Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Feminisation of Indian Agriculture: Issues and Challenges

Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Feminisation of Indian Agriculture: Issues and Challenges

Article excerpt

Women and Agriculture

Over the years, agriculture is increasingly becoming a female activity. Feminisation of agriculture has been observed in many parts of the country since the 1970s (Duwury, 1989; and Venkateshwarlu, 1999). Women's share in the agricultural workforce has been rising during post-reform period. Between 1991 and 2001, the agricultural sector saw a decline in rural main workers from 183 million to 171 million but the reduction was more in case of males (11.7 million) as compared to female workers (0.5 million). Women constitute nearly two-thirds of the agriculture work force (Census, 2001). The data over the period 1961-2001 also shows increasing trend of the percentage of rural women workers classified as agricultural labourers from 25.6% to 43.4%, compared to the increase from 16.2% to 27.4% for men (Gol, 2001). The share of female labour in the agricultural workforce increased from 39.2% to 41.9% during the period 1999-2000 and 2004-05.

Women are involved in all aspects of agriculture, from crop selection to land preparation, to seed selection, planting, weeding, pest control, harvesting, crop storage, handling, marketing, and processing of agriculture produce. Almost all women in rural India today can be considered as 'farmers' in some sense, working as agricultural labour, unpaid workers in the family farm enterprise, or the combination of the two. Moreover, several farm activities traditionally carried out by men are also being undertaken by women as men are pulled away into higher paying employment. Thus, rural India is witnessing a process of feminisation of agriculture.

Women possess traditional knowledge of agriculture and they often possess unique knowledge about livestock, fish and many conventional aspects of farming. But, in many organised activities, women are left behind in the up-gradation of their knowledge and skills. FAO study conducted recently found that women in developing countries contributed about 80% towards food production but received only 2% to 10% of the extension services (FAO, 1998). In spite of the best efforts, the programmes aimed at women fail to realise the desired goals as they are rarely designed and managed by women. This is one of the serious concerns of social planners. Women can play a significant role in agriculture related activities if they are provided relevant education and training. The educated and trained women in agriculture can provide extension services as well as can help in transfer of technologies to the farm women.

India has one of the largest agricultural research and education systems in the world with an estimated stock of about three lakh graduates in the year 2010, out of which about 25 per cent are women (Rama Rao et al, 2011). But women presence is negligible in high-level decision-making bodies, advisory boards and national academies. This paper examines the current status of women agriculture graduates in India and their efficient and effective utilisation for development. The paper also highlights the problems of women in agriculture sector and why there increase in agriculture education is not getting translated into work force participation. The paper indicates towards the need for policy interventions.

Women in Agricultural Education

While women's participation in agricultural activities has increased at micro level, their participation in agricultural education has also grown manifolds about eight times in the last three decades (Table 1).

It is interesting to assess how this growing technical female human resources operating at higher levels of hierarchy are influencing or contributing to the participation of farm women in their work at appropriate levels as well. Is the increase of women in agriculture education translated into their work participation? Besides there are few searching questions. Which are the disciplines preferred by women for higher studies? Are agricultural education and work places sensitive to women's needs? …

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