• women making jewellery
Who are the farmers of the future?
Women perform important roles in the farms all around the world, and farming is important for their survival. Yet, they are neither recognized as farmers nor do they own the productive assets such as land or machines. As large numbers of working-age males migrate steadily out of the farm sector, more women are left behind to care for agriculture. This project describes them as ‘farmers of the future’.
What is feminisation of agriculture?
Feminisation of agriculture can be interpreted differently; in this project, we see it both as a rise in the proportion of women in the agricultural workforce and also in the proportion of households headed by women in rural areas. These women are de facto household heads because they care for both their families and the farm plots.
What is the project about?
This project puts under microscope one of the largest countries in the world, India. It investigates, at multiple geographical scales in India, the patterns, causes, and multi-faceted implications of feminisation in agriculture. It also explores women farmers’ abilities, needs and interests in order to identify practical suggestions that facilitate policy-transition towards the gender-sensitive delivery of extension services.

To put it more clearly, the project investigates the following:

  1. the spatial and temporal changes and patterns in women’s participation in the agricultural workforce.
  2. the causes and indicators of feminisation, the determinant factors and their regional variations.
  3. the multiple consequences for women heading agricultural households.
  4. women farmer’s perceptions regarding the preferences, priorities, and understand constraints faced in strengthening agriculture and the interests affected.
  5. the adequacy of existing policy and support mechanisms for women farmers and identify opportunities to address women’s needs.

As early as in the mid-1990s, feminisation of agriculture was noted in the country. Two Indian states are under intense scholarly scrutiny in this project: Gujarat and West Bengal selected because of their contrasting agrarian growth trajectories. These two states are significantly disparate in economic, social and gender aspects. The very different economic trajectories of the two states yield illustrative results through statistical studies of relationships between economic growth parameters and feminisation. They offer compelling insights into the causes and consequences of feminisation of agriculture. Semiarid Gujarat’s milk revolution was spearheaded by rural women bringing prosperity to rural homes. In contrast, West Bengal has experienced deepening rural poverty with severe consequences for women.

Why this project?
In India, the feminisation process appears to be associated with a deepening agrarian crisis. Experts in India have noted that the farmers, particularly those with small holdings, are no longer able to generate and retain surplus from agriculture in adequate quantities. This agrarian crisis seems to have followed the opening up of the country’s agricultural economy following economic liberalisation in the early 1990s. Farmers blame external factors such as the rising costs of cultivation, inability to cope with the vagaries of rainfall and global prices, indebtedness and bottlenecks in agricultural marketing. The depth of the agrarian crisis and the irreparability of livelihood shocks from crop failures and indebtedness are also related to the conceptualisation of gender roles in tradition-bound rural India. In addition to male outmigration, there is the mounting incidence of suicides by male farmers who feel unable to uphold their duty of responsibility to provide for their families and the rapid flux in gender roles in rural India.

Related resources

Notes from the field: http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/blogs/southasiamasala/2012/08/14/feature- article-notes-from-the-field-feminisation-of-agriculture-in-the-eastern-gangetic-plains/#more- 4335

Women as farmers: http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/blogs/southasiamasala/2014/08/21/women-as- farmers-feminisation-of-farming/

Publications

Experiencing, Coping with Change: http://aciar.gov.au/files/tr_83_web.pdf