Context:

  • Advancing rights of women farmers can revolutionize the rural ecosystem.
  • Most importantly, if female farmers are provided security of land tenure, they will be officially recognized as farmers and will result in increased productivity and improve household food security and nutrition.

 Current Status of Women in Indian Agriculture:

The stereotypical image of an Indian farmer is a mustachioed man with farming tools in hand. The reality is the Indian agricultural landscape is fast being feminised. 

  • Today, women are over 40 % of the agricultural workforce in India. In fact, 80% of all working women of the country are employed in agriculture.
  • The increasing proportion of women farmers also means that agricultural yields and the overall agricultural output of India depend on women’s participation.
  • According to some estimates, if women farmers are provided the same resources as their male counterparts, such as land ownership, availability of credit, access to farming equipment and new technologies, yields can increase by as much as 30% per household, and countries can experience an increase of 2.5 to 4 % in agricultural output.

Problems faced by women farmers in India:

  • The Indian agriculture sector is typically characterized by the presence of gender discrimination, where women contribute extensively to the agricultural with no credits and no or very les remuneration.
  • Many women also participate in agricultural work as unpaid subsistence labor.
  • Women seldom enjoy property ownership rightsdirectly in their names. They have little control over decisions made in reference to land.
  • Less than 10% of India’s land is owned by women. The inability to show land in their names deprives women of access to credit and many government schemes.
  • Moreover, women are unable to afford newer technologies that will increase yields, are unaware of or cannot afford expensive and improved seed varieties, do not have adequate knowledge about the new farming systems in India, and also carry the additional burden of domestic responsibilities.

Government initiatives for women farmers:

  1. The Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) was launched in 2010-11 under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM).
  • It was launched to improve the current status of women in agriculture and to enhance the opportunity for their earning and empowerment.
  1. On September 25, 2015, at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, and fight inequality and injustice.
  • One of the goals targets by 2030 to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
  • Closing gender gaps in agriculture and investing in smallholder women farmers will have a profound impact on the achievement of these goals.
  1. In March 2016, the NITI Aayog released the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, which seeks to legalise and liberalise land leasing with the interests of both the landlord and the tenant in mind.
  • The Model Act could enable the real cultivators of land to be recognised as farmers and thus be entitled to obtain important inputs provided to farmers by the state.
  • This has the potential to improve the productivity of farmer harvests, replacing unwilling cultivators with willing cultivators.

Suggestions:

  • The condition of the women farmers can be improved only if the root cause of this existing gender division is identified and taken care of.
  • Lack of education is also a major of this gender disparity. Having mandatory education for women can fulfill the present day’s demanding job skills.
  • Women must be aware of their basic rights and capabilities. In this regard, awareness campaigning of government schemes, NGO initiatives must be held.
  • Even if we could, all of a sudden, grant women the right to the land they cultivate, it would not necessarily immediately result in these beneficial outcomes.
  • Because Indian farmers, both men and women, face an uphill battle even leasing land. After abolishing the zamindari system, states moved to restrict tenancy as a protective measure guarding against tenant exploitation.
  • However, since the 1950s, the tenancy situation has varied across the nation as land laws are enacted by the states.
  • And yet, nearly 35 per cent of India’s agricultural land is cultivated by tenant farmers, who tend to be landless, poor and marginal.
  • Thus, before aiming at the lofty goal of securing women’s land ownership rights, working toward ascertaining security of tenure for tenant farmers is a necessary first step.
  • With security of tenure, female farmers should be provided with the three critical driving factors:
  • The incentive, the security, as well as the opportunity to invest in the land they harvest.
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