This year’s theme for the International Day of Rural Women is “Building rural women’s resilience in the wake of COVID-19”. On this occasion, we have asked CGIAR centers and programs to describe how their research is supporting rural women during times of crises. This post, by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is one in series of responses.
By Nima Chodon and Wasim Iftikar
Women farmers in Odisha, India, successfully shoulder responsibility in leading their families through the COVID-19 crisis.
Sashimoni Lohar, a fifty-three-year-old from Badbil village, in Odisha, is like any other woman you would encounter in India’s rural heartlands. Her life is mostly confined within the boundaries of her home and farm.
The COVID-19 lockdown has been hard on people across India, but particularly agonizing for families like Lohar’s. Both her sons lost their jobs as laborers, one in a town near home, and the other in a city in a different state. Her younger son Debodutta, a migrant laborer stuck in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru when the midnight lockdown was announced, managed to survive and returned home two months later, aggrieved and penniless. Her husband remained the only earning family member, though on a meager salary, and the family dreaded not only the virus but hunger, as the small reserve of income and rations they had was coming to an end.
Lohar was the only one who refused to give up hope. With support from her village self-help group (SHG), she cultivated two acres of hybrid maize this year. The income generated through selling the crop at a roadside stall next to her farm ensured the wellbeing of her family in this critical period. For a brief time, along with her husband’s small income, she became the provider for the family with seven mouths to feed during the lockdown.
Lohar did worry for her jobless sons’ futures but believed that as a successful maize farmer with the skills acquired in the last few years, she can do even better. “Maize farming has supported us during this low-income and very critical period. I shall continue maize cultivation and hope to increase our lease in land next year,” said a visibly triumphant Lohar.