Prof (Dr) R D Gupta
Women play a pivotal role in agriculture globally. They contribute large proportion of their hard work in food grains production. In sub-Saharan Africa, their contribution in food production is 80 to 90 per cent, in Asia 50 to 90 per cent, in Central and Eastern Europe 30 per cent. In India, women ac- count for 34 per cent of princi- pal and 89 per cent of subsidiary agriculture works. Indeed, nearly 84 per cent of al1 economical1y active women India are engaged in agriculture and al1ied activities.
The role played by women in agriculture varies widely and is of multifaceted nature. The main tasks performed by the women consist of crop produc- tion, soil management, weeding, protection ofcrops from the attacks of pests and diseases, post harvest processing, storage, food processing, animal husbandry etc Various indigenous knowle dges and skills performed by the women in agriculture and allied sectors play a vital role for food grains production maintenance of sustainability in agriculture and protection of environment.
The study conducted with regard to the involvement of women in various farming activities in Kolli Hills, Tamil- Nadu, revealed a women apart from participating in seed selection and its storage, weeding, har-vesting they also take part in land preparation, ploughing transplanting and applying green manure. Women’s role in live- stock management cannot be over emphasized. In this kind of management, indoor jobs like milking, feeding, cleaning and bathing of the animals etc, are resorted by the women in about 90 per cent families. It is worth mentioning that 75· million women are involved in dairy enterprises. The women engaged in animal husbandry account for more than 20 mil1ions as against 1.5 million men. In addition to – dairy and animal husbandry enterprises, the women are involved in allied agriculture sectors like apiculture (bee keeping or rearing of honey bees), poultry farming, fishery, piggery and sericulture (rearing of silk worns for silk) as wel1 as in kitchen, gardening. The women are also skilled in various operations of handicrafts, wooden works and other different types of smal1 enterprises which boost the rurual economy,
According to another study as reported by Bhatt (2008) in- dicated that in the Himalayan region a pair of bullocks works about 1064 hours, a man 1212 hours and a woman 3485 hours in a year on one hectare of farm. This speaks about women’s hard work and their significant con-
tribution to the home and agri culture sector. In spite ofthe significant role played by the women in the rural economy, poverty hits the hardest of the rural women dwelling in the de- veloping countries. They are likely to be poorer than men, more vulnerable, own no land, less educated (Female literacy rate in India is 54 per cent as compared to 76 per cent in men). Moreover, the women possess poor health than men. Women who traditionally have the gendered responsibility of household, food security are forced to work longer hours and even harder to ensure the food security of the family.
Need for Recognition
As the women are the important drivers of agricultural economics and ecological sustainability (as stated above) so they must be given due reccg- nition from this angle. All the policy.rnakers and development experts are required to wel1 un- derstand and look into the con- nection of women’s a knowledge, work and skills, ensuring com- munity food security and cre- ation of wealth. Some of the key issues pertaining to women in ag- riculture required to be recog- nized, are as follows:
*The limited access of farm women to agricultural production resources and their re- stricted role in policy and eco- nomic decision-making, contrib- ute to poverty and become an obstacle to food security.
*The programmes and policies of many countries, especial1y those of Asia pay little attention to equality between men and women.
*The lack of gender disag- gregated information and data prevent informal social and economic decision-making.
In the light of the afore said key issues pertaining to women in agriculture and their recogni- tion in the field, it is emerged that the prime need is to ac- knowledge the contribution of women in agriculture. This would lead to a paradigm shift at policy and social level. As farm women are among the most isolated folk in India physically, socially and learning opportunities, so there is urgent need to bring them into policy and capacity building fo- cus. Some of the policy and ca- pacity lding focus points are suer:
Like Ladakh Region of Jammu and Kashmir State and that of Meghalaya where many women control family property including agriculture 1and, have full inheritance right, the women of the other states must, the given land right. This will act an incentive to them and eventu- ally to focus the role of women in agriculture visible.
*A review of curricula of agricultural education, extension centre for integrating a gender approach in all the latest agri- cultural technology requires to be made.
*Create a women extension service centre in the state department Oragriculture to concentrate on specially identified clientele.
*Protecting women’s health and reproductive rights from hazardous technologies.
*Identify and document the needs problems of women in agriculture and accordingly de- sign or refine the new projects and programmes.
*Promote environmentally and eco-friendly technologies for women working in agriculture and encourage income generating enterprises to be un- dertaken by peasant women .
*Incentives for outstanding contribution to boost moral and encourage greater participation among other women in ag- riculture.
*Telecast success stories/ case studies to motivate women for active participation in de- velopmental programme.
*Enhance the capabilities of farm women to utilize improved technologies. This act will not only increase the food grain production but also reduce their strain and time spent on farming activities.
*Training of women in ju- dicious and appropriate use of agrochemicals at proper stages of crop growth would lower down the cost of production.
*Encourage the rural women to adopt organic farming or biodynamic farming. It is because over the last 3-4 decades, agriculture has faced enormous changes, challenges and difficulties. Indiscriminate use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, has polluted the environment-land, air and water. Not only this, continuous use of chemical fertilizers without maintaining their NPK ratio in the form of 4:2: I has produced their toxic residues in food grains causing, thereby, cancer and other diseases. Thus, biodynamic farming or organic farming will be a great boon to the farmers to check toxicity in food grains and problems of soil sickness. It will also assist in preventing dioxins found in chicken eggs. Dioxins are created when garbage plastics, metal treated wood and other materials are burnt.
xii) Even after 66 years of Indian independence, the lot of rural women including peasant women has not altered much. Although changes are taking place in villages yet the impact is not much visible, rather the rural women are still steeped in ignorance and neglect. Farm women, particularly, in remote areas have no approach to basic education, a spend a lot time looking after livestock. Most of the work is related to rearing and protecting animals, feeding and carrying fodder and water etc.