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Role of Indian Women in Agriculture

The international development community has recognized that agriculture is an engine of growth and poverty reduction in countries where it is the main occupation of the poor.

Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy. Women play a vital role in building this economy. Over the years, there is a gradual realization of the key role of women in agricultural development and their vital contribution in the field of agriculture, food security, horticulture, processing, nutrition, sericulture, fisheries, and other allied sectors.


Rural Women form the most important productive work force in the economy of majority of the developing nations including India. Rural women often manage complex households and pursue multiple livelihood strategies. Their activities typically include producing agricultural crops, tending animals, processing and preparing food, working for wages in agricultural or other rural enterprises, collecting fuel and water, engaging in trade and marketing, caring for family members and maintaining their homes. Many of these activities are not defined as “economically active employment” in national accounts but they are essential to the wellbeing of rural households. Statistical data are available regarding their participation in the agricultural sector and allied activities but their impact on the home environment has been completely ignored.

 Variations in women's participation in agricultural work depend on supply and demand factors linked to economic growth and agricultural modernization.

 Farm women felt the impact on their children’s education to a large extent, as they were able to provide them with better educational facilities as well as chances to get an education outside the village. Non-farm women only felt this impact to a medium extent; they were able to provide better educational facilities by buying books and stationery but there were far fewer chances to get their children educated outside the village. The impact of liberalization and globalization on women is important not only because they represent almost half of the total population, but also because they face constraints, which make them less beneficial from the liberalization. Once different impacts are ascertained well designed policy responses may aid women in taking advantage of greater openness to agriculture.

Swaminathan, the famous agricultural scientist describes that it was woman who first domesticated crop plants and thereby initiated the art and science of farming. While men went out hunting in search of food, women started gathering seeds from the native flora and began cultivating those of interest from the point of view of food, feed, fodder, fibre and fuel. Women have played and continue to play a key role in the conservation of basic life support systems such as land, water, flora and fauna. They have protected the health of the soil through organic recycling and promoted crop security through the maintenance of varietal diversity and genetic resistance.

Poultry farming is one of the major sources of rural economy. The rate of women in poultry farming at household level is the central in poultry industry. Even though rural women are not using modern management techniques, such as vaccination and improved feed, but their poultry enterprise is impressive. Every year, income from poultry farming has been rising. In order to generate more and more income, rural women often sell all eggs and poultry meat and left nothing for personal use. Due to poverty and lack of required level of proteins most of women have got a very poor health. Most of women suffer from malnutrition.

Multi-Dimensional Role of Women:

Agricultural Activities:Sowing, transplanting, weeding, irrigation, fertilizer application, plant protection, harvesting, winnowing, storing etc.

Domestic Activities:Cooking, child rearing, water collection, fuel wood gathering, household maintenance etc.

Allied Activities:Cattle management, fodder collection, milking etc.

Despite women's extensive and varied participation in agriculture, they continue to have less access than do men to modern agricultural inputs. As a result, their farm work is labor intensive and yields meager economic returns.

The bulk of the development projects for rural women over the 1976-85 period provided training in traditional female skills (e.g. sewing, cooking, and crafts), credit programs for microenterprises, and income-generation schemes to bring rural women into the market economy.

Agricultural extension efforts should help women improve food production while allowing them to shift more of their labor to export production. Similarly, changes in legal, financial, and educational systems must be undertaken in order to enhance women's social and economic contributions to rural development in the long term.

There is a need to examine carefully the implications of land tenure laws and regulations for women. And educational policies and funding must be changed to reflect the very high social and economic returns to women's primary education and literacy.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.