Climate Justice and the women’s natural farming movement in Andhra Pradesh, India

Dear Friends,

Many of you will know that the Wages for Housework Campaign, which co-ordinates the Global Women’s Strike, and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has broadened its demand for financial recognition for caring work to include also the care and protection of the planet we all depend on.

Recently, in the course of supporting the farmers’ struggle in India, we were excited to find out about a movement of women farmers in the state of Andhra Pradesh, who are doing agriculture in a way that can have a huge impact, including against global warming. Given the climate emergency we feel it is urgent to spread the word. 

Almost a million farmers, overwhelmingly women in self-help groups, are replacing industrial monoculture agriculture (dependent on poisonous and expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides) with “natural farming”. The result is: 

·       the regeneration of the soil so that it is better able to produce crops in times of either drought or flood 

·       yields that are at least as high 

·       food that is truly nutritious and supportive of health

·       a lowering of farmers’ costs and therefore a rise in their income 

·       a decrease in the farmers’ workload as crops require less maintenance.     

The UN has made a two-minute video introducing the Andhra Pradesh women farmers: HERE

In a longer video, a panel explains the method they are using and the science behind it: HERE

It is clear from the report of the impressive 2020 global exchange on agroecology held in Karnataka, that Indigenous peoples and small farmer communities in a number of countries are engaged in natural farming. Historically, some never practiced anything else. If such regenerative approaches, adapted to specific conditions, are widely followed, the planet’s soil will have a chance to restore the water cycle which determines the climate. This can help stop global warming and even be key to reversing it.

The international governmental target of holding global warming to 1.5C, which is not even being adhered to, is a disaster we can see happening before our eyes. Fossil fuels continue unabated to speed up climate change as well as killing millions every year by polluting the air, the land and the water. Their extraction must be urgently stopped. 

But this on its own is not enough.

The subsistence and community farmers in our network are urging us to also focus on regenerating the soil and supporting those who do it. Millions of small farmers are being persecuted by multinationals stealing their land for logging, industrial agriculture, meat production, mining, mega-dams, fossil fuel extraction, etc. – all contributing to the climate emergency which is threatening life on earth.

As Indigenous communities are also pointing out, though they are less than 5% of the human population, they support around 80% of the planet’s remaining biodiversity. To quote one of the women collective farmers in our network in Thailand: “We care for the land as we care for our families.” But instead of protection, those who respect the land and the natural world are under attack even by “green technologies”.

We hope you are encouraged to watch the videos on Andhra Pradesh and to spread the word. The speakers on the longer video are: 

·       Vijay Kumar, an adviser to the government of Andhra Pradesh who has been working to eradicate women’s rural poverty for decades and has been key in spreading the use of natural farming.

·       Walter Jenhe, a microbiologist from Australia who has studied the interaction of soil, water, plants and sun, and the water cycle on which the climate and all life on land depend. 

·       US Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), an organic farmer since the 70s, who has tabled a bill which would begin to transform agriculture toward natural methods. 

Vijay Kumar also urges that farmers transforming the land in this way should not be entirely dependent on the market – they should be entitled to an income for their work for all humanity. We agree absolutely. You can watch our webinar at the Landworkers’ Alliance COP26 fringe HERE.

The yearlong Indian farmers protest we were supporting, in December won the repeal of three farm laws that would have put major corporations in charge of all agriculture further endangering the soil and the lives and livelihoods of millions. This would have had wide implications for agriculture internationally. The farmers ongoing demands include: “We want incentives and support to be provided to our farmers for them to shift to sustainable farming practices … and for shifting out of the current monocultures.”.

We hope you will circulate widely this news about the women farmers of Andhra Pradesh as part of the movement against climate change. We would be glad to discuss what you think are the best ways of spreading this information and learning more. 

For more about our Care Income Now campaign and our 50th anniversary events see HERE

Power to natural farming,

Ananya, Dean, Didi, Liz, Nina, Sam, Sara, Selma, Solveig