The Role of Rural Women in Indian Agriculture

The Role of Rural Women in Indian Agriculture
A farm labourer weeds a ginger field in Nagarally village in Karnataka. (REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa/File Photo)


Ritesh Kumar 1 and P. H. Vihariya 2


In the era of economic inflation, it is very commonly seen the migration of male population from rural to urban area for work as construction laborers, lorry loaders, rickshaw pullers, domestic servants and street vendors etc. in our country. As a result of this, the responsibilities of inherited farming is carried out by the female members of the family.


One of the major cause that the females are being forced to take up the farm work along with the family responsibilities is rising number of farmer suicides in South Western part of the country. Certain factors are responsible for the participation of female community in agriculture. The level of poverty drives the women members to work in the agricultural fields, so that they can supplement the income of their family in order to combat poverty and keep family going.


Socially, a view in the rural area from the time immortal is that the life expectancy of females is more than that of males and hence widows end up heading a family and taking to the agricultural fields. Agriculture has its own culture which is traditionally been an acceptable avenue of work for women in rural areas.  In India, the participation in agricultural labours of females (55.2%) is more than that of male labours (44.8%).


Women are involved in all sides of agriculture, from crop selection to land preparation, to seed selection, planting, weeding, pest control, harvesting, crop storage, handling, marketing, and processing of agriculture products. Moreover, several farm activities, say ploughing or tractor handling which were traditionally carried out by men are also being accepted by women as men are pulled away into higher paying employment.


Thus, the term ‘feminization in agriculture’ is suitable for rural India. More than 50 million rural females are engaged in dairy farming against only 10-15 million male and 15-20 million females are doing animal husbandry in contrast to only 1-2 million males in this agricultural business. Being engaged at such level in the agriculture, the females have no assets, ownership, right to land, capital, income, decision making power and other resources.


Almost all women in rural India today can be considered as ‘farmers’ in some sense, working as agricultural labour, unpaid workers in the family farm enterprise, or the combination of the two.


This type of participation is often distress driven and not by their choice, therefore there are a number of emerging challenges. The most crucial part is that women are unaware of their family’s landholdings or their legal or inheritance rights and they are failing to secure even their rights.


1. Ritesh Kumar, Department of Plant Pathology, BCKV, Nadia, West Bengal.
2. P. H. Vihariya, Department of Extension Education, NAU, Navsari, Gujarat.
The authors are presenting an insight to the farming situation in South Western part of the country.