Gujarat has much going for it. Most profoundly Indias founding father Mahatma Gandhi came from this most Western state of India. Then, it boasts the fastest growing state economy in the nation. Part of that is evidenced in it being one of the most industrialised states in India.
But for small and marginal farmers in the Mehsana district this rapid industrialization manifested itself in these farmers losing access to land. Too much irrigation reduced the water table in the area and it therefore became too expensive. These farmers were forced to seek casual work or to migrate elsewhere. Women farmers in this area were even worse hit.
With the help of the SEWA trade union, the women organized themselves into the Vanlaxmi Womens Tree Growing cooperative. They fought for two and a half years to regain access to land on which to farm.
It was by taking another legal approach that the solution became obvious. These women gained access to state land by registering a tree growers cooperative rather than an agricultural cooperative. They then got access to land that was government wasteland.
The women learnt how to maximize their production with the help of the Gujarat Agriculture University. Using scientific agriculture practices, including horticulture, agro-forestry, drip irrigation, compost pits, and rainwater harvesting techniques, they managed to improve the cooperatives operations.
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