Context

  • The latest census figures list only 32.8 per cent women formally as primary workers in the agricultural sector, in contrast to 81.1 per cent men.
  • But the undeniable fact remains that India’s agricultural industry, which employs 80 to 100 million women and the sector cannot survive without their labor.

Current Status of Women in Indian Agriculture

 Even now, agriculture supports 58% of the population, as against about 75% at the time of independence

  • Women make up about 33% of cultivators and about 47% percent of agricultural laborers.
  • In rural India, the percentage of women who depend on agriculture for their livelihood is as high as 84%.
  • These statistics do not account for work in livestock, fisheries and various other ancillary forms of food production in the country.
  • Women’s participation rate in the agricultural sectors is about 47% in tea plantations, 46.84% in cotton cultivation, 45.43% growing oil seeds and 39.13% in vegetable production.
  • While these crops require labor-intensive work, the work is considered quite unskilled
  • Women are heavily involved in seed selection, sowing, planting, harvesting and other aspects of farm management
  • Maintaining the ancillary branches in this sector, like animal husbandry, fisheries and vegetable cultivation, depends almost solely on women.

Current Issue

  • Men get a lot of share in governmental publicity material and within the banking sectors but millions of women farmers have no spokesperson from their ranks.
  • Women remained outside the formal definition of “worker” in the census reports
  • The primary reason for this is that they are usually not listed as primary earners and owners of land assets within their families
  • There exist an embedded gender discrimination in the Indian farming sector.

Problems faced by Women Farmers

  • In India, the typical work of the female agricultural laborer or cultivator is limited to less skilled jobs, such as sowing, transplanting, weeding and harvesting, that often fit well within the framework of domestic life and child-rearing
  • In all agricultural activities there is an average gender wage disparity, with women earning only 70 percent of men’s wage.
  • Additionally many women also participate in agricultural work as unpaid subsistence labor
  • 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 while the duties it entailed were socially created.
  • So even as women labored in fields, they continued to have and rear children almost single-handedly.
  • Thus, in addition to rigorous agricultural work that is undervalued and underpaid, women are also responsible for the well-being of the household.
  • It has been observed that an Indian female agriculture worker spends around 25 hours doing in a week doing household chores and 5 hours in caring and community work.
  • Besides the 30 hours of unpaid work, women spend the same amount of time as men carrying out agricultural work.
  • Daughters typically assist their daughters in doing household chores. Girls do significantly more housework than boys, which compromises their schooling.
  • Women seldom enjoy property ownership rights directly in their names. They have little control over decisions made in reference to land.
  • Even with land in their names, they may not have actual decision-making power in terms of cropping patterns, sale, mortgage and the purchase of land.
  • In India only 14.9% of households are female headed. Access to credit is difficult, since women lack many of the prerequisites for lending such as assets or ownership of property
  • For women, access to credit is difficult, since they lack many of the prerequisites for lending such as assets or ownership of property
  • Without access to capital or household decision making abilities women lack the resources that are necessary for their labor stability and stability of their households

Causes

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Patriarchy is the root cause of the hurdles faced by not only women farmers but women in general
  • Extreme poverty and lack of education are also some of the reasons for women’s low status in society.
  • Educating girl child is still seen as a bad investment because she is bound to get married and leave her paternal home one day. Thus, without having good education women are found lacking in present day’s demanding job skills
  • Women are not able to resolve the conflict between new economic and old domestic roles. In both rural and urban India, women spend a large proportion of time on unpaid home sustaining work.
  • Rights and obligations within a house hold are not distributed evenly. Male ownership of assets and conventional division of labor reduce incentives for women to undertake new activities.
  • In addition child bearing has clear implications for labor force participation by women. Time spent in bearing and rearing of children often results in de-skilling, termination of long term labor contacts
  • Despite pronounced social development and technological advancement, women in our society still continue to be victims of exploitation, superstition, illiteracy and social atrocities.
  • Last but not the least, most of the women are unaware of their basic rights and capabilities and are not aware of their socio-economic conditions, owing to which they are not being able to take decisions for themselves

Suggestions

  • Providing Agricultural Training
  • Providing Basic Education
  • Awareness in the Society
  • Awareness with regard to Rights and Provisions
  • Equal Job Opportunities
  • Ensuring Equal Pay Mechanism
  • Easy Credit Facilities
  • Maternity Support Programs

Government Initiative for Women Farmers

  • Government of India has made special provisions for women farmers in various national schemes. Some of them are:
  • National Mission on Agricultural Extension & Technology (NMAET) – Sub-Mission on Agricultural Extension (SAME):
  • Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) – Provides support for women Food Security Groups (FSGs), allocates Gender Coordinator’/State in the team of committed extension personnel to ensure that funds and benefits for training/ capacity building and extension support etc. are provided to them in proportion to their numbers. Also provides for mandatory representation of Women Farmers in State, District, Block Farmer Advisory Committees
  • Agri-Clinics & Agri-Business Centers (ACABC) – Provides 44% back-ended composite subsidy towards cost of project to women as compared to 36% to men
  • Mass Media Support to Agricultural Extension – One day specially allocated to cover areas of core competence women farmers in programs of All India Radio & Doordarshan
  • Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) – Specific coverage of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and women beneficiaries for programmatic interventions and assistance for horticulture mechanization along with assistance in procuring agricultural machinery and equipments
  • Integrated Scheme for Agricultural Marketing (ISAM) – Provides financial assistance in Storage Infrastructure Projects under Agriculture Marketing infrastructure (AMI) for Registered FPOs, Panchayats, Women, Scheduled Caste (SC)/Scheduled Tribe (ST) beneficiaries or their cooperatives/Self-help groups..
  • National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) – At least 30% allocation of the funds is for women farmer
  • Agricultural Insurance – Training Programmes on Gender friendly Equipment for Women farmers are to be conducted by Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes and as beneficiaries at least 30% allocation of the fund is to be made to women farmers

 

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