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Recognising invisible partners: Women farmer day
Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. R. K. Arora10/14/2018 10:52:50 PM
Women all over the globe are 'silent and invisible' partners in the agriculture sector. These are the ones whose day starts before sunrise and continues after sunset. They perform a wide range of activities from ploughing, sowing; inter culture, harvesting, storage and marketing to processing of different agricultural products. Besides these, the women are also associated with many other allied activities. The different activities includes dairy, poultry, apiary, goatry and fisheries related activities like collection of fishery seeds, catch of small fishes, mussel, eatable oyster, collection of marine vegetation, fisheries marketing, fisheries processing as well as products development. Women also account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labour force, including informal work, and perform the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work within families and households in rural areas. They make significant contributions to agricultural production, food security and nutrition, land and natural resource management, and contribute towards climate resilience. Reports reveal that the smallholder agriculture produces nearly 80 per cent of food in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and supports the livelihoods of some 2.5 billion people. This small holder's agriculture is mostly carried out by the women farmers.
But despite the invaluable contribution of the women towards the society, they still have no say in the decision making process. Various structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women's decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities. They still lack equal access to productive resources and assets, public services, such as education and health care, and infrastructure, including water and sanitation. Much of their labour remains invisible and unpaid. Their workload becomes quiet heavy because of migration of men from rural settings to the urban centers in search of job. Every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women, and that they disproportionately experience poverty and social exclusion. Poverty rates in rural areas across where most of the farm women are concentrated are still higher than those in urban areas. This all is happening despite the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%. This could raise total the agricultural output in developing countries by up to 4%, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17% - that's 100-150 million people.
Another fact one cannot deny is that the women farmers are as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts, but are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high-value agri-food chains and obtain lower prices for their crops. In the country women are also not adequately recognized and represented in different institutions. For instance, of the 8 lakh cooperatives in the country, only about 20,014 cooperatives are run by women. These are the women farmer of India and whose voices often go unheard.
The crucial role that women play in ensuring the food security of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and their overall wellbeing has been finally recognized. In order to empower the women farmers in India, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India has decided to celebrate 15th October of every year as Women Farmer's Day on the occasion of International Day of Rural Women. The government has developed a gender knowledge portal for women farmers in which the data and information related to women farmers have been displayed. To ensure their participation, the ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has earmarked 30 percent of funds for women in all of its schemes and programmes. Financial help is being provided to women so as to strengthen women cooperatives in the country as there is great potential for the development and success of women cooperatives. Since, 2013-14, States and implementing agencies have also been advised to utilize 10 to 20 percent of the funds for the livestock owned by women under the existing Centrally Sponsored/Central Sector Schemes for the empowerment of them. At least one female scientist has been made compulsory in all the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) working all over the country. Near about 3.1 lakh female agriculturists have been trained in the year 2016-17 by the KVKs across India. Apart from this, the participation of women agriculturists has been ascertained in different programmes like frontline demonstration and agricultural demo being conducted by Krishi Vigyan Kendras.
The National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) also provides funds for the production of agricultural yield, processing, marketing, storage, export as well as imports. NCDC provides financial assistance to women under the several programmes being run for weaker sections. The Corporation provides loan up to Rs. 50 lakh for programmes related to women cooperatives. Further, the schemes above the range of Rs. 50 lakhs enjoy the loans available on 0.50% and 0.25% less interest rate respectively. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has also established a Central Institute for Women in Agriculture at Bhubaneswar (Orissa) to cater to the needs of women agriculturalists. It is also here pertinent to mention that this is the first and only institute for the women associated with agriculture in the world. As a part of this initiative, the government launches awareness campaigns through its various Krishi Vigyan Kendra's spread across the country and see that how these Centres (Krishi Vigyan Kendra's) can play a significant role in empowering women farmers thereby shifting existing, biased perceptions of women's roles in agriculture.
This acknowledgement of women farmers for their extraordinary contributions will send out a positive message, particularly at a local level, regarding the importance of women to farming in India. Hopefully, the celebration of Women Farmer Day every year on 15th October will not be merely a futile exercise just confined to paper work, but will prove to be a game changer in our efforts to bring into mainstream the so called ' invisible and silent' partners of agriculture.
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