PepsiCo and US Agency for International Development (USAID) today acknowledged and awarded six women farmers as part of its ‘Women’s Land Rights and Economic Empowerment’ activity in West Bengal. The awards were handed over by Melinda Pavek, Consul General, US Consulate General, Kolkata and Ronald Verdonk, Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs, US Embassy, at a special felicitation programme organised at PepsiCo’s foods manufacturing plant in Kolkata. The farmers were selected for their extraordinary work in the field of agriculture and for breaking stereotypes in their local communities.
PepsiCo in India has been working towards positively impacting the lives of farmers including women. In 2019, PepsiCo and USAID launched the Women’s Land Rights and Economic Empowerment activity to provide training to women in agriculture as part of its collaborative farming supply chain. Through this partnership, the programme has trained more than 1,000 women in potato agronomy and sustainable farming practices, with a goal of reaching 500 additional women farmers this year.
Today, Shamima Begum and Anwara Begum from West Bengal’s Hooghly district and Sujata Pramanik, Manisha Alu, Tapasi Pal and Anita Singh from Bankura district received awards for breaking the gender stereotypes by learning and implementing best practices related to collaborative potato farming, professionalising their work as farmers. The women have improved their livelihoods as a result of the program. Besides, they have also positively influenced their communities by inspiring other women farmers to join the programme.
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Speaking at the occasion Melinda Pavek, Consul General, US Consulate General, Kolkata said, “Advancing gender equity is fundamental to every individual’s economic security and well-being. The opportunity to meet and learn about the tremendous achievements of women farmers in West Bengal is inspiring. These leaders have truly set a powerful example for others in their communities to emulate. The United States stands committed to supporting programmes that are focused on offering economic opportunities and leadership roles to farmers in India. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate both PepsiCo and USAID for running this programme in West Bengal so effectively. Such programmes go a long way in removing the structural inequalities and helping women farmers realise their immense potential.”
Subrataa Chakraborty, Country Director, ILRG India programme said, “It is a moment of pride for us to see how these women farmers in West Bengal are being acknowledged for their undying spirit and commitment to prove themselves in the largely male-dominated field of agriculture. The specialised training under this programme focuses on elevating the social status of women farmers who have been largely considered farmwives or farm assistants by themselves, and their family members. With great support from PepsiCo India, we would continue to focus on strengthening the capabilities of these women as farmers and as individuals to ensure they contribute to the decision-making process within the families and outside as well.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Pratap Bose, Agro Director, Supply Chain, PepsiCo India said, “The heartening stories of pride and contentment of these women farmers represent the real success of our programme. PepsiCo from day one has focused on bringing these farmers into the company’s supply chain, recognising them as farmers, and developing them as entrepreneurs. The farming community especially women farmers in West Bengal have shown a deep interest in our sustainable farming programme. These women are making concerted efforts to not only participate actively but also bring positive change in the family’s farming practices by breaking gender stereotypes. We believe that the empowerment of women in agriculture and equal access and opportunity will lead to a foundational transformation in India’s rural economy.”
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Sujata Pramanik, a women farmer from Bankura district said, “I would like to thank both PepsiCo and USAID for this great recognition. I would like to dedicate this award to my family who gave me unrelenting support throughout my training. Today, I am not just a potato farmer now, but also a trainer, and a motivator. I can now efficiently manage both my household work and agricultural work. The training from PepsiCo-USAID was my first formal training on farming and I have learned about sustainable farming practices and the role of women in farming. I understand gender dynamics and how they deter women’s empowerment in my community. My example will encourage more and more women in my village to come forward and be a part of the programme.”
USAID India Mission Director, Veena Reddy provided a message to mark the occasion, stating, “At USAID, we believe that when we increase incomes and opportunities for women, entire communities, economies, and countries benefit. USAID is proud to work with PepsiCo India and our partners to increase women’s economic empowerment across the entire supply chain for potatoes. Through this partnership, we are improving women’s access to land, skills, and employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to increase adoption of sustainable farming practices and women’s income and agency, showing that investing in women’s empowerment makes social and economic sense.”
The PepsiCo-USAID Women’s Land Rights and Economic Empowerment activity in West Bengal was also the catalyst for a new five-year, US$20 million partnership between PepsiCo and USAID that plans to support the global food and beverage leader’s efforts in Uttar Pradesh (India), Colombia, Vietnam, and Pakistan to empower women in agriculture and help build a more sustainable food system. The goal of the project is to drive inclusivity across the food and beverage industry by demonstrating that actively engaging women as critical drivers of PepsiCo’s sustainable sourcing strategy leads to better business results.