Lately, climate change has led to demographic and socio-economic changes in rural areas with men migrating to the cities leaving behind women. Therefore the importance of women in agriculture cannot be ignored as it is a known fact that women contribute to 50-60% of labour in farm production in India. In addition, there is also evidence to suggest, and strong opinions being voiced in a paper by Kavya Dashora from CABI (Center for Agricultural Biosciences International) that, investing in women-friendly and focused agriculture can increase overall agricultural productivity by 20%-30%. The benefits also include more ecological balance and food security in communities.
Traditionally, the roles of women and men in agriculture have been clearly defined by social practices and age old hierarchical structure. Women have mostly engaged in less skilled jobs such as transplanting, weeding, harvesting and processing, or as unpaid subsistence labourers. Those who manage farms step in mostly either when their husbands migrate to the city or if they are widows. The contribution of women to the agriculture output is governed by many factors -location of the household, other tasks and family. Although women make significant contributions in agriculture, their role in agricultural production has been undervalued and limited by the gender-specific constraints that they face.
Through this blogpost, I hence draw your attention to the need to approach agriculture in a woman centric, or at least gender neutral manner. More importantly, as the world moves towards globalisation and gender parity, it is only fair that agriculture takes steps in this direction as well. The U.S Agency for International development (USAID) in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has developed the Women?s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), an innovative and comprehensive diagnostic tool for understanding and tracking gender equality, women?s engagement and empowerment in agriculture (Source).
It cannot be debated that women centric practices will lead to better ecological balance, and have more tangible results in production and meeting our targets of food security. Most importantly, it would make our women farmers? independent, self confident and encourage them to bring more revolutions in the sector. Women have proven to be more liberal as well, so when empowered, they have the potential to encourage more science, technology, innovation and research. They are also more cognizant of using resources in a sustainable way. Hence, if we hope to revolutionize agriculture, and bring in long term impact, we must make agriculture gender neutral and continue to empower women farmers to play an empowering role in production, and decisions.