According to the 2011 census, about 33.7% of rural men migrate to find employment and better economic opportunities. The increasing migration of rural men has led to the feminization of the agricultural sector, with women’s participation in agriculture and related activities becoming more prominent. To cope with this changing scenario, it becomes essential to keep women at the center of India’s political initiative.
Women have always been involved in labor intensive agricultural activities. They have played a key role in the management of biodiversity and sustainable agriculture through ecological practices, such as the conservation of traditional seeds, the preparation of natural fertilizers and the use of various natural resources to meet daily needs. Household.
Today, the government promotes natural agriculture in India. The Ministry of Agriculture announced a draft program with an expenditure of ₹25,000 crore for natural farming after the Prime Minister highlighted its importance during the National Conclave on Natural Farming, hosted by the Government of Gujarat last December. Chemical-free farming was also highlighted in the Union budget 2022-2023.
Women’s centuries-old knowledge and traditional natural farming practices make them a crucial part of promoting this model and achieving the national goal of doubling farmers’ incomes.
Owning a farm is essential for women
Women manage labor at the household and farm level, including caring for livestock and selling milk and other produce in the market. But, unfortunately, they continue to be marginalized in terms of land ownership. According to the agricultural census (2015-16), of the 73.2% of rural women engaged in agriculture, only 12.8% own land.
It is essential that women own the farm, as this improves their access to government rights, financial resources and decision-making power within the household. Studies also suggest that when women own land, they spend more of their income on children’s education and nutrition than men. In 2012, MS Swaminathan, an agricultural scientist and then a member of Rajya Sabha, introduced the Women Farmers Rights Bill, 2011 to identify women as farmers and not cultivators. Unfortunately, this bill lapsed in April 2013 due to a lack of support and interest. Today, there continues to be a growing need to identify women as farmers, with farm ownership which would in turn make them eligible for schemes and benefits, and not as mere cultivators who work on farms. .
Recognize the contribution of women
Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Agriculture (APCNF) is an example that several states can follow. It is based on the premise that since women cook primarily for their families, they understand the importance of natural products to nurture and nurture their children. As a result, women are likely to adopt natural farming earlier than men. APCNF has engaged women in social mobilization, collective action, community learning and community marketing using the existing institutional platform of women self-help groups (SHGs), which are instrumental in scaling, sustaining and deepening the natural farming program. This movement has also helped women improve their household nutrition and income and empowered them to establish their agency in their villages.
Such inclusive approaches in the implementation of agricultural policies are necessary to recognize the presence and contribution of women in the sector. In addition, better extension services and training programs for women can address gender disparity.
This would help increase women’s incomes and their involvement in decision-making. It would also have a positive impact on the health and nutritional status of the family – studies have indicated that there is a direct correlation between women’s control over agricultural resources as primary producers and the socio-economic characteristics of their household.
Training should target women
The National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati (BPKP) sub-programme are already underway in several states, and the government has pushed for agriculture natural through several training and awareness programs. However, most current programs do not focus on improving women’s participation and recognizing their role in the agricultural system.
For natural farming initiatives to be prioritized, policy makers should emphasize the participation of women, formulating targeted training and awareness programs. Additionally, social security coverage is essential to ensure that women have a strong support system to juggle household responsibilities, child-rearing and financial burdens while managing work.
Today, work is underway to bring the areas along the banks of the Ganges to natural agriculture through a comprehensive action plan. In addition, a committee has been formed to include natural farming courses at various universities. As an example of mainstreaming the role of women in India’s agricultural sector, these upcoming projects and action plans should include women in their planning phases. Women are more aware of the geography and topography of their village lands and can bring an equity and inclusive lens to planning. In addition, developing more case studies on women’s involvement in natural farming – such as the APCNF initiative – will help bring insight and nuance to the training modules.
Natural farming uses methods based on natural or ecological processes through natural inputs. It is a promising tool for minimizing farmers’ dependence on purchased inputs while increasing their incomes, providing ecological benefits and maintaining nutritional food security. Women have applied agro-ecological approaches that focus on local seeds and diverse crop varieties where they have greater insight. Their participation in natural farming will ensure the continuation and scale of the practice, promote economic well-being and equity, and support the nation’s sustainability agenda.
Madhu Verma is Chief Economist, Parul Sharma is Principal Researcher and Sahith Goverdhanam is Consultant at the Economics Center of the World Resources Institute India. First published in The Hindustan Times