Dressed in a two-piece Sari and a scarf covering her head, she looks like any other village woman walking in her field . However, Tashida Khatoon is no ordinaty woman. She is a leading woman farmer from Bihudia village of central Assam owning a company that sells organic produce across the country and also exports these. Tashida's simple look and high achievements give a lie to the perception that agriculture is a male bastion.
Tashida hails from the Dalgaon agricultural circle of central Assam's Darang district. Her organic vegetables are sold across the markets in Assam, different parts of India, and abroad.
In a conversation with Awaz-The Voice Tashida Khatoon said "I have been involved in agriculture since 2007. In the beginning, I had no idea about agriculture. So, I took training in farming from a neighboring farmer, and then Initially, I started growing cauliflower on only 2 bighas of land and earned Rs. 70,000 in one crop. So, later I started growing various vegetables on my farmland as well as on contract land. Today, I am growing vegetables on 10 bighas of land."
Tashida Khatoon harvesting tomatoes from her organic field
Tashida has been cultivating vegetables like onion, flat beans, snake gourd, cabbage, rice, pepper, capsicum, carrot, maize, eggplant, and fruits like apricot strawberry, etc. She makes good money through her farm and has employed many people, especially young women, to cultivate, harvest, and process the produce.
Tashida's firm Seujimukhi FPC exported high-quality organic flat beans in 2020 to London. “I earned Rs 1 lakh by exporting flat beans grown on just one bigha of land. So, this time I am expanding flat bean (Seam phali) cultivation and will continue exporting to London. I have been selling flat beans and other organically grown vegetables. These vegetables are fetching good prices as the people have become health-conscious and buying only organic ones," Tashida said.
It was not easy for Tashida to take to agriculture and make the most of it. She took it up after her husband fell ill and she was left to support her family of five.
However, today Tashida appreciates that being a woman was never a problem for her while growing crops. She has always received help and support from both her community and family.
Flat Bean or Saem Phali produced in Rashida Khatoon's farm being packed for exports
"I was the first woman in our village to start farming alone. When I started, it was unthinkable in Assam that a woman would do just a work. Nowadays many women are coming forward to do cultivation without men. I think there is nothing that women cannot do. The women must have enough determination, willpower, and strength to do farming," Tashida said.
Tashida has received several awards for her work as a farmer during the last 16 years. She was recently nominated for the ASPEE LM Patel Award by the Government of Assam.
Tashida said she plans to expand her area of cultivation and inspire women to take agriculture as a serious career. "I want to make Assam self-sufficient in organic vegetable products," she said.