I recently had the chance to watch a short documentary called Himalayan Grains (directed by Luke Namer and Sebastian Buffa), which is based on the Gene Campaign and tells the story of an inspiring women's farming cooperative in Northern India. The film premiered at the Woodpecker International Film Festival, and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I was blown away by it. 

Photo courtesy of Luke Namer and Sebastian Buffa

As an Indian myself, this film really hit close to home because it dealt with two major obstacles facing the nation today—its agricultural crisis, as well as the role of women in the economy. India is highly dependent on wheat and rice, even though they are neither weather resilient nor very nutritious. This is one of the main issues tackled by scientist and activist Dr. Suman Sahai, who pioneered this campaign to reclaim the practice of growing the highly nutritious traditional crops of India, such as buckwheat, millets and amaranth.

Photo courtesy of Luke Namer and Sebastian Buffa

What really amazed me about this movement, however, was the fact that the campaign is entirely run by women—from its leadership to execution. Why does that matter? For starters, farming and agricultural labour are conventionally viewed as a "man's job."

Interestingly, India is now seeing a reverse in this pattern, with an increasing female farmer population. As Dr. Sahai explains in the film, "the state of Uttarakhand is carried on the shoulders of its women." This makes movements like the Gene Campaign all the more important not only as an agricultural revolution, but also a means of providing women a framework of how to be efficient farmers and leaders of the agricultural sector. 

Himalayan Grains does a fantastic job at highlighting the importance and impact that such campaigns can have on communities by telling us the story of these incredible women. As one of the filmmakers, Luke Namer, put it in his conversation with me, "It's about how heritage can be the solution to so many modern issues, from nutrition deficiencies to the economic empowerment of women." To me, this captures the very essence of the film. You can find the 15-minute documentary here.

Photo courtesy of Luke Namer and Sebastian Buffa

As the conversation about feminism is taking the global stage for Women's History Month, this thought-provoking documentary is a must-watch for anyone who's interested in learning more about lesser-known movements that are making great strides in the areas of both agricultural development and women empowerment.

Personally, I also think it's a great way to celebrate and recognize these exceptional women who are leading a silent revolution to empower their communities—through food

Interested in volunteering for the Gene Campaign?

Check this out