When I say the word ‘farmer’, a male person comes to the mind with maybe a turban on his head and a plough in his hand, standing in a field. Often human mind can only address instinctively, only those things that we are familiar with and it chooses to ignore the wider perspective. A Woman is a farmer too.
Women consist of 48 % of a 1.3 billion population and still we do not recognise their disguised labour in the fields of farming. Women farmers are a traditionally overlooked section of workers which came to light recently, due to the farmers protest happening around NCR region. According to food and agriculture organisation, women farmers contribute one third of the agricultural labour in India. They affect a total output of 55 to 66% of farm production.
Women contribute mainly by
-Doing paid labour on others’ fields.
– working on the fields that they own.
-Otherwise they manage to supervise the post harvest production.
According to agriculture census 2015 the total operational land holding by women has increased to 15% in 2015 from 12.8% in 2010-11. This increased in land holding and decision making power with women has been termed feminization of agriculture.
Feminization of agriculture, has various reasons like out-migration of the men in the villages and towns to cities. Better life opportunities and other factors pull the migrants, usually male members. Women are left take care of the elders and their children. This is considering apart from the other responsibilities like collecting firewood, fetching water etc. Women labour at home is easy to procure without any cost.
It must also be noticed that gender pay gap exists in farming activities too. Labourers are paid for less than male labourers for the same work. Unfair treatment for the increases the vulnerability of women to distresses. The illiteracy prevailing amongst the women also further exacerbates the problems as they are unaware of the circumstances and their rights. Lack of social infrastructure like proper toilets further degrades their quality of life.
According to a report by Oxfam, around 80% of the farm work in India, like winnowing, sowing, harvesting, post production activities, labor intensive and non mechanised operations are done by women.
A scheme by department of rural development named mahila kisan sashaktikaran pariyojana, recognizes women farmers. And works towards their upliftment. It helps women to sustain agriculture and increase the productivity with the needful investments. Other schemes by ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare that provide for specific activities related to women and agriculture. A special icar- central institute for women in agriculture, one of the first kind research institute devoted to research for women in agriculture.
Apart from the schemes created by the government and various NGOs, we have to introduce gender sensitization in agricultural education institutes. One must realise the multiple roles that women play in the field of agricultural production and even postharvest. Women’s work in agriculture is as much as a man’s and if one may say so, is even more greater and Labour intensive than a man’s work in the field.
Self help groups and women centric organisations must play a proactive role in villages to make credit more accessible to women farmers so that they can increase the production efficiently. Increasing the efficiency of productivity in agriculture through women and their sustainable ideas can affect a great percentage of GDP positively. Therefore the amount of expertise women of India can offer through agriculture must not be ignored at any cost.
Women’s contribution can increase our surplus productivity if we utilise our cultural heritage and traditional knowledge, which is usually possessed by the women lineage.