Women’s World Summit Foundation award to Peggy Carswell

Ankur Bora

We are pleased to share the announcement of  Women’s World Summit Foundation ( WWSF) for the 2016 Prize for women's creativity in rural life. WWSF, a humanitarian, secular, non-governmental and international, non-profit organization based in Geneva , Switzerland , with United Nations consultative status works for a new development paradigm with and for women and children. The WWSF Prize is a recognition of achievements, awarded every year to women and women's groups around the world who exhibit exceptional creativity, courage and commitment in improving the quality of life in rural communities , for protecting the environment, transmitting knowledge and standing up for human rights, development and peace. 

Ms Peggy Carswell has been awarded this year for steering the Organic Movement in Assam. She has transformed the lives of many by inspiring them to use organic and sustainable farming techniques. Peggy brought scores of small-scale tea growers and farmers together and showed them how to grow tea and vegetables organically.  It is also worthwhile to mention that in 2013 , Ms. Suchismita Majundar, Founder of Swabalambi , was among 10 Laureates selected by the WWSF International Prize Jury. 

Link to award page and communication from WWSF



Dear Ms Bora, 

We are pleased to send you attached the announcement of your candidate for the 2016 Prize for women's creativity in rural life.

We have informed Ms Carswell personally and sent her the congratulatory letter, the award certificate and press release.

We thank you for your collaboration with WWSF to bring to our attention the excellent work of Peggy Carswell.



Elly Pradervand,

WWSF , Executive Director and UN Representative 

Good Earth : Letter of Nomination for Peggy Carswell   

The world, today,  is facing immense challenges to sustainable development specially in the developing countries. In countries like India, in the midst of bustling economy, there are hundreds of thousands of citizens who continue to live in poverty. On top of that, the world is facing adverse impact of environmental degradation, our planet is overwhelmed with global warming , land degradation, scarcity  of freshwater  - The survival of planet earth is at risk. We need to address them entirely with a new approach – fostering social inclusion and interconnections with each other. Only by working together can we hope to solve some of the problems of this precious planet.


Peggy Carswell was born and raised in the Merville , British Columbia , Canada. Her inner callings , however ,  led her to other end of the planet , Assam – a state in India. She left behind her privileged upbringings to help hundreds of men and women to help themselves. Her vision on organic and sustainable farming inspired them to join together to transform their lives – and their world. It is an amazing journey spread over 18 years – a life story of vision, courage , determination , and patience.

It all started when in the year 1998, Ms. Carswell, took a leave of absence from her job and went on for a month long trip to Assam.  She had been a member of Fertile Ground, a Canada based NGO which promotes organic farming practices including growing organic tea. The idea of sourcing organic tea and helping people to learn how to go back to farming of the old days, without pesticides and chemical fertilizers appealed to her. She was also captivated by Assam and Assamese people. Over the next two decades, Ms. Peggy devoted her time teaching small-scale tea growers and farmers how to grow tea and vegetables organically, setting up a network bringing together people interested in organic farming from various parts of Assam and other neighboring  states and establishing a number of training centers to promote organic farming practices.    

Ms. Carswell has touched the lives of many in a special way and one of them is Ms. Mili Dutta. Mili, based in Minnesota, 


USA is always in the forefront of mobilizing the expatriate Indian community and for many years since 2004, organizing a yearly fundraiser event titled "Where the Brahmaputra Meets the Mississippi” - a fusion festival of dance, song and food that celebrates the cultures and traditions of the east and the west. ( Reference Mili Dutta) Mili has also been availing the non-profit status of Assam Foundation of North America (AFNA) for fund raising. Being the director of AFNA ,  Mili has been consulting me  about the organizations being supported and that is how I came to know about Fertile Ground (http://www.fertile-ground.org/ ) and the amazing work of Peggy Carswell. Since 2013, Mili has been informing us about the wonderful work of Fertile Ground. She would also arrange tele-conference calls between us and in the most recent one Carswell was sharing her wealth of wisdom “organic farming is nurturing of the land that feeds us. As the farmer struggle with floods, draught, hunger and poverty, this connection to the land is often critical to the family's physical and moral survival. In a way, his land is the breath of his life and the richness of his soil is the fruit of his labor.

Ms. Carswell and Fertile Ground has been working closely with Rotary Club. They initially received financial support from the Rotary Club of Strathcona , Canada. In the year 2006, a project titled “Adarsh Seuj Prakalpa” (the Ideal Green Project) was initiated with the support of Fertile Ground, members of the local Rotary Club and the Indian Oil Corporation. Ms. Carswell and a few Canadian volunteers joined hands with people of all ages from the nearby areas to transform an abandoned plot of land into a beautiful organic garden. Flower and vegetable beds, a compost production area, vermicompost unit, hands-on practical training and resource materials are provided in the classroom located at the site. Since its establishment, the project site has been visited by hundreds of people from as far away as Nigeria, Australia, Germany and U.S. Today the Centre operates a resource building, demonstration gardens, and a small retail outlet that sells organic produce and compost. Fertile Ground, in partnership with North East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS),(Reference Maina Dutta) is also planning to open such centers in other locations in Assam as well as in the neighboring states.    

Throughout her long stay in Assam, Ms. Carswell watched the significant environmental impacts of chemical fertilizers. She realized that the application of pesticides could result in serious health problems for workers and people living adjacent to the gardens. “The instructions on the containers are written in English. Since the laborers cannot read the instructions they tend to mix and over-apply. This causes irreversible damage to the soil and many people are suffering from respiratory, skin and other chronic health problems relating to chemical use and misuse.” Thus, Ms. Carswell initiated a campaign to develop training materials in local dialect. She was supported by many people including All-Assam Small Tea Growers Association and the organic growers of her native country. “The skills and knowledge of many farmers from Canada, have played a vital part in improving the Assamese farmer’s awareness of composting, insect pest management and crop rotation” –Carswell recollects the supports and encouragement of many of her friends around the world. This year, Fertile Ground is collaborating with Rotary Club for networking and film-making in native language whereby people from different socio-economic, geographical and cultural backgrounds will get opportunity to share their knowledge, skills and the challenges they face as they shift to more sustainable farming systems. One of the projects Fertile Ground's volunteers working on is to help local people share the information they've gathered by creating their own videos, and then uploading that information to the internet. 

In the year 2014 , the proceeds from the Where the Brahmaputra Meets the Mississippi event went to Fertile Ground towards the establishment of a Training Centre for organic farming at Kakojan College, a rural area in Assam. Ms. Mili visited , met Carswell and witnessed firsthand, the formation of the Center being frequently visited by farmers, small-scale tea growers, students and people from nearby villages interested in learning about organic and traditional Vedic farming practices.

Fertile Ground's projects are also providing training and job opportunities especially to women. Ms. Carswell came into contact with a number of women who had suffered brutal family violence, abandonment and poverty.  “When the earth suffers, women suffer; when women suffer the earth suffers. My heart just ached for them and they remind me that so many woman in the world live similar lives.” One such young lady, Pompy overcame the adversity of life with support from Carswell; today she oversees all operations of the organization, gives lectures, develops and presents PowerPoint presentations. “Madame Peggy has changed my life,” Pompy says. “There are so many restrictions on what you can and cannot do in India. For me to have this job is unimaginable! With Madame Peggy, I feel that I can do anything. She is my manager, my friend, sometimes I feel like she is my mother.”

Since 1998, Peggy Carswell has been visiting Assam every year , travelling the lengths and breadths of the countryside, spending great deals of time motivating people and organization alike to take part in the Organic Food Movement. Ms. Carswell was instrumental in the formation of first organic tea growers association of North East India – which led to increase demand for organic tea in local and international market( Reference Jaba Borgohain).  She, through her Fertile Ground Network ,  is also collaborating with NEADS and Axam Agri ( Reference Biswajit Bordoloi) , a local social entrepreneurial organization , to expand their activities to rural areas across Assam. Ms. Carswell, explains to me, in a recent telephonic conversation, “I am a great believer in organizations and I believe that if they could be mobilized, things would change.”

Peggy Carswell continues to live in her native country of Canada, earning a meagre subsistence for herself while enriching the lives of thousand others in rural India. Ms. Carswell saw people who were invisible to others: the dusty, underfed, underpaid women who work from dawn to dusk selling vegetables. And she did not just see them, she wanted to help these men and women help themselves and recover their human dignity. With the strength of Fertile Ground East West Network, Carswell has succeeded in bringing two parts of the world together. She also has made us aware - that our future is inseparable from the future of the earth, in taking care of the soil, we reclaim our humanity.  And today, she stands as an inspiration to young women and men all over the world.

The spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress; Ms. Carswell is a living example - that language and physical distance is not a barrier is if you have the willingness to serve. Peggy Carswell has not yet received recognition for her work. While nominating her for the award, we sincerely hope that a new generation and a green movement will emerge, standing up for the environment and ushering a new era of education, capacity building and advocacy for the Mother Earth.