How Women Are Changing the Face of Farming
In an earlier post, I shared how a lot of my writing in Uzbekistan would somehow related to water. An interesting fact I learned early on in this water-journey is that approximately 90% of the nation’s water consumption is for agriculture. So it means that the water projects are often tied to how farmers work and their views on the water.
If I was going to see “water + farmers”, it was apparent that the region to go to travel to is the Fergana Valley – hailed for its abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. As we drove closer to the Fergana region, all I was seeing was grapevines and cherry trees outside people’s home. The abundance of sunshine makes agriculture bloom and become extra sweet.
But as much as the fruit need sunshine, they also need water. In Kuva district in Fergana region, water scarcity was very much felt. In 2015 lands were completely barren and dry until one woman dramatically turned things around.
In the traditionally male-dominated sector of agriculture, it seems like an unlikely a single woman was pioneering a movement to manage water and bring agriculture to this region. I spoke to Mastura Sayfutdinova who shared how she transformed a community and empowered other women to step out and start farming.
In 2015, this who district had been a sort of dry wasteland. There were only sparse patches of farming. Mastura felt that is proper water management could take place, there was a chance for farming to thrive. She told me that she starting farming where she was very young, “It’s all about having a passion and interest in what you do. The rest is up to hard work”
Mastura started to rally with policymakers and the district government with the hope to irrigate the land and make it a fertile ground for farming. She proudly picks up a strawberry (possibly the largest I have ever seen) and hands it to me during our conversation. I eat it and it’s juicy and sweet.
After “hard work” she says, slowly this district is transforming. Mastura hard work has been recognized by many and it’s clear that she is a respected woman. With a mouth full of strawberries, I ask her, “Are there any woman farmers here?”
“There’s are more and more woman who are farming. About 25% I would say are women. I hope this [number] will grow.”
It seems that there’s a clear shift happening – what was once hailed as men only world because farming required brute strength, is now changing as farming is about thinking, planning and managing – an attribute that women are proving on the farms.
I learned that many women in the rural regions of Uzbekistan take traditional roles to stay at home and support the family in the confines of their house, yet more and more woman are feeling inspired to support their families by stepping outside and finding opportunities in open spaces.