The annual Economic Survey 2017-18 says that the growing rural-to-urban migration of men has led to ‘feminisation’ of the agriculture sector. Feminisation of Agriculture (FoA) means an increased participation of women in the agriculture sector in the multiple roles of cultivators, labourers and entrepreneur.
This has helped women acquire financial independence and decision-making skills, and enhanced their ability to contribute for the future generation. According to Oxfam India, the agriculture sector employs 80% of all economically active women in India. Despite such benefits, women empowerment in agriculture is in darkness.
FoA is not an intended consequence but a result of multiple factors such migration of men for better economic opportunities and livelihood. Secondly, due to the patriarchal nature of society, women are the preferred labourers to work on fields as they are flexible and easier to join as an agrarian proletariat.
As per Census 2011, out of total female workers in agriculture, 55% were agricultural labourers and 24% were cultivators. However, only 12.8% of the operational holdings were owned by women, which reflects gender disparity in the ownership of landholdings in agriculture. Apart from these, women participate in workforce without any rights or say in decision-making as a result of the patriarchal nature of society. Even in Indian laws and policies, women are not recognised as farmers, thereby denying them institutional support, and insurance and banking facilities.
Women participation in agriculture can revolutionise the agrarian economy because according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, if access to productive resources for women is similar to men, then yield in farms can increase by 20-30%. Apart from this, by allowing women in farms, men can increase their freedom to search more economic opportunities.
Apart from the agriculture sector, other economic sectors should also encourage the participation of women. Christine Lagardem, at the stage of World Economic Forum, said that if women’s labour force participation is increased to the level of men, then India’s GDP can grow by 27%.
This allows women to become agents of change in the welfare of society and lead to real empowerment.