Dr. Sharmila Oswal, known as “The Millet Woman of India,” is a Social Entrepreneur who led a revolution in Sustainable farming and Millet cultivation. Her transformation from being behind the “Ghunghat” to leading a global impact in agriculture inspires many.
Dr. Sharmila Oswal grew up in a Marwari family in Kainad, a small village on Maharashtra’s Konkan coast. She was from a patriarchal background where girls had limited opportunities. However, she was determined not to conform to these constraints. She did her primary education in Marathi Medium and then did her Bachelor’s in Pharmacy. She dreams of flying high, becoming a Barrister, and contributing to society.
At 21, she got married, and her true education began after that with the support of her husband. She applied for scholarships at multiple British universities and due to her firm dedication and hard work, she was awarded a full scholarship from the Association of Commonwealth, London. She went to England to get her Master’s in Agricultural and Environmental Law. She practiced in the UK from 1997 to 1999.
After that, she relocated to Canada, and that is when, through Media, she learned about the struggles of farmers in Maharashtra facing droughts, unpredictable weather and financial crises, leading to some tragic suicides.
With her upbringing in a village, Sharmila understood the hardships faced by farmers firsthand, which is why this rising number of farmer deaths troubled her deeply.
She noticed that many government financial aid programs and schemes failed to reach them, resulting in increasing debts and poor living conditions. This inspired her to move back to India with a mission to educate and help farmers.
Following her mission, she first conducted a comprehensive two-year survey across Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra to better grasp the difficulties farmers were experiencing. She soon started the “Green Energy Foundation (GEF),” which is dedicated to offering practical solutions to farming communities.
In 2020, she founded “India Millet Mission” and suggested farmers to grow “Millets” (Jowar, Bajra, Ragi & more) as those crops require a low water supply, grow in any temperature and even in poor quality soil. Also, Millets are healthy and are medicinal crops that boost immunity and cure diabetes and other chronic diseases. Through the India Millet Mission, she also collaborated with chefs to create appealing Millet-based recipes. Also, she was a Director and Advisor of “Pahle India Foundation,” promoting smart Agriculture through Millet Cultivation.
In her continuous research, she found that a lack of water is one of the prime reasons for crops being destroyed, which is why she went to Singapore to do a Water Leadership Programme at Tufts University. Later, she earned the position of Agro-Water Diplomat at MIT Harvard. She used the knowledge she earned to educate farmers in improving their irrigation practices and conserving water effectively, thereby mitigating crop losses.
Dr. Sharmila Oswal is also the co-founder and managing director of “1Organic,” which promotes healthy living and holistic lifestyles, selling organic products. She focuses on empowering farmers, especially women, by creating sustainable livelihoods by promoting organic products. She is also the founder of “Gudmom” or “Basillia Organics Agro Millet,” a start-up incubated by IIMR ICAR Center gov of India.
For more than twenty years, Dr. Sharmila has been dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture, natural farming, and the consumption of climate-resilient “Millets” often ignored in modern diets. She has a full-fledged network of over 1.5 lakh farmers and Millet cultivators who are making a consistent earning and promoting sustainable farming and Millet Cultivation. Her notable contributions include founding the Millet Association of India (MAOI) and reviving Millet cultivation across India. She is a Board Member for the Ministry of Commerce APEDA, promoting Millet and Nutri cereals.
Apart from these, She is the founder chairman of “JITO” Ladies wing, empowering women socially and economically. She is also the Vice Chairman of JAINA India.
Dr. Oswal has received several awards and recognitions, including Rashtriya Gaurav Puraskar. She has the titles of “Millet Woman of India” and “Water Woman of India,” which are recognized by the Government of India and the United Nations. She was awarded by the United Nations amongst the World’s 100 Most Powerful & Influential Women.
Dr. Sharmila Oswal’s work has been appreciated by Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. Her journey was featured in the 97th episode of the popular talk show “Maan Ki Baat,” and her story was included in a Coffee Table book released by the Indian Government in the show’s 100th special episode, endorsed by the Prime Minister.
Dr. Sharmila Oswal’s journey isn’t just about her success; it’s a tale of empowerment, determination, and a profound sense of care and compassion for the soil that nurtured her. Her story embodies a commitment to the land, advocating for its welfare, and a passionate dedication to fostering sustainable practices for its preservation and enhancement.