Indian agriculture getting feminised
The rural India is witnessing a process of feminisation of agriculture.
The share of female labour in the agricultural workforce increased from 39.2% to 41.9% during the period 1999-2000 and 2004-05.
Almost all women in rural India today can be considered as ‘farmers’ in some sense, working as agricultural labour, unpaid workers in the family farm enterprise, or the combination of the two. Moreover, several farm activities traditionally carried out by men are also being undertaken by women as men are pulled away into higher paying employment.
• Higher paying jobs in the city in combination with high tax on agriculture drew men from their farms into cities, hunting for well-paid jobs. This kind of migration of men leaves the woman in charge of the farm and household.
• India’s agricultural industry, which employs 80 to 100 million women, cannot survive without the labour of women farmers. From preparing the land, selecting seeds, preparing and sowing to transplanting the seedlings, applying manure/fertilisers/pesticides and then harvesting, winnowing and threshing, women work harder and longer than male farmers.
• Maintaining the ancillary branches in this sector, like animal husbandry, fisheries and vegetable cultivation, depends almost solely on women.
• Due to family constraints and sometimes the men turning in large numbers towards drugs and liquor addiction, the female of house has to take up the responsibility of agriculture to keep the economy of family going.
Issues of women in farming:
• Women are usually not listed as primary earners and owners of land assets within their families. So getting loans, participating in mandi panchayats, assessing and deciding the crop patterns, liaising with the district officials, bank managers and political representatives and bargaining for MSPs (minimum support prices), loans and subsidies, remain male activities.
• Weaknesses in women’s rights to land also results in the inability to use land as collateral to obtain credit that is crucial to the purchase of inputs such as seeds and fertilisers. This, in turn, limits adoption of new technology.
• Unlike male farmers and cultivators, their female counterparts remained doubly burdened during their peak productive period with their reproductive role seen as fundamental to their gender. So even as women laboured in fields, they continued to have and rear children almost single-handedly. In many regions of the developing world, women spend up to five hours a day gathering fuel wood and water and up to 4 hours preparing food. This cuts short time on child care.
• Women possess traditional knowledge of agriculture and they often possess unique knowledge about livestock, fish and many conventional aspects of farming. But, in many organised activities, women are left behind in the up-gradation of their knowledge and skills. FAO study conducted recently found that women in developing countries contributed about 80% towards food production but received only 2% to 10% of the extension services (FAO, 1998).
• Agricultural extension agents are a critically important source of technology information to women farmers, given the generally lower levels of education of women compared to men. Yet, the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) in 1988 reported that less than 1 per cent of government-employed agricultural advisers in Asia and West Asia are women.
• India has one of the largest agricultural research and education systems in the world with an estimated stock of about three lakh graduates in the year 2010, out of which about 25 per cent are women (Rama Rao et al, 2011). But women presence is negligible in high-level decision-making bodies, advisory boards and national academies. agricultural education and work places sensitive to women’s needs
• Women farmers are not given many benefits and do not hold social connections such as credit or market networks.
• They are even denied irrigation rights because that is provided by the government only to those male farmers who have agreed to grow commercial cash crops on their land and women, on the other hand, use the irrigation water for household use and also to grow subsistence crops.
• Women working on fields, alongside their husbands, aren’t considered farmers per say, and therefore suicides committed by women are rarely considered farmer suicides, thus leaving them out from benefitting from the government schemes.
• The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations stress upon the increasing access to many inputs to productive agriculture, including credit, education and land, and at the same time, promote the development of rural female farmers’ organisations.
• Updating the legal codes to give women the legal rights of property ownership and credit, which can allow for increased food security.
• Mechanisation of agriculture: Rapid urbanisation and increased participation of women in the labour force makes a great demand on women’s time. This calls for developing technology which relieve women of “time burdens” in agricultural production and maintenance without sacrificing their ability to earn independent incomes.
• Employing women agricultural extension workers is particularly important in societies which forbid the interaction of women farmers with men agricultural extension agents.
In spite of the best efforts, the programmes aimed at women fail to realise the desired goals as they are rarely designed and managed by women. This is one of the serious concerns of social planners. Women can play a significant role in agriculture related activities if they are provided relevant education and training. The educated and trained women in agriculture can provide extension services as well as can help in transfer of technologies to the farm women.