Strengthening women seed producers for sustaining agriculture

rucha_chitnis_womenfarmersfloodrisistantseeds_westbengalInception of agriculture has witnessed the pivotal role of women in perceiving how seeds sprouted and grew into plants. Since the birth of farming, women have been the backbone of the agricultural work force. Today, they represent 43% of the global agricultural labour force. There has been 24% increase in the number of female agricultural labourers , from 49.5 million in 2001 to 61.6 million in 2011.

The percentage of women who depend on agriculture for their livelihood is as high as 84%. In India, 79% of women continue to be engaged in agriculture and allied activities, as against only 63% of men. Women cultivators and agriculture labourers perform 70% of all the agriculture activities . Even though women are the major producers of food, they lag well behind men in access to and control over productive resources and farm income. If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could boost their yields by 20–30% raising overall agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4%.

With alarming numbers of male farmers stepping out of farming, women farmers are the present and future of farming. Increased suicides by male farmers and their migration to non-farm activities are forcing women to shoulder household as well as farm responsibilities. About 12% of all rural households in India are now managed by women with small holdings . Still, women are the invisible faces of Indian agriculture. Hence, our endeavours should address marginalization of women in agriculture.

Read the full article in Current Science