With their touch, paddy fields in Thrissur erupt in green

With their touch, fallow paddy fields erupt again in green. When women started wielding the plough on farmlands left fallow in Thrissur district, it was revolutionary.

The Green Army they formed has been breaking many myths, equipped with modern farm equipment and interventions and changing the way farming has been done all these years. They make women’s empowerment come true and achieve greater farm productivity.

The trained farm labour bank of women, formed by the Wadakkanchery block panchayat three years ago, has become a boon for the agriculture sector facing a labour drought. The skilled labourers take up work for the Padasekhara Samithis (paddy clusters) which register with the Green Army.

Anoop Kishore, chief coordinator of the labour bank, says: “We formed the Green Army in 2010 with a few women labourers from nine panchayats under the block panchayat when farmers started quitting farming because of a severe labour shortage and high costs.”

It proved that with dedication and right techniques, farming can be profitable.

“When the State’s average production is 2.25 tonnes a hectare, we produce 6-8 tonnes. The turnover of the Green Army was Rs. 70 lakh in the first year and Rs. 1.05 crore in the second year; we expect Rs. 3 crore in the current year,” Mr. Kishore says.

The women have mastered the nuances of mechanised farming, from ploughing to repair of machines, hitherto considered a men’s bastion, in no time. Now there are no fallow lands in the 120 clusters of the block panchayat. Land reclamation is lower than in neighbouring districts.

They have entered another male domain — climbing coconut trees. The army has trained 600 women to climb the trees. The Green Army is a recognised training centre of the Coconut Development Board.

It has diversified into vegetable cultivation on 20 hectares of paddy fields post-harvest.

“The army functions democratically. Here, we have teams with six members. Each team has team leaders and five teams make a group. The team members have the freedom to choose the leaders,” Vanja, one of the group leaders, says.

The members get a monthly salary, pension and insurance coverage.

“Most of the farm labourers are migrating to other more remunerative fields. We wanted to bring them back with enough benefits to augment paddy production,” Mr. Kishore says.

The success of the army has encouraged the Kollam and Pathanamthitta district panchayats to form women’s labour bank.

The Green Army is the authorised trainer of the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana, a scheme implemented jointly by the Union and the State governments, for improving the status of women farmers. Under it, a labour bank of 30,000 skilled women farm workers will be formed in Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram districts.