17 July 2009

Changemakers Rural Solutions Winners: Women, Water, Traditional Farming Methods

The Ashoka's Changemakers community has selected three winners in its global search for innovative solutions to rural development and sustainable agricultural issues. Earlier this month I wrote about the ten finalists.

The winners, one each from India, Uganda and Brazil, cover traditional farming methods, female farmer empowerment, and integrated farming for small farms.

In Uganda, Dr. Mwalimu Musheshe helps smallholder farmers share and benefit from traditional farming methods through the Uganda Rural development and Training Programme.

Property rights and land ownership is something we take for granted in the west. Farmers across rural developing nations, however, farmers, especially women farmers, have little or no access to such ownership, which negatively affects their ability to pursue their livelihoods, feed their families, and send their kids to school. Now an Indian organization known as SRREOSHI puts land into the hands of groups of women farmers in West Bengal, a positive step to protecting women's rights and giving them control over the land they are cultivating.

The third winner is AgĂȘncia Mandalla DHSA of Brazil, which promotes an integrated farming system employing the latest appropriate technologies and farming methods to small farm plots in both rural and urban areas.

Support from competition sponsors the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides each of the winners with a $5,000 prize and collaborative support to expand their work in rural agriculture and development. The Gates Foundation's Agricultural Development Program has a larger partnership with Ashoka to find the best innovations in rural development and agriculture.

"Being recognized among the most innovative solutions for rural communities is a pretty big achievement for us," said Tarcio Handel da Silva, Executive Director of AgĂȘncia Mandalla DHSA. "It has maximized our motivation to keep replicating our work in knowledge and social change."

(Disclosure: The author was part of the team that developed the partnership between Ashoka and the Gates Foundation for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship to Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and India.)