Uneven field for women farmers

Women farmers contribute in a big way to Bihar's agriculture but do not enjoy basic rights that their male counterparts do, thanks to gender bias.

By S.M. Shahbaz in Patna
  • Published 27.04.18

Patna: Women farmers contribute in a big way to Bihar's agriculture but do not enjoy basic rights that their male counterparts do, thanks to gender bias.

Government data shows just seven per cent of women farmers in Bihar have landholding rights against the national average of 13 per cent.

Lack of ownership rights has denied women farmers benefits of various schemes, bank loans, free seeds, subsidies and irrigation facilities the government provides to farmers.

Nearly 100 women farmers from various districts in Bihar and 20 women panchayat representatives took part in a state-level women farmer's interface with government officials by Oxfam India, a rights-based organisation, and Sewa Bharat, a federation of women-led organisation, in Patna on Thursday.

"Our objective was to influence policy-makers to bring out gender-sensitive policies in agriculture," said Pratiush Prakash, acting regional manager and programme coordinator, Oxfam India.

Besides, land ownership has evaded women; they don't even get reasonable price for agricultural produce in the local market. Even decision-making remains largely with their male guardians. Women's participation in capacity building and training is also dominated by men.

Women form 51 per cent of the total labour force employed in agriculture, but they get 25-30 per cent less remuneration than their male counterparts. "Women farmers do not get equal pay for their produce in local markets, as do their male counterparts," said Manju Devi from Jamui district.

"Also, in the absence of land titles, women farmers have not been able to draw benefits of various schemes."

"The state government is doing its bit but the issue of land rights to women should be dealt with more efficiently," said Oxfam's Pratiush. "There is also a clear need to ensure that women farmers get adequate remuneration for their produce," said Pratiush Prakash, acting regional manager and programmer coordinator Oxfam India.

Agriculture production commissioner Sunil Kumar Singh said: "Bihar government has ensured 50 per cent participation of women in agricultural activities, but women are still not seen or recognised in a lead role. Education and awareness among them became crucial in order to give them their due in agriculture."

Experts said that rampant male migration to other states has led to increased women's participation in agriculture while their contribution is still taken as "supportive".

Also, women's participation in various agricultural extension programmes has been low as compared to men because of household responsibilities.

Experts however insisted on making agriculture a rewarding activity for women through meaningful interventions. "Giving land titles to women would be a right way to empower women," said an expert.

Women farmers and representatives who took part in the programme, however, spoke about recognising the lead role taken by them in the state's agriculture and about giving land titles to women, besides strengthening women's cooperatives and establishing women-friendly agri-markets in the state.