This Women’s Day, FSII celebrates the women in agriculture. Since ages, agriculture sector has been predominantly driven by men. However, with the changing dynamics and more women joining this sector, we wanted to share their story of bringing a change and transforming the sector. We are doing a two-part series where we share some encouraging stories of women from member organisations and women entrepreneurs from the field.

Meet Ms. Annapoornamma C J, an M. Sc (Ag) Crop Physiology who has been working with Noble Seeds Pvt Ltd as a Seed Administrator since 2015. Her initial responsibility was to organize the valuable germplasm used in the breeding program. She used to sort them and ensure that the germplasm is locked in secure carton boxes etc. What started as simple steps grew to become bigger responsibilities. Today, Annapurna takes pride in being able to identify a germplasm within a minute from amongst thousands of germplasms. She has a deep understanding of the breeding processes through her constant and multiple interactions with the breeders and customized softwares. She is also a member of the Internal Complaints Committee (formed to look into Sexual Harassment of Woman at Workplace) and in implementation of company code of conduct and training at the Bangalore Branch.

In her words “There are plenty of opportunities in agriculture for women who chose to assist the plant breeders by maintaining the valuable germplasm and precious data. From my experience I can assure, if one has hunger and dedication to work, there are streams of opportunities in agriculture.” 

Dr Tanushri Kaul, Group Leader – Nutritional Improvement of Crops (NIC) at International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi. Under her leadership, NIC is developing glyphosate-tolerant crops like maize, rice, pigeon pea by gene editing. NIC’s pioneering initiative to compose the Rice bean (Vigna umbellata) with the genome size of ~450MB is the first attempt to achieve rice bean genome by PacBio technology. The group is also involved in developing updated platforms for gene editing along with Artificial Intelligence and Next Generation Sequencing in crops and provide a one-stop junction for sustainable crop improvement. The group is also designing phytase-rich tomatoes, phytate-free cereals, and legumes for alleviating global micronutrient malnutrition by gene editing.

Meet Kalyani Singh, a 24-year-old smallholder tomato farmer based in Jharkhand. She grew up in a small farming family in Tutki Nawadih village in Silli, Jharkhand and has been connected to agriculture since her childhood. Following her father’s footsteps, Kalyani dreamt of farming on their family farm and introduce new farming techniques. She pursued a formal education in Agriculture & Allied Sciences and graduated in 2018 with a B.Sc degree from Ramkrishna Mission Vivekananda University in Ranchi. Her formal education widened her knowledge on several modern farming techniques and helped her develop an entrepreneurial mindset. After her studies, she worked for a brief period in a private organization to earn money to develop her integrated farm. However, she faced several difficulties due to unsuccessful partnership in farmland and the challenge of wild animals around her farmland. Undeterred, she started farming on her own farm. A female agronomist from Bayer introduced Kalyani to the concept of Better Life Farming at her village and she was keen on practicing it for herself. She started cultivating tomatoes in her three acres farm and with the help from Better Life Farming, she achieved a yield increase of 50% and her farm income raised by 40%.  Today she is a proud owner of a Better Life Farming Center in Namkum block of Ranchi and is one of the four women agri-entrepreneurs supported by the Better Life Farming initiative in Jharkhand. Not only has she been able to pursue her dream of entrepreneurship, she is also serving other smallholder farmers in her community with a smile and valuable information. She is currently pursuing a Masters’ degree in Rural Development from IGNOU.

Ms. Bhumika N. Patel holds an M.Sc (Ag) in Genetics and Plant Breeding degree and is currently working as a Jr. Breeder-Okra at Noble Seeds Pvt Ltd. She started her career with the company in 2018. With ample opportunities to employ her academic knowledge and develop skills in practical aspects of Plant Breeding, she is now independently handling the crop Okra. From its line development program to hybrid development, she actively travels across the major okra markets like Guntur (primary breeding location), and Tamilnadu and Gujarat (Trialing locations). This exposure has further helped her get market knowledge and insights into consumer preferences.

In her words “It’s through this exposure that today I am proud to share I have developed 58 advanced segregating generation lines and 3 hybrids (in advanced stage) of Okra. Of these 3 hybrids, one of the hybrids is resistant to Yellow Vein Mosaic Virus and moderate resistant to Enation Leaf Curl Virus and two hybrids have moderate resistance to Yellow Vein Mosaic Virus and Enation Leaf Curl Virus.”

Read our second series to know about more courageous women who have brought a wind of change in this sector.