals, soil, and humans as well as their ability to produce food and maintain their health (Scialabba and Hattam, 2002) [6].

Origin of Organic Farming in India

The main historical examples of organic agriculture in India revolve around the following:

Period/Literature  Description of organic farming
Ancient periodNeolithic civilizations used this 10,000-year-old tradition, which was also embraced by Mesopotamian and other civilizations like the Hwang-Ho.
RamayanaDead matter that returns to the earth, such as trash or rotting corpses, is transformed into nutrient-rich material. According to C. Rajagopalachari, it is Mother Earth’s power.
Mahabharata (5500 BC)There have been references to the celestial cow, Kamadhenu. Its contribution to human existence and function in ensuring soil fertility has been described.
Arthashastra by Kautilya (300 BC)Refers to various kinds of manure, including oil cakes and animal excrement.
Brihad-Sanhita by VarahmihirExplains the numerous ways to collect manure and how to choose the right manure for different types of crops.
Rig-Veda (2500–1500 BC)The Rig Veda 1,161,10 (written between 2500 and 1500 BC) and the Atharva Veda II 8.3 (written around 1000 BC) both provide descriptions of organic farming. In Vrksayurveda, Surpala also makes reference to manure. According to the Sukra, a plant needs water, meat, excrement from cows, goats, and sheep, among other things, to develop healthily (IV, V, 94, 107-112).
Holy Quran (590 AD)An indication of harvest and recycling is the return of one-third of the portion removed from the soil.

Source: Bhattacharya and Chakraborty, 2005

Organic Farming and Indian Women

In the arena of Indian culture, a woman is particularly called “Prakriti” which in its literal sense means “Nature”[8]. Prakriti is the feminine essence for conservation, development, and being purely ecological. She is also referred to as “Shakti”, who furnishes energy to steer the living system.

In present times, the organic farming movement has taken the form of a social movement. India, the holder of the oldest agricultural fields in the entire world where agriculture has been practiced for around 10,000 years, has women as the leaders in organic farming [2]. Indian female farmers devote a significant amount of their work hours on farmlands, which is much above than those invested by male farmers. During the sowing and harvesting seasons, women spend 3300 hours on the fields while men do it for 1860 hours [3]. Women’s contribution to nature supports sustainable development and agricultural systems. This hypothesis develops a stronger bond between women and organic farming.

In the Odagaon region of Nayagarh district, Odisha, an area of 90 acres of degraded forest has been transformed into a forest that provides food for the nearby population. The idea of change was first sown in Sabarmatee’s mind in the 1980s, when she began experimenting with her father on the land for cultivating organic food [5]. Later, when the efforts started to bear fruit, a non-governmental organization called Sambhav was founded. Today, this organization is aimed at promoting ecological conversation, women capacity, and organic farming. Sabarmatee has done a brilliant job of collecting and preserving 800 varieties of seeds of indigenous origin, which have a strong relationship in combating climate change. Greater than 30 varieties of seeds withstood the cyclonic storms between the time periods 2013-2014.

Rohibai Popre has the face of a leader of the organic farming movement in Maharashtra [9]. Without any formal education, Rohibai has been successful in leading a women-oriented agro-biodiversity initiative. She has cultivated 17 crop varieties on 50 acres of farmland and shares her knowledge with 3,500 farmers. Her seed bank is meant for the conservation of 122 landraces of 32 crop varieties.

Bibi Kamaljit Kaur made her endeavor in the field of organic products and farming. Around 39% of the soil in Punjab is absolutely degraded owing to over irrigation. In 2019–20 and 2020–21, the use of pesticides was 4995 MT (technical grade) and 5193 MT (technical grade), respectively, in the state of Punjab [1]. With keeping in mind the paramount damage caused to the environment from the aforementioned factor, organic farming being done by Bibi Kamaljit Kaur in Punjab has assisted in breaking the toxic web of inorganic farming based on pesticide and chemical use. After participating in a seminar by the Agriculture Heritage Mission, Bibi Kaur learned about the negative impacts of pesticides on the environment and human health. Soon she got trained and well-informed about organic farming and started to practice the same in her kitchen garden. She had reached farmers from over 20 neighboring villages and imparted knowledge about the deadly consequences of using harmful chemical fertilizers. Inspired by her, the villages of Bhotna, Malliya, and Chughan have undergone a shift towards organic farming. Presently, she has received overwhelming support from 2000 women farmers and runs 2000 organic kitchen gardens.

Two villages named Damodarpur and Murakhati in the Jhargram district of West Bengal narrate the revolutionary stories of two women organic cultivators.Panchabati BaskeandNirmala Mahato have seeded organic indigenous rice varieties in their individual villages. These women organic farmers are leading movements at the grassroots level. 55 male and 21 female farmers are each associated with them in Damodarpur and Murakhati villages, helping and making each other realize the power of organic agriculture and womanhood [7]. Rice varieties, namely Kalabhat, Sathia, Kerala Sundari, and Mallifullo, are being grown in the district. With time, the number of women organic cultivators has increased to over 4500 in all 5 gram panchayats of Block Nayagram in the district Jhargram. As per Panchabati, they are saving Rs 4000-Rs 5000 per bigha[1] in relation to fertilizers, and there is hardly any difference witnessed in the crop yield. For additional income plates made up of sal leaves are sold by the women supported by the women enterprise Aamon.


Organic farming has done the work of improving women’s role in Indian agriculture. The above-listed real-life examples are a clear indication of the same. This process of women’s involvement in organic farming needs to be constantly ameliorated. Active entrepreneurship opportunities, education, social and environmental justice, equity, farming rights, training, and skill development are some of the ways that can assure their vital contribution to organic farming. This must continue.


  1. CONSUMPTION OF CHEMICAL PESTICIDES IN VARIOUS STATES/UTs DURING 2017-18 TO 2021-22. (2022, July 22). Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine, and Storage, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
  2. Fernandes, S. (2017, June 17). Farming took root in India only 10,000 years ago, study finds. Hindustan Times. znhMgOYjQOWWtgX49PkUsJ.html
  3. Kamdar, B. (n.d.). Women grow as much as 80% of India’s food – but its new farm laws overlook their struggles. The Conversation.
  4. Organic Agriculture: What is organic agriculture? (n.d.).
  5. Padma Shri For Father-Daughter Who Transformed Wasteland Into A Forest. (n.d.).
  6. Scialabba, N. & C. Hattam, Eds. (2002). Organic agriculture, environment and food security. Environment and Natural Resources Series. Rome, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (n.d.-b).
  7. Singh, S. S. (2022, August 21). Women farmers of Bengal’s Jhargram reap fortunes with organic rice. The Hindu.
  8. The Incarnate Word. (n.d.).
  9. Wikipedia contributors. (2022, July 25). Rahibai Soma Popere. Wikipedia.

[1] Bigha is a unit for land measurement in northern India.

Sonali Sharma is the author of this post.

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