Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Women in Indian agriculture

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 percent 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.

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.

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. Women land ownership plays a major role in their credit worthiness, if they have right on the agriculture land they will have access to financial resources and savings. 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 agro 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 NREG. Sufficient political representation must be required by rural women in local level councils, it directs them as an equal partners in political, economical and legal decision making.

We must appreciate Government of India for implementing various rural women welfare schemes and also the NGOs who are working on women empowerment for poverty alleviation. I want to say kudos to Deccan Development Society because they are promoting the small scale women farmers in various aspects like cultivation, seed management, biodiversity conservation, marketing knowledge and media. Click for DDC Videos
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