Women building resilience with sustainable farming

This activity has made women in three different regions of India leaders in climate change resilience by heading up a shift toward sustainable farming. “Changing Leaders” has helped women acquire new skills and information on sustainable agricultural practices like organic farming. It has also promoted women’s abilities to dialogue and partner with a number of actors, including government authorities and private industry, on further solutions to address climate change.

Fast facts:

  • More than 1,000 leaders developed in 50 villages
  • 7,000 families in 70 villages benefitted
  • 10 non-governmental organization partners implementing activities in 30 villages

The problem

Villages in the three Indian states of Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra suffer from acute water scarcity, which leads to recurrent shortages of food and animal fodder. Certain areas within these regions are also subjected to more than one natural disaster at once – communities in Bihar experience floods and droughts in the same year; coastal and farming communities in Tamil Nadu are subject to cyclones, drought, and tsunamis; regions of Maharashtra face crop failure, in addition to water shortages and drought.


Climate change has increased the severity of climatic fluctuations, aggravating the food security situation in such regions. Women, who are largely responsible for feeding their families, bear a disproportionate burden of dealing with such climate change impacts.


The solution

Changing Leaders facilitates women’s groups in identifying local solutions. After mapping local resources and vulnerabilities, women develop innovative and collaborative solutions to climate risks. Regional women’s federations are now participating in group farming, seed bank preservation and exchange, collective organic compost making and vegetable cultivation, inter-crop and mixed crop agriculture practices, mushroom cultivation, and production of handicrafts, among other sustainable shifts.

Partnerships between women’s groups and the government led to the establishment of disaster task forces in some villages, while separate partnerships with private industry involve promotion of solar and efficient cook stoves, or water purification systems.

Helping the planet

Changing Leaders has implemented a number of new practices that conserve water resources, such as cultivating low-water crop varieties, and recharging and strengthening wells and ponds. The shift to organic agriculture has increased soil health, while a return to traditional seed varieties is preserving biodiversity. Partnerships involving solar and efficient products save energy and thus help prevent climate change.


Helping people

The women’s activities include a number of new money-making opportunities, increasing family income and allowing women to send their children to school fully equipped for learning. Organic farming has increased the health and quality of life for these families, as they no longer need to rely upon industrial produce. Raised hand pumps and water purification systems, among other developments, have increased comfort and hygiene for affected communities.

Single mothers and landless women have begun leasing land, thereby earning a living and acting as role models. The project as a whole has repositioned women as leaders and experts in climate adaptation, empowering them and the entire community to become more resilient to climate-related changes.


Spillover effect

The project has already scaled up a number of times, including through multiple partnerships – for example, Changing Leaders’ catalyst organization, Swayam Shikshan Prayog, is currently working with an agricultural university to further organize women farmers into federations. That men in the target communities are also switching from monoculture farming to multiple and food-variety crops demonstrates the ripple effect of the project. Its success indicates further capacity to expand and increase in scale.


Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.