Women farmers capture their experience on camera; make 12 video films

NEW DELHI: A 20-member women-farmers‘ collective from Andhra Pradesh‘s Community Media Trust has stunned the Delhi filmmakers with 12 video films tracing the experience of women in regaining autonomy over food production, seeds, natural resources and markets.

The women, most of them illiterate, shot the films as part of a multi-media publication, Affirming Life and Diversity: Rural Images and Voices on Food Sovereignity. The multi-media publication comprises films that emerged from an action research project on sustaining local food systems, agricultural biodiversity and livelihoods supported by the International Institute for Environment and Development of the UK.

The Community Media Trust, affiliated with Deccan Development Society (DDS is a development organization of Andhra Pradesh) was created to document images and voices of rural women. It aims to create an alternative media that can be accessed and controlled by local communities, especially those who have suffered exclusion. The collective comprises 17 who work in the digital video format while the rest work in radio.

The films were shown at an event jointly hosted by the International Association for Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), and Network for Women in Media.

DDS director P V Satheesh said that the films also showed "their command on autonomous media."

"It was decided to adopt a medium of documentation that could be understood by non-literate partners and be acceptable to other audiences including researchers and scientists. As a result of this conscious approach and given our commitment to work towards the autonomy of local communities, Community Media Trust was set up," he said.

Masanagiri Narasamma, 35-year old member of the collective, associated with the making of the film entitled Onward to Food Sovereignty: The Alternative Public Distribution System of DDS, stated that their experience of running a community-led public distribution system taught them how to revive locally grown crops such as sorghum and millets.

It also helped them learn the process of creating local systems of storage and reach out to the most vulnerable and needy in the community. "It has been done to show the outside world our traditional agriculture knowledge, and preserve it," she emphasized.

Endorsing this in her own way, Sooramma, who is in her late forties, stated, "I am a seed-keeper. I store a variety of valuable seeds in the baskets in my house and with them my own knowledge of farming, environment and life. Since I learnt to use the camera, I am doing the same. I am storing knowledge of my communities with my camera and interpreting them for the outside world which does not know about this."

Also, Jai Chandiram, a well know broadcaster and an ardent advocate of gender sensitive media, stated that the women have "demonstrated the best of indigenous knowledge and through their experience have shown their ability to survive as small farmers and preserve sustainable technologies."

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