4 Reasons Why Women should be Empowered as Decision Makers in Agriculture

Debanjan Nag | June 7th, 2017, 5:29 am

“When women are empowered and can claim their rights and access to land, leadership, opportunities and choices, economies grow, food security is enhanced and prospects are improved for current and future generations”, Michelle Bachelet – Former Executive Director of UN Women

According to renowned agriculture scientist and father of Indian Green Revolution, M.S. Swaminathan, “Some historians believe that it was women who first domesticated crop plants and thereby initiated the art and science of farming. Without their total intellectual and physical participation, it will not be possible to popularise alternative system of land management to shifting cultivation, arrest gene and soil erosion and promote the care of the soil and the health of economic plants and farm animals.”

 

women as decision makers in agriculture

The importance of women in agriculture in India has been increasing. The share of rural females in agriculture was around 83 per cent in 2004-05 as compared to 67% among rural men, showing the importance of women in agriculture in rural areas. Despite their huge importance women in agriculture have seldom shouldered decision making responsibilities such as crop selection, fertilizer selection, etc. Instead they have been engaged typically in low skill farming activities like weeding, seed selection & growing and harvesting. In addition to that, women in India rarely enjoy property ownership rights which disallows them to make decisions. This creates a huge void at a socio-economic level in small and marginal farming families which can be plugged in by promoting women in key decision making roles.

Male farmers are classically inclined towards growing cash crops which positions a small or marginal farming family at considerable risks from a food security perspective. Women, on the other hand know the realities of the kitchen and are traditionally more concerned about food security, health and nutrition of the family. Thus, promoting women at decision making roles will ensure growing more food crops in the backyard solving food security problems and improving health & nutrition of the family. This in turn will also help the family shell out lesser cash in buying food items from the market. Besides, male farmers in order to enhance productivity uses chemical inputs for farming thereby creating an ecological challenge. Women while growing food crops for her family will be concerned about their health and more likely to use organic inputs. Multi-tasking comes naturally to women which helps them take key decisions related to various aspects of farming along with performing allied activities e.g. animal husbandry. Women communicate in groups and exchange learnings unlike male farmers which helps spreading the acquired knowledge. Lastly, being creative women are instrumental in optimal utilization of available land to grow variety of crops through mixed cropping, inter-cropping and laying multiple seed beds.

Did you know?

A recent directive from the Government of India has recognized the importance of women in agriculture and allied agriculture activities and has categorically conveyed the State Governments to spend 30 per cent of the funds allocated towards farm schemes for empowering women farmers.