Although women account for the bulk of the agrarian labor in states where SSP operates, all decisions related to farming practices and crop cultivation are taken by men who are more inclined towards growing cash crops. With the unpredictable climatic conditions in these regions, growing cash crops is a gamble, which jeopardizes the income and nutrition security of the family in adverse conditions. Despite rural women’s knowledge and active involvement in farming, they are not recognized as farmers.
SSP’s model seeks to empower and recognize rural women as farmers and change-makers by ensuring they get cultivation rights over their family farm and later land rights to make a shift from cash crops to food crops and gain control over selling produce in local markets. SSP partners with several companies through their CSR initiatives and the Government to evolve a women-led climate resilient farming model. As a result, women have taken on new roles as farmers, marketers, resource persons to train and transfer new farmers, and further as leaders and mentors for innovation transfer and replication to scale up the impact.
With a focus on building climate resilience through women’s groups, SSP partners with the Huairou Commission (a global network of grassroots women’s organizations) to facilitate women’s federations to manage a Community Resilience Fund that funds innovative resilience practices such as farm water ponds, plant nurseries, seed banks etc.
SSP has been awarded the United Nations Development Program’s Equator Prize 2017 for devising an ecologically sustainable agriculture model to combat the adverse impacts of drought. SSP was the only Indian organization to win the award, making the cut from 806 from 12 countries.
Without the skills for market opportunity spotting, and knowledge on financial management, women, even though highly interested, often fail to establish, engage or expand their enterprises beyond one or two cycles. The fear of failure, business loss and debts significantly erode the resilience of women entrepreneurs, deterring them from launching new businesses. At the core of SSP’s entrepreneurship programs is the belief that excluded and resource-poor communities can be transformed into hubs of economic growth and social progress if the true potential of grassroots women entrepreneurs is realized.
Use of safe and sustained, water, sanitation facilities, and good hygiene practices can positively affect nutritional outcomes by addressing both immediate and underlying causes of malnutrition. Lack of improved sanitation, in particular, is strongly correlated with acute malnutrition and stunting (low height for age). There are various programs that emphasize linkages among WASH, nutrition, and food security. However, most of these integrated programs are focused on reducing the pathogen load in the environment and overcome the causes of gut dysfunction and infectious diseases, such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection. In a climate threatened region like Marathwada, which has suffered from multiple years of drought which has completely impaired the agriculture sector and especially marginal farmers, there is a dire need to design WASH and nutrition programs which also addresses availability and access to the right quality (adequate macro- and micro-nutrients) and quantity of food. Therefore, in order to achieve these multiple but linked outcomes of WASH and nutrition in the given context of climate change, SSP proposes a coordinated, multi sectoral approach that combines health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and nutrition (food security) security, especially for families with children under 5, focusing on lean period of the year. At the same time the project will have a strong focus on behaviour change communication for improved WASH practices, water management and climate resilient farming for ensuring food & nutrition security and building convergence with other state and national flagships programs on WASH and DRR.