Growing mismatch between women’s increasing presence in agriculture and gender budgeting


Abridged version of the policy brief on gender budgeting and agriculture, prepared by the forum of women farmers’ rights, Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch:

“Women comprise 50 percent of the population and do 70 percent of the work in the agriculture field, they why should we get satisfied with only 30 percent. The Government should allocate 50 percent of the agriculture budget for women farmers” – Shanti Devi, Aaroh Campaign, Uttar Pradesh, Eastern Regional Consultation

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that rural women are key agents for achieving transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. The use of the word, “transformational,” symbolizes commitment to address the root causes of inequality, and not just the symptoms. Goal 5 of the Agenda has special significance for the advancement of rural women with its emphasis on eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women, creating opportunities for effective participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making, undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources and stepping up measures for women’s unpaid work to be recognized, reduced and redistributed.

Evidence from nationally-representative surveys, as well as various empirical studies, point to an overwhelming majority of women being involved in agriculture sector as cultivators and agricultural labourers across rural India. The Census 2011 data on Cultivators and Agricultural Labourers shows that around 65.1 percent of female workers depend on agriculture, either as cultivators or agricultural labourers, as opposed to 49.8 percent of male workers. Reports from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) also indicate that 63 percent of all female “workers”, and 75 percent of rural female workers, are engaged in agriculture sector.

Yet, despite their significant presence in agriculture, figures from various data sources indicate that women’s ownership of land in rural households ranges just between 6 and 11 percent. Data from the latest Agricultural Census of 2010-2011 indicate that women’s holdings account for 12.79 percent of all holdings, comprising about 10.36 percent of the operated area.

While women’s work and contribution in the agriculture and allied sectors is often underreported and inadequately reflected in macro level data systems, several micro-level studies point to the fact that women’s participation in agriculture in India is anywhere between 60-75 percent  in most of the farm related activities, such as raising nurseries for seedlings, thinning, sowing, transplanting, weeding, preparation of fertilisers as well as application of fertiliser and pesticides, in gap filling, winnowing, grading, shifting produce to threshing floor, cleaning and processing the grain etc.

In activities such as cutting, picking, cleaning and drying of grains, storage and processing, women’s participation was found to be almost 100 percent. Several activities, such as weeding performed primarily by women, are recurrent daily activities, lasting from the time the seed is planted until it is harvested. Across the country, the slow, often uneven and largely incomplete nature of agrarian transition, that involves shift of labour from agriculture to other sectors, has also been gender-biased.

As more and more men have moved to non-farm work in the industrial and service sectors, women have remained substantially in agriculture. Women’s domestic work burden, lower mobility, lesser education, and fewer rights and control over assets such as land, livestock etc. has limited their entry into non-agricultural sectors and their range of non-farm options. Increasing feminisation of agriculture and the agricultural workforce, with little recognition of their role in land and livestock management, has meant that women have largely remained invisible to the government in terms of agricultural policies, schemes, programmes and budgets as well as formal support systems such as credit, extension, insurance and marketing services.

Current budgetary allocations for women in agriculture need to be critically reviewed from a gender perspective, as well as the rationale for enhancing allocations and strengthening of it planning, implementation and monitoring, across various schemes needs to be argued against the above context. Further, the eligibility criteria required to access the government schemes and services, limiting to land ownership and possession of the land title in the name of the claimant, needs to be amended ensuring benefits of the government schemes and budgetary allocation reach to women farmers.


Initiatives by the Government of India

The year 2004-05 marked the beginning of Gender Budgeting officially being recognized as an important tool to mainstream gender concerns across all key sectors of the government, including agriculture. The introduction of Gender Budget Statement (GBS) in the year 2005-06, aimed to reflect the quantum of budgetary allocations for programmes/schemes that substantially benefit women, was the first significant step taken by the Government. Another important mechanism institutionalised by the Ministry of Finance was setting up of Gender Budget Cells (GBCs) which serve as focal points for mainstreaming gender through Gender Budgeting.

Further, to mainstream the gender commitments and set the agenda of women’s empowerment, the National Gender Resource Centre in Agriculture (NGRCA) has been set up as under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoA&FW). The NGRCA acts as a focal point for the convergence of gender related activities and issues in agriculture and allied sectors within and outside DAC&FW; addressing gender dimension to agriculture policies and programmes; rendering advisory services to the States to internalize gender specific interventions for bringing the farm women in the mainstream of agriculture development .

At the policy level, in the context of global normative frameworks, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India, through the new draft National Policy for Women 2016, envisages empowerment of women by further strengthened their policies for rural women farmers and addressing the emerging priorities of a changing society and ensured the rights of women over resources, services and social protection cover. The National Policy for Women’s holistic approach to the issue of agriculture and rural women livelihood includes women’s access to agriculture-based trainings and skill development for farm and non-farm based entrepreneurship, right to land ownership and nutrition.

Particularly in the context of farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Government of India, prepared a draft National Policy for Farmers in 2007. The policy focused on economic well-being of the farmers and aimed to ensure that farmers have access to productive assets or marketable skills. The policy also introduced the concept of farm schools for farmers for cross learning, training on agricultural methods and skill development. Additionally, the policy also addressed some of the concerns of women farmers by providing support services like crèches, child care centres and adequate nutrition for women.

Delinking Land Ownership from “Farmers” Definition and Creating an Alternative Farmer Registration System for Extending Access of Government Schemes and Services to the Tillers

The current definition of farmer linked to land ownership and possession of land titles discriminate against women farmers, agriculture labourers, tenants and share croppers, salt farmers and pastoralists who are engaged in agriculture and allied activities but do not have access to government schemes, support services, compensations and insurance facilities. Despite significant contribution to food production sectors as farmers, agriculture labourers, livestock managers, fishers, forest produce gatherers, women are not considered as farmers as only very few women farmers, legally, are land owners.

According to FAO, if women farmers in developing countries have equal access to productive resources as men, their productivity can be enhanced by 20 to 30 percent and raise agriculture production by 2.5 to 4 percent. Hence, there is a need to create an alternative system for farmers’ registration based at panchayat or village level that certifies individuals, irrespective of gender and land ownership, engaged in agriculture as farmers. Kerala’s successful model of collective land leasing and convergence for enhancing women farmers’ access to agricultural inputs and services, Kudumbashree, can be replicated in other states specifically targeting women farmers, tenants and share croppers, landless agriculture labourers.

In Assam, Field Management Committees were formed at the panchayat level for increasing access of farmers to irrigations schemes. The Panchayat, with the active participation of all villagers, became the certifying agency for granting Field Management Committee membership; this could be extended for all the agriculture schemes and to other states for creating an alternative certification system. The i-Kisan portals created as a one-stop information center for farmers can be used as the farmer registration system and farmers registered in the portal can get access to agriculture resources with the agriculture information. In a nutshell, an alternative farmer registration system, rather than land ownership, needs to be created to increase the outreach of the government benefits to the real tillers of the land.


Budgetary allocations for Women in Agriculture: Key issues and concerns

Under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoA & FW), Seeds, Crops, Cooperation, Horticulture, Extension, Marketing, Machinery & tools divisions etc. under the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC) have schemes aimed at women farmers, with some having earmarked 30% allocations for women. However, evidence from various empirical studies suggests that merely earmarking small allocations in select agriculture schemes over the past decade have met with limited success in addressing gender gaps on the ground. The reasons for the same are several.

Firstly, women’s growing presence and contribution in the agriculture sector (indicated in various national level surveys) has not been matched with any substantial increase in allocations for women farmers. The allocations in some of the beneficiary oriented schemes have been pegged at around 30% without any specific rational or basis to substantiate the same. For example, a look at various schemes of the DAC under the agriculture ministry shows that out of 55 odd schemes (subsumed broadly under 7 missions), only around 14 schemes have earmarked allocations for women.

Even here, the pattern of allocation in the form of subsidies or assistance varies across the above schemes, with not all these schemes having 30% allocations for women farmers. A look at the budgetary allocations reported as part of the Gender Budget Statement of the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare for the financial year 2017-18 shows that out of the total budget of Rs 51026 crores, Gender Budget allocation for various schemes together works out to just 4388 crores or just 8.6% of the total budget.

Another key issue is lack of clear operational guidelines for most of the schemes containing earmarked provisions for women. The few schemes with operational guidelines are also unclear about how to mainstream gender at all levels and stages of a scheme – from conceptualising/design to planning, implementation, monitoring & evaluation of the scheme. In terms of monitoring too, there is no mechanism to ensure whether even the 30% allocations across schemes are indeed being spent or availed by women farmers.

The MIS system for gender budgeting for most schemes currently remains focussed on reporting and aggregating data around physical and financial targets that have been set or met. Most of the reporting therefore invariably reflects that the entire 30% (i.e., 100%) allocated under select schemes have indeed been spent on women farmers. For example, a sample gender budget statement from the Department of Agriculture under the Government of Madhya Pradesh reports 100% spending for women across all the schemes! Therefore for gender budgeting to be truly effective, a reorientation of the monitoring and the MIS system from a gender perspective is necessary.

Capacity building of officials in the sector at all levels on gender responsive budgeting that encompasses collection and analysis of gender disaggregated data, identifying differential priorities of women and men involved in agriculture across different castes and land holding sections and then using the above for planning, budgeting and monitoring of schemes is extremely important for budgets to be effective as tools for mainstreaming gender in agriculture.

Notwithstanding insufficient budgetary allocations for women, it is equally important to emphasize here that shrinking budgetary allocations to the overall agriculture sector itself over the past two and a half decades has disproportionately impacted women, who also comprise the bulk of small and marginal farming sections across the country. Therefore, from a public financing perspective, it is important to significantly increase overall allocations to the agriculture sector along with enhancing allocations to at least 50% (from the current 30%) or more across not select but all the schemes under the Ministry for women.

Equally important is the need to formulate new schemes specifically to suit the needs and requirements of women farming in different agro-ecological contexts along with strengthening and expanding existing programmes such as the Mahila Kisan Shashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) under the Ministry of Rural Development. There is also an urgent need for meaningful convergence of schemes which have overlapping objectives and budgets.


Women Farmer-Friendly Farm Equipment for Reducing Drudgery of Women Farmers

In agricultural activities such as cutting, picking, cleaning and drying of grains, storage, and processing, women’s participation was found to be almost 100 percent. Several activities, such as weeding performed primarily by women, are recurrent daily activities, lasting from the time the seed is planted until it is harvested. Most of the agriculture activities women are engaged in require them to bend or squat for a long duration of time causing health hazards and physiological workload. Drudgery reduction of farm women would be possible only through development of the women farmer-friendly farm equipment, and women farmers should be consulted for developing the tool. Central Institute for Women in Agriculture, Bhubaneswar funded by Ministry of Agriculture (annex-1) is conducting research for developing women farmers’-friendly farm equipment.

Through the agriculture extension programmes under Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) women farmers are being trained to use the modern equipment for reducing drudgery. However, the outreach of the tools and the training programmes enabling women farmers to use the tools found to be very limited; a study conducted by Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) in Gujarat in 2016  found that around 93.9 percent of the respondents still use traditional tools and 60 percent of them expressed facing difficulties using the traditional tool.

The study also revealed that 66 percent of the respondent heard about the modern tools and an astounding 94.7 percent are interested to use it if given access to modern tools and trained how to use it. The tool banks promoted by various Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the Government’s National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) at the panchayat/ village can be used to increase women farmers’ access to the modern tool for reducing drudgery in agriculture.

The budgetary allocation in agriculture should focus on the promotion of tool banks and organise training for women farmers by Krishi Vigyan Kendras will help to increase outreach and utilisation of the tools for drudgery reduction of women farmers.

Key Demands

  • Allocation under gender responsive budgeting in Agriculture should be reflecting women farmers’ contribution to agriculture, gender differential needs rather than standardised 30 percent allocation. Gender differential needs would acknowledge that women are not a homogeneous group and there is variation in needs, interest and concerns of the women according to the caste, class, religion, geographical positioning. Budget requirement for economic upliftment of the Dalit woman living in a remote place with improper transportation facility would be higher than for an upper-class woman living near the market areas.
  • Earmarking specific amount of budget for addressing gender concerns in agriculture would not be enough; building capacity of the government officials on gender responsive budgeting would be essential for proper implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the gender budget allocation. Further, the training should be organised in the regular interval to ensure gender sensitisation of government officials rather than organising a one-time training.
  • Speaking about the capacity building of the government official, the vacant positions of state level gender coordinators should be filled up in an urgent manner and it would be essential to ensure hiring of the capacitated gender person with deeper understanding of agriculture context of the country considering the success of gender responsive budgeting will depend a lot upon the gender coordinators.
  • The agriculture training institutes should also include training modules gender responsive budgeting, to ensure effective planning, implementation and monitoring of the schemes and programmes.
  • Efficacious implementation of Gender Responsive Budgeting would depend upon the rigorous monitoring and evaluation system in place. Effective GRB in agriculture would require mainstreaming gender concerns in the designing/ planning of the schemes with proper gender need assessment and be addressing the gender needs in the scheme guidelines. In addition, during the designing of the scheme, it would be essential to incorporate gender sensitive outputs, outcomes and objective to ensure gender responsive monitoring and evaluation. Further, qualitative indicators would be equally significant to quantitative indicators for assessing the success of the GRB approach in agriculture schemes; qualitative indicators would help to highlight the crucial factors explicitly that contribute to the successful achievement of the gender responsive objectives.

Click HERE to read the unabridged policy brief


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