The northwestern state of Punjab, India was the epicenter of the Green Revolution in the subcontinent, as western foundations sponsored a new package of high-yield seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, and farm machinery in the mid-1960s to increase agricultural production in developing countries. The agriculture experiment was initially hailed as a success, as crop yields increased significantly and transformed India from a food importing nation to one that had achieve food self-sufficiency through an increase in the production of grains and cereals. Today, however, four decades after the agricultural experiment began, government and academic circles are finding that the Green Revolution’s exclusive focus on production and crop yields did not take into account the environmental and social consequences of the new development model and has posed considerable challenges for the state of Punjab, which is rapidly losing its agrarian base.
This research examines the impact of the Green Revolution on gender and the ecology of Punjab from the perspective of women living in the semi-arid southern Malwa region of the state, an area recognized for the economic and social challenges posed to the farming community. Through several months of ethnographic interviews with seventy elder, middle aged, and adolescent women in the districts of Barnala and Faridkot, participant observation, and document analysis, this research first seeks to examine the changing roles of women in Punjab’s agricultural heritage as the traditional, biologically diverse cropping pattern of the region was replaced with an intensive wheat-paddy cycle to satisfy domestic demand for agricultural commodities. This research further examines how women in these districts are responding to the challenges posed to the ecology of the state in the wake of the Green Revolution by reviving women's spaces in the rural agrarian landscape, in an effort to restore the Punjab’s waning heritage of agricultural biodiversity, household nutritional security, and knowledge of traditional food systems.