Feminization of Agriculture: Supporting Legal and Social Infrastructure for Women in Farming


Feminization of Agriculture: Supporting Legal and Social Infrastructure for Women in Farming

Women who work in agriculture struggle with social, economic, and legal injustices. They are consequently most susceptible to the catastrophic repercussions of climate change. This also places them, albeit out of necessity, among the most resilient, proactive responders to environmental catastrophes. Women may lead and bring about interventions and adaptations to combat climate change, as several instances from all around India have shown.

Considering that a large portion of economically active women in India works in the agricultural sector, which accounts for 71 percent of the country's GDP, the majority of the country's duties fall on Indian women. More men are leaving farms and moving to cities as a result of the agrarian crisis. This indicates that women are increasingly receiving farms in India. This is referred to as the "feminization" of the farm industry in the Economic Survey 2017–18.

In addition to being more prevalent, female farmers are important due to their ability to communicate quickly. Collective action by women is easier, and women's community organizations like the State Rural Livelihood Missions (ROMs) or self-help groups (SHGs) that already exist can be used to engage more women and increase access to agricultural expertise.

Information access is especially beneficial for the agriculture extension system. According to research, joining an SHG improves women's access to information and participation in agricultural choices, but it has a relatively small overall impact on agricultural practices or results.

Financial limitations, social expectations, the domestic responsibilities of women, and their lack of influence in decision-making are all factors that contribute to this. SHGs might educate women, but what good is knowledge if it doesn't lead to desired results?

·       Women in agriculture: land ownership, policy, and a gender perspective

Government and non-government organisations have launched a variety of interventions to connect with farmers at the ground level. The Marathwada region of Maharashtra experienced a prolonged period of drought from 2012 to 2016, which led to crop failure, groundwater depletion, and food shortages. This is one commonly cited example.

The "Women-led climate-resilient farming model" (WCRF), created by the Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), is a multifaceted farming strategy. It repositions women as farmers and information carriers, empowering them to decide what crops to cultivate, what to eat, and how much to sell. This strategy encouraged women to engage in sustainable agriculture and assisted them in providing food and income for their families. The 25 per cent boost in agricultural yield that resulted from this strategy's effectiveness translated into significant annual savings for each household.

The Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) programme is one of the numerous agriculture-based government-supported programmes that help farmers by bridging the gaps in technology adoption. One of its goals is to "Address gender issues by gathering and grouping women farmers into groups and providing them with advanced training." Numerous success stories related to the scheme have been compiled.

The empowerment of society and the economy is a theme in these tales. But the difficulties that women farmers typically encounter are numerous. Until they are institutionalised, the piecemeal initiatives could not have much of an impact. The lack of women's rights over their lands greatly restricts women's ability to participate effectively in policy and legal institutions, making this one of the most crucial factors.

In India, more than 75 per cent of women make a living as farmers, a much larger proportion than for men, making agriculture largely a female occupation. Ironically, women own less than 13% of the land in India. According to the agri-census 2015–16, even among women who do own land, close to 90% of such holdings fall under the category of small and marginal holdings. Despite the Hindu Succession Act, which was passed in 2005 and permits daughters to inherit estates, its execution is still lacking.

Women lack autonomy without land. Without a title, female farmers are not eligible for government seed, irrigation, fertiliser subsidies or credit schemes. They are unable to obtain loans and don't make investments to raise yields. These female farmers are likewise unable to produce in huge quantities and take advantage of economies of scale because of the modest landholding sizes. Other unpleasant effects of landlessness include the treatment of women as second-class citizens in India.

Additionally, this discourages women from sitting at the table. For instance, quotas for women's inclusion on the executive committee of the Water Users' Associations were increasingly adopted as a result of regulatory changes in the framework of irrigation devolution procedures. However, efforts to implement participatory irrigation management policies, such as those in Gujarat, may only aim to enlist "landowners" as members of water users' associations. Women may only have minimal participation in such committees due to a lack of land rights.

Given that ownership and empowerment are intangible consequences, it is challenging to precisely measure them. But there is a link between them. The other's existence makes little sense without the assistance of the first. Gender is ingrained in nearly every element, hence gender-blind solutions are blind to some opportunities and limitations. Interventions risk missing key chances to change agricultural systems and boost productivity if they neglect to recognise and address the relationship between gender and systems.

Initiatives that ensure access to financial aid and financial instruments without requiring land ownership are required for this. They also need to create an environment that is considerate of women's reduced availability for professional tasks due to other home duties. Additionally, more institutions like agricultural centres or Swa Bhoomi centres (by the Working Group for Women and Land ownership) must be run in Odisha under the direction of women.

Along with this, gender budgeting, which was restricted to 5 per cent in 2020–2021 and is the budgeting that is attentive to gender-neutral outcomes and primarily focused on women-centric schemes, needs to be raised.

All of this is crucial for creating more space for women as well as for altering the agricultural environment in response to climate change. Women may take the lead in fostering sustainable adaptation in Indian farmlands because of their sheer number, a wealth of experience, responsibility, and physical power. To assert this power and take part in important decision-making processes, they must be supported by the necessary social and legal framework.

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