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 Rural Women form the most important productive work force in the economy of majority of the developing nations including India.  Agriculture, the single largest production endeavour in India, contributing 25% of GDP, is increasingly becoming a Female Activity.  Agriculture sector employs 4/5th of all economically active women in the country.  48% of India’s self-employed farmers are women.  There are 75 million women engaged in dairying as against 15 million men and 20 million in animal husbandry as compared to 1.5 million men.

           Beyond the conventional market-oriented narrower definition of ‘productive workers’, 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 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 which could be described as Feminization of Agriculture.

           More than simply supplying labour, women possess detailed knowledge of agriculture and use of plant and plant product for food, medicine and animal feed.  Women today are central to the selection, breeding, cultivation, preparation & harvest of food crops.  Apart from their pivotal role in cultivation of staple crops, they are primarily responsible for the production of secondary crops such as pulses and vegetables which are often the only source of nutrition available to their families.  Women farmers also often possess unique knowledge about fish farming and handle most of the work associated with it.

 Background & Justification

          Efforts have been initiated in the recent past both by Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations to incorporate Gender Issues into the Development Agenda to ensure women’s full and equitable participation in agricultural development programmes.  However, statistics still indicate that these efforts have not been sufficient enough to bridge gender inequalities.   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 support.

          The National Agriculture Policy (NAP) has also highlighted incorporation of gender issues in the agriculture development agenda recognizing women’s role as farmers and producers of crops and live stocks; as users of technology; as active agents in marketing, processing and storage of food and as agricultural labourer.  The policy states that high priority should be accorded to recognition and mainstreaming of women’s role in agriculture.  Appropriate structural, functional and institutional measures are proposed to be initiated to empower women and build their capacities and improve their access to inputs such as land, credit and agricultural technologies.  Therefore, both for consideration of sustainability and equity, it is essential that Agricultural Research and Extension is more women centred reflecting the role of women as farmer.

          Despite significant contribution of women in the production process, an all pervasive bias of development planners in treating them primarily as consumers of social services rather than producers, kept them away from the development programmes in agriculture and allied sectors.  As men and women have different roles and needs and face gender-specific constraints, women may not automatically benefit from development activities, but may remain excluded.

          Census 1991 had registered that only 22.3% of adult female population of India are workers, which may be a gross under statement since much of the work that women do, other than in the domestic and care sectors, is not recorded in the work participation format of the census.  In fact, a pilot Time Use Survey conducted by the Central Statistical Organization came out with the starting revelations that 51% of the work of the women which qualify for inclusion in GDP are not recognized and remain unpaid.

          The studies carried out so far in the field of agriculture indicate that despite the key role of women in crop husbandry, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and post-harvest technology, those in charge of formulating packages of technologies, services and public policies for rural areas have often tended to neglect the productive role of women.  Consequently, the developments of technologies, specifically tailored to women-specific occupations and the involvement of women in technology development and  transfer have received inadequate attention from both scientific and administrative Departments of Government.

          Women have traditionally been discriminated in their access to productive resources and have been denied ownership of land, cattle, trees, harvest and shelter.  They have even been discriminated in access to credit and marketing facilities for their economic activities.  It is, thus, essential to develop strategies and mechanism to improve women’s access to agricultural support services.  Various Ministries/Departments are working towards the goal but have often tended to function in compartmentalized manner.  These fragmented efforts are not sufficient to bring about the desirable impact.

          Developing gender desegregated data and gender budgeting are the other key activities which can help bridge gender inequalities.

Gender Resource Centre (GRC)

          The GRC is contemplated to be a focal point for convergence of all issues related to ‘Gender in Agriculture’.  The GRC would ensure that policies in agriculture reflect the national commitment to Empowerment of Women.  

          The GRC would not only undertake and support training, research and advocacy on gender issues in Agriculture & Natural Resources Management (NRM) but would forge effective functional linkages with other related departments, agencies and institutions.

          Building on the experiences of women specific programme on agriculture that have been in operation, the GRC would identify critical gaps and help bridge these gaps along two paths: one- through ‘strategy of mainstreaming’ and other through ‘strategy of agenda setting’.  Mainstreaming simply means that women must be given opportunity to fully participate and benefit from all types of existing agricultural programmes.  Agenda setting means that women farmers may be provided with structural and material resources so that they can participate and benefit at par with male farmers in setting their development agenda.

Roles and Responsibilities of GRC

1.     To collect, analyse and document information (both from primary and secondary sources) on women in agriculture.

2.     To act as a comprehensive data base & a clearing house to women related policies/issues in agriculture and allied sectors including NRM.

3.     To monitor and assess the Gender impact of various on going programmes of agriculture and allied sector including NRM of Ministry of Agriculture and make recommendation on appropriate improvements in their design/strategy.

4.     To assess the gender impact of agricultural technologies and Research Project on ‘women in agriculture’, identify/assess the agronomic based drudgery prone activities of women and suggest ways to make these technologies/tools gender friendly.

5.     Identify & float macro/micro level studies to identify the needs, requirements, potential and constraints faced by women in agriculture sector especially in the areas of technological development, access to inputs, credit and other productive resources, marketing intervention etc.

6.     To review the existing laws and other Government decisions/measures relating to basic production resources  such as land, water forest and to examine women’s access and control over these basic resources and recommend necessary changes to protect women farmers right to livelihood.

7.     To document, scientifically validate and disseminate traditional/indigenous knowledge of women in agriculture and allied sector.

8.     To forge effective functional linkages with various departments, agencies and institutions including non governmental organizations and farm women groups; document and disseminate lessons and experiences from on going initiatives taken by these agencies/institutions in sustainable agriculture and NRM.

9.     To collaborate with Agri. Research institutions to identify technologies/crops/ processes in which women farmers have a comparative advantage and develop a strategy for systematic capacity building on these issues.

10.             To undertake preparation of suitable training modules on gender   issues in agriculture and NRM which include gender sensitization modules for policy planners and development managers.

11.     To view the existing policies related to land, water, forests with  

respect to their impact on women farmers and suggest remedial  

measures to bring about structural changes, if required.

12.      To promote ‘action research’ on critical issues including

women’s access to land, water, common property resources, impact of macro economic changes on women farmer and implications of legal and regulatory framework on vulnerable groups such as land less farmers, tribal farm women & those affected by natural calamities.

13.      To organize national level interactions between policy

makers/administrators and women farmers to share concern, issues and perspectives and evolve concrete policy recommendations. For the present, the work of GRC will be undertaken by the Women Cell of Directorate of Extension which will be restructured as needed.

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Last Updated On - 01 April, 2005