Why growing turmeric is a big leap forward for women in Yavatmal


India is the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of turmeric in the world accounting for 80 per cent of production and 60 per cent of the world export. But traditionally, young women farmers in the Yavatmal district of Maharashtra have been kept away from turmeric cultivation because of a blind belief that crops would get “polluted and decay” with the shadow or touch of menstruating women. 

Young women challenged this discrimination and have successfully cultivated turmeric and are now gearing up to take their produce to the market when the global demand is witnessing an increasing trend. Also, the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to have engineered a positive demand shift.

‘Family first’

“Last year during the pandemic, when women were discussing organic farming, we decided that the first step would be to cultivate turmeric for our own families. We decided to cultivate everything that is required but some women said that we cannot do it,” says Madhuri Khadse, a farmer.

Turmeric grown in pots by women

Madhuri and a few other women decided to go ahead and challenge the stigma. “It is not that we have ample water for cultivation but some of us have enough water. This is one of the major crops that could fetch money. So why should we be kept away from cultivating it?” she asked. 

Challenging the discrimination 

Yavatmal is infamous for farmer suicides and women farmers here play a pivotal role in cultivation, harvesting, and marketing. Archana Bhoyar says that almost all agricultural activities are carried out by women but they don’t get recognition as farmers. She insisted that women will have to assert their rights to cultivate and market the produce. T

Last year, during the pandemic, women farmers here were experimenting in their fields and many of them cultivated turmeric after an organisation provided them with seeds. They grew them in pots, grow bags and successfully harvested it.

They say that they cultivated and looked after the plants even during their menstrual cycles. Now, the women have decided to cultivate turmeric for the commercial market. 

‘Best in the world’

Indian turmeric is considered to be the best in the world market because of its high curcumin content. The golden spice, also known as Indian saffron, has gained prominence as a major component of spice exports from the country. The total exports of turmeric rose sharply by nearly 41 per cent between the triennium ending (TE) 2017-18 and the TE 2020-21. 

The final produce

The final produce

“Women who cultivate are discriminated at various levels and efforts are made to maintain the status quo. The agrarian crisis is not just about MSP and input and output. It is also about how women in agriculture are suffering because of such discrimination,” says Seema Kulkarni, a member of Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch, a network of civil society groups and women farmers.      

Published on

May 09, 2022

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