Monday, January 31, 2011

Stories of Hope I: Women Changemakers in the Field

Ram Ratti, Master Trainer with the
Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG)

Photo Credit: Arshinder Kaur
This inspiring story of an Indian woman farmer is a testament to the change women bring to their families and communities when given access to training and resources. This interview was taken by Arshinder Kaur, WEA’s India Coordinator, during her visit to Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) in Uttar Pradesh.

Ram Ratti is a knowledgeable woman farmer, a landowner and a powerful leader who has challenged social norms in her community. She has practiced sustainable farming methods in her farm for the past 10 years thanks to the training she received from GEAG.

Drawing upon her GEAG training in sustainable agriculture, Ram Ratti generated enough savings from the sale of her produce to purchase one acre of fertile land in her community. Now a proud land owner, she uses inter-cropping and crop rotation practices learned from GEAG to increase the productivity of her farm naturally and improve soil fertility. She grows bananas , shatalu vines, kidney beans, rice, peas and radishes. She works hard to maximize her agricultural output during dry season harvests, cultivating over 32 crop varieties each season. Monsoons are often devastating in Ram Ratti’s village, halting farming for two months and flooding her land with over two feet of water. To mitigate the devastating effect of monsoon floods, Ram Ratti cultivates flood resistant shatalu vines—a technique learned from GEAG—to provide food during the monsoon months.

As a result of her GEAG training, Ram Ratti has taught 200 women in her village sustainable agriculture practices; ninety of these women are now smallholder organic farmers with a diverse group of crops cultivated from local seed varieties. Ram Ratti is also challenging stigmas surrounding female attendance at GEAG extension services in her village. Prior to Ram Ratti’s farming success, many women in Ram Ratti’s village would not attend these trainings because of the stigmas attached to a woman attending trainings alone. As a result, others often mocked her because she continued to attend GEAG’s trainings. The social ridicule she faced, however, dissipated when Ram Ratti saved enough to buy her own piece of land. Inspired by her example, women in her village began attending evening extension classes and developed a voice in farm management practices. Recently, Ram Ratti bought a bore well for her village to reduce everyday burden of women to fetch water. This has improved the productivity of women in her village. As a result of the GEAG training, Ram Ratti is creating adaptive solutions to climate change in her community, and is empowering other women in her community to become environmental stewards and self-sufficient organic farmers.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ecocentric Blog Publishes an Exclusive Interview with Melinda Kramer

Melinda Kramer, Founder and Co-Director of Women's Earth Alliance
"I believe in the power of everyday people to transform our world. I am committed to this work because I believe there needs to be a shift of power into the hands of grassroots communities that now, more than at any point in history, have the opportunity to learn from each other, to link up their efforts and to co-design a way forward." - Melinda Kramer

On January 13, 2011, the Ecocentric Blog published an exclusive interview with Women's Earth Alliance founder and co-director Melinda Kramer. During her exciting interview Melinda offered a raw look into the creation of Women's Earth Alliance, her strategic vision for future growth and her belief in the power of every individual to create change. Click here to read more.

2010 India Progam Kick-Off Event

The WEA team plants the seeds of the India Women and Food Initiative
On the evening of December 15, 2010,  the Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) proudly planted the seeds of our 2011 India Women and Food Initiative with members of the community. The launch of this exciting new initiative embodied the spirit of India through live classical Indian music performed by Aharon Wheels Bolsta and delicious cuisine and chai. During the program, Joanna Macy shared inspiring words honoring India’s traditional seed keepers, women farmers, and their role in conserving the diversity of crops. Drew Dellinger offered two moving poems that spoke to the urgency of environmental action. The night culminated with the official launch of the India Women and Food Initiative by Rucha Chitnis, WEA’s India director. 
During her talk, Rucha described her recent partnership-building visit to India, where she identified WEA’s grassroots partner in India, the Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, who is our key ally to co-design the 2011 capacity building training in India. The India Women and Food Initiative will build the capacities of rural women leaders who are implementing climate change solutions in their communities and are advancing the rights and dignity of small and marginalized women farmers.  Through this initiative, we will provide ecological farming training, appropriate technology, rights education, and seed funding to grassroots Indian women leaders to improve food and economic security, preserve the environment and traditional knowledge, and build political will.
In India, Rucha met with many landless and marginalized women farmers, who are fighting for their rights and are protecting their natural resources. Their rallying chants remind us of the power of women to inspire change throughout the world--“We are the women of India. We are not delicate flowers. We are the fire! We are the spark!”

We invite you to join our initiative and view more pictures of the evening!