Meghalaya State in India promotes organic agriculture and recently stopped subsidies for chemical fertilizers. To explore potato farmers’ gendered perceptions of and responses to this state policy, a case study was conducted in October 2017 in the matrilineal Khasi community. Prior to in-depth interviews with women and men farmers, this study used gender-responsive participatory videos as an ice breaking activity to build relationships with farmers, as well as a brainstorming session to facilitate the farmers’ discussions on organic potato farming.
Four volunteers (two males and two females) from two villages were invited to the video training. Village officers and some active women and men farmers from each village were also invited to participate in the video training as their understandings were critical to this activity being accepted by village farmers. During the training, the volunteers learnt not only technical skills of using a camera, but also the concept of gender-responsive participatory approaches in which ideas from various socio-economic and age groups of men and women are included in the video. We discussed what stories and messages could be taken, how to approach farmers for their participation and gender-sensitive ways of communication. The volunteers spent three days recording, and the video was edited at a minimum level.
A video showing event was held in each village and was attended by around 22 and 35 villagers respectively. This was the first time for both villages to watch videos/movies as a community. In one village, electric wires were connected into the community hall for this event. After watching the videos, we had a discussion session to exchange ideas about organic farming.
The impact of the participatory videos was more than expected. The villagers were excited and appreciated being involved, and there were very lively, informative discussion, revealing three key advantages of conducting the participatory videos. Firstly, this activity opened the door for us to interact with the community. A volunteer, Ms. Manrihun Lyngdoh said that “I feel that this initiative has benefitted this farming community by making it more open, and it has brought the message that farmers should not be so scared of new activities carried out in the village which contribute to their wellbeing”. Secondly, the video event helped raise the confidence of both male and female farmers, as well as the video volunteers. The village leader of Wahlynkien said “this was the first time in the village history that villagers made a video. This farmer-orientated approach was a great initiative to empower farmers”. A volunteer, Mr.Kwelstar Warjri said “the farmers were proud of being
part of the video. I am very grateful and delighted that I am a part of the video shooting and had such an opportunity to discuss with farmers”. A third benefit was that the experience enabled farmers to understand socially inclusive approaches in which different age and socio-economic groups of men and women’s voices are equally heard. A volunteer videographer, Ms.Juliana Pathaw said, “there are both positive and negative opinions about converting to organic farming but understanding both views is important”. Overall, this event enabled us to comfortably conduct in-depth interviews, as the villagers accepted our research project and welcomed us.
From a gender perspective, in the Khasi community, being matrilineal, women can freely voice their opinions and concerns in the community. Therefore, both men and women volunteers worked together on shooting the videos. Yet, men and women have different roles in farming and hence they have different concerns over organic farming. By explicitly highlighting gender dimensions during the video training and in a video showing event, farmers were enabled to raise their gender specific concerns during the in-depth interviews. In those contexts where women have social constraints that prevent them participating in this kind of event, we need specific strategies, such as forming women-only groups and/or arranging the video showing event for women at times when they are not busy with domestic tasks, and in, for them, easily-accessible locations.
- Nozomi Kawarazuka – International Potato Center
- Adelbert Kharlyngdoh – International Potato Center
- Evanylla Marbaniang – Meghalaya Basin Development Authority, Meghalaya, India
- Audrihyneia Syndor – Meghalaya Basin Development Authority, Meghalaya, India
We thank the video volunteers and farmers who participated in video-shooting and showing events. We also thank the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA) for their technical and institutional support. This research was undertaken as part of, and funded by, the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), and was supported by CGIAR Fund Donors. Funding support for this work was also provided by FoodSTART+ project and MBDA.