Women in agriculture : National Gender Resource Centre in Agriculture (NGRCA)

Press Information Bureau, Govt of India *

Women are of vital importance to rural economies. Women as farmers, laborers and entrepreneurs are the driving force of India's farmland. In India, agriculture including various sub-sectors employs 80 per cent of all economically active women; they comprise 33 per cent of the agricultural labour force and 48 per cent of self-employed farmers.

About 18 per cent of the farm families in India, according to National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) Reports, are headed by women. Beyond the conventional market-oriented narrower definition of 'productive workers', almost all women in rural India can be considered as 'farmers' in some sense, working as agricultural labourers, unpaid workers in the family farm enterprises or combination of the two. In many farming communities, women are the main custodians of knowledge on crop varieties.

Evidences from the nationally representative surveys, as well as various empirical studies, point to an overwhelming majority of women being involved in the agriculture sector, both as cultivators and agricultural labourers across rural India.

The Census 2011 data on 'Cultivators and Agricultural Labourers' shows, that around 65.1 per cent of women workers depend on agriculture, either as cultivators or agricultural labourers, as opposed to 49.8 per cent of male workers. It is also highlighted by NSSO, that 63 per cent of all female 'workers' and 75 per cent of 'rural female workers' are engaged in agricultural sector.

Women play a pivotal role in agricultural operations from planting to harvesting to post-harvest operations; are generally invisible in the statistics and having duality of labour. Despite their integral role in agriculture only 13.96 per cent holdings are operated by women and that too, mostly as small and marginal farmers.

Despite immense contribution of women in crop husbandry, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and post-harvest technology, the productive role of women in agriculture has been often neglected while formulating packages of technologies, services and public policies for rural areas. Women in Agriculture are sometimes unable to access extension services and production assets like seed, water, credit, subsidy etc.

As most women do not own land, they are not considered as beneficiaries of various government programmes / services. Further, due to multiple roles that a woman has to perform within the family and the farm, her access to knowledge and information, and consequently her opportunities get constricted.

Gender discrimination rooted in custom is pervasive and it impedes socio-economic development. While investment in women programmes is central to sustainable development, women still face many barriers in benefiting from developmental programmes.

During initial years post independence, various projects were implemented to address the problems faced by women in Agriculture. Following a paradigm shift from executing 'stand-alone' programmes to 'recognizing and mainstreaming gender concerns in agriculture', several policy level initiatives for gender mainstreaming are being promoted.

The National Agriculture Policy accorded high priority to 'recognition and mainstreaming of women's role in agriculture' and highlighted incorporation of 'gender issues' in the agricultural development agenda. "Gender Mainstreaming' was one of the important pillar of the National Agriculture Extension Policy framework and it was mandated that appropriate structural, functional & institutional measures would be initiated to empower women and build their capacities and improve their access to inputs, technology and other farming resources'.

Mainstreaming of gender concerns is also being addressed by earmarking 30% of funds for women under various major schemes/programmes and several development interventions of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare.

With regard to feminization of agriculture and increasing role of women farmers; the National Policy for Farmers 2007 envisages the several measures for women's empowerment.

The Policy provisions, inter alia, include asset reforms in respect of land, water, livestock, fisheries, and bio-resources;
support services and inputs like application of frontier technologies;
agricultural bio-security systems;
supply of good quality seeds and disease-free planting material,
improving soil fertility and health, and integrated pest management systems;
support services for women like crèches, child care centers, nutrition, health and training;
timely, adequate, and easy reach of institutional credit at reasonable interest rates, and farmer-friendly insurance instruments;
use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and setting up of farmers' schools to revitalize agricultural extension;
effective implementation of MSP across the country,
development of agricultural market infrastructure, and
rural non-farm employment initiatives for farm households;
integrated approach for rural energy, etc.

These provisions are being operationalised through various schemes and programmes which are being implemented by different Central Government Departments and Ministries.

The Inter-ministerial Committee on "Doubling of Farmers Income" in its report submitted in September, 2018 has also stressed upon empowering women in agriculture and recommended strategies for improving visibility and participation of women in extension programmes and as beneficiary in Government Schemes/Programmes. The Department is taking several measures and steps for empowering women in agriculture which are elucidated below:

o Mainstreaming of gender concerns by earmarking 30% of funds for women under various major schemes/programmes and development interventions. The guidelines of schemes namely Support to State Extension Programmes for Extension Reforms; National Food Security Mission; National Mission on Oilseed & Oil Palm; National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture; Sub-Mission for Seed and Planting Material; Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization and Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture stipulate that States and other Implementing Agencies are required to incur at least 30% expenditure on Women.

o The Department is providing additional support and assistance to women farmers, over and above the male farmers under various Schemes namely Agri-Clinic & Agri-Business Centre (ACABC), Integrated Schemes of Agricultural Marketing (ISAM), Sub-Mission of Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) and National Food Security Mission (NFSM).

o Under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme, farmers including women farmers are covered with a view to provide income support to all farmers across the country, to enable them to take care of expenses related to agriculture and allied activities as well as domestic needs . The scheme aims to provide a payment of Rs. 6000/- per year, in three 4-monthly instalments of Rs. 2000/- to the farmers, subject to certain exclusions criteria.

o The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan-Dhan Yojana (pm-kmy) aims to provide social security net for Small and Marginal Farmers (SMF) including women farmers as they have minimal or no savings to be provided for old age and to support them in the event of consequent loss of livelihood and the Scheme supports old age pension to these farmers.

o Focus is also being given on formation of women Self Help Groups (SHGs), capacity building interventions, linking them to micro credit, enhancing their access to information and ensuring their representation in decision making bodies at various levels. Preferences are given to women farmers in components like distribution of agricultural inputs, training, capacity building and demonstration, etc.

o The National Gender Resource Centre in Agriculture (NGRCA), DAC&FW reflects the national commitment of empowerment of women through 'strategy of mainstreaming and agenda setting'. The Centre acts as a focal point for convergence of all gender related activities and issues in agriculture and allied sectors within and outside DAC&FW; addressing gender dimension to agriculture policies and programmes; rendering advocacy/ advisory services to the States/UTs to internalize gender specific interventions for brining the farm women in the mainstream of agriculture development.

The Centre also undertakes macro/micro level studies and brings out women farmer friendly publications/literature/compendium on the basis of needs, requirements, potential and constraints faced by women in agriculture sector especially in the areas of technological development, access to inputs, credit and other productive resources, marketing intervention, schemes implemented by the Department, etc.

o To acknowledge and honour the contribution of women in agriculture and allied sector, 15th October has been also declared as the Rural Women's Day.

National Sample Survey (NSS) data shows, that there has been a steady decline of men in agriculture over the last three decades. This trend can be conveniently termed as "Feminization of Indian Agriculture".

As more and more men have moved to non-farm work in the industrial and service sectors, women have remained in agriculture in substantive manner. Keeping in view women's' contribution in farming; the need of the hour is greater inclusion of women farmers in planning schemes & programmes, and also in developing strategies to successfully implement them.

The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare is working towards 'Engendering the Development' and 'Empowering women in Agriculture' through several measures and initiatives. The strategy of the Government is to focus on women farmers' empowerment and development welfare by making farming viable both for men and women.

This may improve farm women's access to productive resources including agricultural extension services thereby bringing overall improvement in the lives of rural women. This may not only enhance the production and productivity of agricultural sector and improve overall national food security but would also smoothen the transition of women from being beneficiaries of the Programmes & Schemes to their active participation in shaping the empowerment.

Courtesy : Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Imphal

* Press Information Bureau, Government of India wrote this article which was published at The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on March 10 2020.

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