Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Women in Indian agriculture

We know that most of the developing countries depend on agriculture for livelihood and food security. Agriculture needs manpower, if the manpower split into gender wise, amazing fact is that the women contribution is greater or equal to men. The rural women are very active in cultivation, dairy, fisheries, crop processing and other allied areas. Nearly 70% of Indian rural women are employed in agriculture and they are responsible for 60-80 percent of food production. They play major role in animal husbandry, horticulture and poultry which are their main source of income and it is noticed that they always involved in labor and tolerance intensive works like transplantations and weeding operations.

Among the rural women workforce, most of them are agriculture labor and some of cultivators. There are lot of variations in involvement of women in agriculture which is based on their culture, economic status, regions and crop selection. While the men are moving to cities for better occupations the women are taking care of cultivation and some times they used to work as farm labor to support their family needs. The weaker section of the women used to market their produces such as selling vegetables and other food crops in farmers market or door to door. Most of the women cultivators are involved in food crops rather than cash crops since cash crops need more marketing efforts which are traditionally taken care by men. The women in higher socio economic sections are not involved directly in cultivation or live stock and they used to help in labor administration, supporting activities and accounting.

Ironically, we often define the men as farmers, in fact the women also equally involved in agriculture in all phases. If we think beyond the conventional definition of “FARMER”, most of the rural women should be considered as farmers but they are ignored. Still Indian society has some gender boundaries, but the rural women involve in multiple productive roles and it is necessary to give equal opportunity in agriculture. Most of the women farmers are marginal or small farmers, landless tenant farmers and farm labor, they don’t have enough land to cultivate, less knowledge, limited access to innovative technologies, low capital and less credit facilities.

In order to empower and improve the women farmers’ productivity, they need to have proper farm training and capacity building programs to compete various challenges in their rural livelihood. Women land ownership plays a major role in their credit worthiness, if they have right on the agriculture land they will have access to financial resources and savings. New legislations have to be taken place in farm land reforms like allocating the wasteland to women self help groups (SHG). Rural women have been acknowledged as the core food producers and processors, banks should recognize them as entrepreneurs, loans and Kissan credit cards have to be approved for them. Special support and market connectivity has to establish for rural women artisans to sell their agro based handicrafts. The farm labor wages should be the same without gender differences and the equal employment benefits have to be given in all rural schemes like NREG. Sufficient political representation must be required by rural women in local level councils, it directs them as an equal partners in political, economical and legal decision making.

We must appreciate Government of India for implementing various rural women welfare schemes and also the NGOs who are working on women empowerment for poverty alleviation. I want to say kudos to Deccan Development Society because they are promoting the small scale women farmers in various aspects like cultivation, seed management, biodiversity conservation, marketing knowledge and media. Click for DDC Videos
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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Manpower trend in agriculture

Agriculture is a labor intensive production process, it depends on huge manpower and draft animal power. Nearly 55% of Indian labor force is engaged in agriculture who are contributing to the development of rural economy. Over the past couple of decades the farm labor has been decreasing in agriculture which was caused by occupational change, people mindset, government policies and reforms. As the share of agriculture to GDP has been declining the agriculture work force is also moving to non agriculture sectors.

The Labor scarcity is the biggest threat to Indian agriculture due to urbanized life style, low farm wages, irregular employment in villages and laborious nature of work. Lot of unemployed rural youth moving to other well-paid occupations since farming is a physical drudgery, also the farm work has prejudiced as low profile profession. So the traditional farmers are forced to discard the food crops due to non availability and high wages of farm workers, farmers are switching to less labor intensive farming like short term commercial crops and social forestry plantations.

The intention of rural employment schemes are good, they have been creating employment to rural work force with prevailing wages. But the small and marginal farmers are incapable to pay such a bargain wages which are equal to government schemes, sometimes the availability of the farm labor is less in the crop season since all of the rural work force have engaged in the scheme works.

I am not going to blame the NREG and Food for work programs for diverting the rural labor to public works or non farm work, but the works schedules should be planned according to village priorities. The rural employment schemes should be halted whenever the work force is required for agriculture needs, especially in Kharif and Rabi seasons, Grama panchayath intervention must be required to synchronize the rural labor force.

Farm equipment is also necessary to overcome the labor shortage problem. Large scale farmers are able to adopt the new technologies and equipments since they have large crop area and strong financial power, but the small and marginal farmers are still depend on manpower. The farm equipment manufacturers should produce small scale farm machines, technology awareness has to be created among the farmers. The banks have to give the long term loans to farmers to buy farm equipment and the government should promote the innovative farm equipment, subsidies should be granted to the farmers on such equipments.

Some people often think that the farm labor is dirt cheap, now it’s very expensive. May be in near future the Indian farm labor is also going to be organized by companies like how the security professionals or industrial labor supplied on contract basis in cities. In Americas and Europe, lot of agencies are offering farm services like planting, chemical spraying, harvesting and haying with modern equipment. We never know... it could happen in India also.