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Posted by heatherhomes01 on July 30th, 2020

Back ground

  • The United Nations observes October 15 as International Rural Women’s Day to highlight the contribution of rural women to the world’s economic development.
  • Taking cue from this, the Government of India declared October 15 as Rashtriya Mahila Kisan Diwas in 2017.

Women in agriculture

  • The Agriculture Census (2010-11) shows that out of an estimated 118.7 million cultivators, 3% were females.
  • According to Oxfam India, women are responsible for about 60-80% of food and 90% of dairy production, respectively.
  • Similarly, out of an estimated 144.3 million agricultural labourers, 6% were females.
  • According to Census 2011, there has been a 24% increase in the number of female agricultural labourers between 2001 and 2011.
  • As per Census 2011, out of total female main workers, 55% were agricultural labourers and 24% cultivators.
  • Participation of both men and women in agriculture has declined, but the rate of decline has been faster among men than it has among women.
  • Decline among women has been specifically in relation to their roles as cultivators, however their numbers as agricultural labourers have increased.

Women’s work goes on unnoticed

  • The work by women farmers, in crop cultivation, livestock management or at home, often goes unnoticed.
  • Rural women are engaged in agricultural activities in three different ways depending on the socio-economic status: They are work as:
  • Agricultural Labourers or as Cultivator doing labour on their own land or as Managers of certain aspects of agricultural production by way of labour supervision and the participation in post-harvest operations.
  • Attempts by the government to impart them training in poultry, apiculture and rural handicrafts is trivial given their large numbers.
  • In order to sustain women’s interest in farming and also their uplift, there must be a vision backed by an appropriate policy and doable action plans.
  • While the “feminisation of agriculture” is taking place at a fast pace, the government has yet to gear up to address the challenges that women farmers and labourers face.

Marginalisation of landless women farm labourers

  • The biggest challenge is the powerlessness of women in terms of claiming ownership of the land they have been cultivating.
  • In Census 2015, almost 86% of women farmers are devoid of this property right in land perhaps on account of the patriarchal set up in our society.
  • Notably, a lack of ownership of land does not allow women farmers to approach banks for institutional loans as banks usually consider land as collateral.
  • As of now, women farmers have hardly any representation in society and are nowhere discernible in farmer’s organisations or in occasional protests. They are the invisible workers without which the agricultural economy is hard to grow.
  • A declining size of land holdings may act as a deterrent due to lower net returns earned and technology adoption.

Solution for land ownership issues

  • Research worldwide shows that women with access to secure land, formal credit and access to market have greater propensity in making investments in improving harvest, increasing productivity, and improving household food security and nutrition.
  • Provision of credit without collateral under the micro-finance initiative of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development should be encouraged.
  • Better access to credit, technology, and provision of entrepreneurship abilities will further boost women’s confidence and help them gain recognition as farmers.
  • The possibility of collective farming can be encouraged to make women self-reliant. Training and skills imparted to women as has been done by some self-help groups and cooperative-based dairy activities (Saras in Rajasthan and Amul in Gujarat).
  • These can be explored further through farmer producer organisations. Moreover, government flagship schemes such as the National Food Security Mission, Sub-mission on Seed and Planting Material and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana must include women-centric strategies and dedicated expenditure.
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