Shyamal Pal, Potato Aggregator and Long-Time Champion of Women’s Empowerment

Indian farmers in field with pile of potatoes
Photo by: Landesa. Caption: Shyamal Pal speaks to women from a land leasing group during the potato harvest.

Shyamal Pal is a PepsiCo aggregator based in the Balitha village in West Bengal, India, and long-time champion of women’s empowerment. In his experience as an aggregator for over 15 potato seasons, he understands the importance of building relationships and maintaining frequent communication with the farmers in the area.

Shyamal has been an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights since the 1990s. He was elected as a village panchayat (village council) member, where he recognized the importance of addressing the barriers that women face in accessing economic opportunities. 

As a council member, Shyamal played a key role in implementing land reforms through the distribution of vested [government] land among the most marginalized, poor families. “My experience working with women’s groups then helped me comprehend that economic opportunities are crucial for women to have a voice and exercise their rights. I will always cherish that memory,” he explains.

In 2019, when activities of the USAID-PepsiCo partnership began, Shyamal was eager to work with a women’s land leasing group. The women’s group leased one acre of farmland for growing potatoes. Working under the USAID-PepsiCo partnership, the women overcame adverse conditions, including erratic weather patterns, and still made a profit. 

“This never-before-seen phenomenon, a group of women running their own farm, drew the attention of the entire village here and had an encouraging effect on other women’s groups,” he explains. “I believe that with technical support, women can do everything required for successful farming.” 

In September 2021, PepsiCo recognized Shyamal’s efforts to increase women’s participation in the supply chain. Every year PepsiCo acknowledges aggregators who excel in business performance metrics like seed sales, yields, and quality. Shyamal was the first potato aggregator recognized by PepsiCo for his role in promoting women’s empowerment.

Shyamal looks forward to working with more women’s land leasing groups in the next potato season, demonstrating the importance of engaging existing male champions to drive women’s empowerment in agriculture value chains.