What comes to your mind when you think about Agriculture in India?
Look at the image again and think about it? Can this picture be complete without the women in it? Surely it wont! Most of us do know about the high contribution of the women in our life, in running the household. Let me tell you if you haven’t known or heard it till now that most Indian men are useless when it comes to any sort of household chore – there are exceptions to this, but they are just exceptions.
There is hardly any formal acknowledgement of it or a focus on them. Even when it comes to innovation in agriculture or designing agricultural solutions, generally the focus is on the male Farmers.
This is because, ironically, we often define the men as farmers, in fact the women also equally involved in agriculture in all phases. If we think beyond the conventional definition of “FARMER”, most of the rural women should be considered as farmers but they are ignored. Still Indian society has some gender boundaries, but the rural women involve in multiple productive roles and it is necessary to give equal opportunity in agriculture. Most of the women farmers are marginal or small farmers, landless tenant farmers and farm labor, they don’t have enough land to cultivate, less knowledge, limited access to innovative technologies, low capital and less credit facilities.
Some facts, which need a little careful analysis.
- Indian population is 48.1% women and 51.9% men; situation is marginally balanced in Rural India (48.6% women and 51.4% men)
- Despite the smaller contribution in total population, it is estimated that women make up 60% of the farming population and complete 70% of the farm work.
- In India (rural+urban), the labour force participation rate of women is 22.7%, less than half of the men’s rate of 51.6%
- But in Rural India, agriculture & allied industrial sectors employ as much as 89.5% of the total female labour
- Women have extensive workloads with dual responsibility for farm and household production
- Women’s work is getting harder and more time-consuming due to ecological degradation and changing agricultural technologies and practices
- Women contribute considerably to household income through farm and nonfarm activities as well as through work as landless agricultural labourers
- Women’s work as family labour is underestimated
- There are high degrees of inter-state and intra-state variations in gender roles in agriculture, environment and rural production
We know that most of the developing countries depend on agriculture for livelihood and food security. Agriculture needs manpower, if the manpower split into gender wise, amazing fact is that the women contribution is greater or equal to men. The rural women are very active in cultivation, dairy, fisheries, crop processing and other allied areas. Nearly 70% of Indian rural women are employed in agriculture and they are responsible for 60-80% of food production. They play major role in animal husbandry, horticulture and poultry which are their main source of income and it is noticed that they always involved in labor and tolerance intensive works like transplantations and weeding operations.
Among the rural women workforce, most of them are agriculture labor and some of cultivators. There are lot of variations in involvement of women in agriculture which is based on their culture, economic status, regions and crop selection. While the men are moving to cities for better occupations the women are taking care of cultivation and some times they used to work as farm labor to support their family needs. The weaker section of the women used to market their produces such as selling vegetables and other food crops in farmers market or door to door. Most of the women cultivators are involved in food crops rather than cash crops since cash crops need more marketing efforts which are traditionally taken care by men. The women in higher socio economic sections are not involved directly in cultivation or live stock and they used to help in labor administration, supporting activities and accounting.
Rural Indian women are extensively involved in agricultural activities. However, the nature and extent of their involvement differs with the variations in agro-production systems. The mode of female participation in agricultural production varies with the land-owning status of farm households. Their roles range from managers to landless labourers. In overall farm production, women’s average contribution is estimated at 55% to 66% of the total labour with percentages much higher in certain regions.
In order to empower and improve the women farmers’ productivity, they need to have
- Proper farm training and capacity building programs to compete various challenges in their rural livelihood.
- New legislations have to be taken place in farm land reforms like allocating the wasteland to women self help groups (SHG).
- Rural women have been acknowledged as the core food producers and processors, banks should recognize them as entrepreneurs, loans and Kissan credit cards have to be approved for them.
- Special support and market connectivity has to establish for rural women artisans to sell their Agri-based handicrafts.
- The farm labor wages should be the same without gender differences and the equal employment benefits have to be given in all rural schemes like MNREGA.
Government’s Efforts to Empower Rural Women
There are some rural women welfare schemes & also the NGOs who are working on women empowerment for poverty alleviation. But there is still a long way to go and also the real test of such schemes & projects is their actual performance on the ground. There is still a big question mark on whether the intended benefit is really going to the Women or squandered off due to the prevalence of large scale corruption across most of the schemes launched by Central & State Governments.
- Central Govt. Scheme – ‘Promotion and Strengthening of Agricultural Mechanization through Training, Testing, and Demonstration, during 2009-10, about 2630 gender-friendly equipment have been distributed amongst farm women.
- Under the scheme for Outsourcing of Training and Demonstration of Newly Developed Agricultural Equipment, including Horticultural Equipment at Farmers’ Fields, separate physical targets have been fixed and 10% of the funds have been allocated for women farmers. During 2009-10 a total of 484 women have been imparted training (till December 2009) at Farm Machinery, Training, and Testing Institutes (FMTTIs). A list of about 30 identified gender-friendly tools and equipment developed by the Research and Development Organization for use in different farm operations has been sent to all states and UTs. for popularizing them.
- State governments have been directed to earmark 10% of total funds allocated for the training for women farmers”