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Sowing Autonomy: Gender and Seed Politics in Semi Arid India

Carine Pionetti

Book, 240 pages

The author of this book looks in particular at women’s roles in saving and reproducing seed in the drylands of the Deccan Plateau, in South India. Detailed farmers’ accounts of why seed-saving is essential emphasise the interconnectedness between self-reliance in seed, crop diversity and nutrition. By extension, the realms of food culture and religious rituals (which entail the use of traditional crops) are also linked to seed autonomy. What is most significant about the intertwining of seed-saving, crop diversity and nutrition is that these three realms are largely under women’s control. However, the processes of industrialisation and institutionalisation in the seed sector are undermining the very basis of autonomous seed production. A radical re-orientation in public policies is needed to support autonomous seed production in the drylands of South India. Poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation both directly depend on a) the strengthening of diversity-based farming systems, b) institutional support for decentralised seed systems, and c) reversals in policies for technological and legal developments.

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