Thursday Apr 18, 2024

Episode 14 | Resilient Farming through Collective Action: Reviving Heirloom Grains in Tamil Nadu

With climate change and increased rural-urban migration, how can communities become self-reliant to ensure nutritious food security? In this episode, Feeding City Lab graduate intern Geetha Sukumaran brings listeners along on the Lab team’s recent research trip to South India. They met with local cooks, food retailers, farmers, and farmer collectives to learn about the challenges they face, the solutions they are implementing, and the changes that they advocate in order to create more resilient foodways. The episode spotlights Sheelu, President of the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective, a grassroots organization that brings together more than 100 000 women from across the local food system, including farmers and agricultural labourers, fishers, salt pan workers, cooks, and food processors. Sheelu describes how the Women’s Collective has evolved over the past three decades to focus on the effects of climate change and on finding ways to support farmers.* Heirloom crops – such as the traditional millets that reliably grow even when the rains fail – play a key role. Listeners will learn how women farmers are working together through “seed democracy” to revive heirloom foods - by conserving and exchanging seeds, by promoting access to land, grain processing facilities, and farming tools, by supporting the preparation and distribution of value-added products, and by sharing knowledge from field to kitchen. This episode features an interview with Geetha Sukumaran (recorded in January 2024) and field quotations from Sheelu of the Women’s Collective (recorded in October 2023). 

[* In March 2024, The Women's Collective was recognized at the The Hindu World of Women Awards, receiving The Hindu Excellence in Agriculture & Rural Development Award.] 

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