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The land is ours!

A young girl feeding chickens in Narsenahalli village - about 45 kilometres outside the Indian city of Bangalore - where women’s attitudes to their land rights are slowly changing.

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

A group of women assemble on the front verandah of the brightly-coloured school that doubles up as a community meeting point. They are typical of the 'feminisation of agriculture' taking place at a rapid pace in India, and are here to talk about land.

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

The record sheet of a member of the Narsenahalli credit union. The women here are some of the first to challenge the status quo and demand the right to own the title deeds to the land they cultivate.

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

Children play in the dust as the ragi, a local cereal, is separated. The women grow dryland crops such as groundnut, red gram and ragi - most of it for home consumption.

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

Obiaha is separating ragi seed. He has a son at university.

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

Daily wage labourers Kadramma and Muniyappa organically cultivate three acres of land. In 1991 Muniyappa applied, under the land regularisation scheme, for a right to the gomal land they farm (low quality land set aside by the government). But over a decade later nothing has materialised.

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

Munirathnamma eating ragi with her children.

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

At 80 years of age, Thangamma is the oldest member of the village council. Though fragile and stooped, she wants to have the title deeds to the gomal lands that she has helped cultivate ever since she married her husband over 50 years ago. 'I want joint ownership of these lands now,' she says, 'because my son may pawn the land. I want security.'

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

Harish is 19 years old. He is originally from Narsenahalli, but now works as a nurse in Bangalore. As more men move away, land insecurity for women is growing not diminishing. This pushes the need for an urgent focus on their rights - and a clearer understanding of the benefits equal rights will bring - further up the agenda.

Credits: Tom Pietrasik - Panos Pictures

Women farmers have become a dominant force throughout India. Yet, as women in Narsenahalli village are discovering, the slow pace of land and property rights reform has failed to keep up.

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Panos London

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04/17/2008

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