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Eco-Feminism: Sustainable Agriculture & Social Justice

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The Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) curated a three-day online certificate training course, “Feminism: Theory and Praxis,” offering participants a profound journey through the realms of feminist thought. Beyond a mere exploration, the program provided a holistic view, unraveling the historical threads and contemporary expressions of feminism. Subjects ranged from various feminist movements and the intricacies of intersectionality to the influential role feminism plays in addressing global challenges. Additionally, participants gained insights into effective strategies for shaping policies that embrace gender inclusivity. 

The last speaker of the day was Ms. Farida Akhtar who delivered a compelling presentation on Eco-Feminism, providing a unique perspective rooted in practical experience rather than theoretical academia. She emphasized the intersection of her passion for nature and societal connections with the work of her organization, Ubinique, a policy research organization in Bangladesh. 

Ms. Akhtar’s understanding of Eco-Feminism evolved not through academic theories but through hands-on work in ecological agriculture. She highlighted the need for a paradigm shift in understanding and cultivating relationships with nature, challenging the patriarchal norms entrenched in corporate agriculture and industrial food production. 

One of the central themes of her work involved advocating for the transformation of the fossil fuel-based industrial civilization and countering corporate control of the global economy. She stressed the importance of feminist principles in caring for, conserving, and regenerating the value of all life forms. This perspective emerged not only from Ms. Akhtar’s practical work but also from her association with activists like Professor Maria Miz. 

She paid tribute to Professor Maria Miz, a university professor, academician, and activist who co-authored the book “Eco Feminism” with Dr. Vandana Shiva. Ms. Akhtar acknowledged Miz’s influence on her work and shared Miz’s concern about the impact of environmental disasters, such as the Chernobyl catastrophe and the destruction of olive trees in Palestine. 

The presentation delved into the historical roots of Eco-Feminism in South Asia, specifically mentioning Lila Withi or Connor, a legendary figure known for her wisdom in astronomy, meteorology, and agricultural practices. Ms. Akhtar argued that the rich history of feminine knowledge in South Asia often gets overlooked when using Western-coined terms like Eco-Feminism. 

Practical Application of Eco-Feminism in Bangladesh

In the second part of the presentation, Ms. Akhtar discussed her organization’s work in Eco-Feminist practices in Bangladesh. She emphasized the importance of seed sovereignty and showcased the Nikrishi movement, a women-led initiative focused on sustainable agriculture.

The movement involves the conservation, distribution, and enhancement of seeds among female farmers, contributing to in situ and ex situ conservation. 

Ms. Akhtar highlighted the Krishi Seed Network, where women play a pivotal role in preserving specific varieties of seeds, including disaster management seeds resistant to floods, droughts, and other environmental challenges. The movement opposes genetically modified crops that threaten 

traditional practices and advocates for a diversified, environmentally friendly approach to farming. 

Additionally, she addressed the negative impact of tobacco cultivation on the environment and public health, advocating for a shift back to food production. The presentation showcased the resilience of Nikrishi farmers against external pressures from corporations promoting corporate-based seeds. 

Furthermore, Ms. Akhtar discussed the celebration of Chaitra Sankranthi, a cultural practice ensuring renewable food sources for the future. She emphasized the importance of uncultivated food sources, which are often overlooked in modern agriculture due to the use of chemicals. 

The presentation concluded with a powerful visual representation of the impact of Eco-Feminism, including images of women harvesting olives in Palestine, showcasing the diverse varieties of seeds preserved by women, and highlighting the intricate knowledge possessed by women about medicinal and nutritional plants. 

Ms. Farida Akhtar effectively communicated the essence of Eco-Feminism through her lived experiences, tying together the importance of feminist principles, environmental sustainability, and the preservation of traditional knowledge. Her presentation shed light on the need for a holistic and inclusive approach to agriculture, challenging the dominant narratives of industrialization and corporate control.

Acknowledgment: Reet Lath is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here:

Kannada Feminism: Literary Traditions & Research Discourses

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