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Plant clinics boost women’s empowerment through biopesticide production groups


Women in the farming workforce often lack decision-making power and engage in manual labour on family-run farms. However, home-based agricultural “cottage” industries are helping to improve their income. In Tamil Nadu, India, women have formed biopesticide production groups that have become commercially successful with the support of the PlantwisePlus programme. The connection between plant clinics and the groups has been instrumental in the women’s empowerment, with plant doctors recommending eco-friendly alternatives to farmers, causing the farmers to seek out products from the women’s groups.

The story

Globally, women make up 43% of the farming workforce. But on family-run farms, they rarely control decision-making and often work in manual labour. However, home-based agricultural ‘cottage’ industries are helping to boost women’s incomes.

In India’s state of Tamil Nadu, women have been creating biopesticide production groups, like the Ellya Thendral group. Here, they produce fungal biopesticides – eco-friendly pest control products. Historically, the groups have not always been commercially viable. But the PlantwisePlus programme is helping to change this.

In 2011, CABI and partners set up Plantwise plant clinics in Tamil Nadu. People started to notice a change. As the plant clinics became more established, the number of farmers visiting cottage industries for eco-products increased. The women’s biopesticide groups started to thrive commercially.

Moreover, people noticed that as the groups thrived, the women did too. They become more confident, articulated themselves more clearly and engaged more in community life. As a result, they were able to secure capital ownership, credit, and leadership roles. Why was this happening?

In 2021, CABI studied the source of this empowerment. The research revealed a close connection between plant clinics and women’s biopesticide production groups. Women in Tamil Nadu who engaged in cottage industries increased their empowerment through the operation of local production hubs for biopesticides, especially when those hubs were linked to a network of plant clinics.

The connection was clear. Plant doctors advised farmers on plant health. They recommended eco- friendly alternatives to chemical pest control, like biopesticides. The farmers then used this advice to seek out biopesticide products from women’s groups like Ellya Thendral.

With support from plant clinics, women in Tamil Nadu have strengthened their cottage industries. The biopesticide production hubs that are linked to plant clinics empower them, nurturing successful businesses.

Sustainable Development Goals

No Poverty

Helping small-scale farmers improve their livelihoods by providing knowledge about plant health and access to markets.

Zero Hunger

Developing a sustainable food system that helps smallholders meet the world's growing need for food.

Gender Equality

Empowering women and young people to play a more powerful role in the future of agriculture.

Responsible Consumption and Production

Helping grow more from less land by introducing higher-yielding and environmentally responsible food production techniques.

Climate Action

Helping agricultural sector to supply sufficient, safe and nutritious food, embedded in a healthy and climate resilient landscape

Partnerships for the Goals

Organizations must develop and enhance partnerships to find the best and most sustainable solutions to the world's challenges.

Related projects


Worldwide, over 500 million smallholder farmers provide food for two-thirds of the earth’s growing population. Achieving a zero hunger world by 2030 depends on increasing the productivity of these smallholder farmers – but their crops face a significant threat. Yearly, an estimated 40% of crops grown worldwide are lost to pests. If we could reduce crop losses by just 1%, we could potentially feed millions more people. The lack of access to timely, appropriate and actionable extension advice makes it a fundamental challenge for farmers to get the right information at the right time to reduce crop losses.

Start: 01/01/2011