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Friday, June 27, 2008

Women’s participation in agriculture -

Women’s participation in agriculture

- A project supported by Share and Care Foundation


Background

People’s Institute of Rural Development (PIRD), a not for profit organization registered under the Society Registration Act 1860 and Bombay Public (Charitable) Trust 1950, has been working in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra state in India since 1986. PIRD has, since inception, focused on women empowerment, child development, agriculture development and labor issues in the rural areas.

Share and Care Foundation, USA supported PIRD for INR 90,000/- as part of a project focusing on enhancing participation of women in agriculture. This grant support was to be utilized by PIRD within a period of 5 months.

Rationale of PIRD for initiating this project is the following issue analysis:

Agriculture still forms the backbone of Indian economy and is the source of livelihood for 65 % of India’s populace of all the people depending upon agriculture as their principal source of livelihood, 80 % are small and medium landowners[2]. This results in-

Non-availability of economies of scale in agriculture for this category.

Dependence upon family members to fulfill the agriculture labor requirement.

of traditional agricultural practices along with “half-cooked” use of technological developments not only due to lack of appropriate information and training but also lack of knowledge regarding successful innovations and experiments related to agriculture.

Unavailability of inputs either on time or of desired quality.

Increasing population resulting in diminishing land holding for agriculture.

Subsistence agriculture along with some cash crop to generate cash income is still practiced by the majority. Even today the majority does not take up agriculture as a business.

A taken for granted aspect in Indian agriculture is compulsion for women family members to work as agriculture labor in the family farms (or as a daily wage earner in other farms to supplement family income) without having any say or role in decision making concerning the family farms or agriculture.

PIRD thus focused on enhancing women’s participation in agriculture by improving their information base regarding agriculture and motivating them to increase their participation in decision making regarding their family agriculture.

Reporting Period

The grant worth INR 90,000/- from Share and Care Foundation, USA was received by PIRD on May 2007. PIRD started an informal work with the farmers from 2 clusters[3] in Latur district of Maharashtra state. Kharif[4] season is the most important agriculture season in Maharashtra as well as most of India. PIRD thus focused on informal dialogue and rapport building with farming families, especially women, during these 4 months. It was decided to take up formal training and information dissemination workshops after this busy agriculture season gets over.

This report thus focuses on the activities undertaken by PIRD during January to May 2008.

Highlights

Informal dialogue with farmers, especially women members from family, during May to December 2007 in order to establish rapport.

Following formal activities undertaken during January to June 2008:

Village level information dissemination workshops in 6 villages with on an average 30 participants in each workshop.

Focus group meetings with women for organizing them into self interest groups in 6 villages.

105 women participating in agriculture and 30 farmers from 10 villages participated in the cluster level training workshops.

Learning tours to observe first hand and understand technological developments in agriculture and market farming practices.

Demonstration plots on production of organic fertilizers and manure in 7 villages.

Linkage with local agriculture department and subject experts.

A team of 2 field animators worked full time for a period of 5 months for this project. External subject experts and PIRD experienced team members supported them whenever the need arose.

Report in detail

May to December 2007:

PIRD on receipt of grant from Share and care Foundation, USA initiated informal dialogue with farmers and women members of families practicing agriculture from 2 clusters in Chakur tehsil[5] of Latur district in Maharashtra state in India. This dialogue and understanding of concerns of women from farming families was undertaken during the months of May to December 2007. This dialogue was initiated with saving and credit societies formed by women; farmer interest groups; agriculture department local officials and agriculture experimenters from the region. This informal dialogue with diverse stakeholders resulted in:

Rapport building with women and farmers in 6 villages.

Sharing of purpose of project with diverse stakeholders.

Participation of diverse stakeholders in the project.

Clarity and refinement in training and information requirements of the project target group.

Effective planning of formal training and information dissemination workshops apart from learning tours and demonstration plots.

January to June 2008:

After the culmination of the main agriculture season following activities were undertaken as part of this project by PIRD-

Focus group meetings with women for organizing them into self interest groups in 6 villages. Main focus is women working on farms, hence special focus groups meetings were held with women from these villages. These meetings were conducted with women members of saving and credit societies as well as other village women. The purpose of conducting these meetings was to encourage the women to participate in information dissemination and training workshops apart from learning tours. These meetings also identified the specific information and training requirements of women regarding agriculture. PIRD promoted the organization of women into self interest groups so that in future these women could participate in decision making related to agriculture using the information and training obtained as part of this project.

Village level information dissemination workshops in 6 villages with on an average 30 participants in each workshop.

Based on the informal dialogue undertaken with the farmers and women, information dissemination workshops were undertaken in 6 villages on the following topics:

i. Realities of agriculture in the 21st century.-->Problem analysis of indebtedness in agriculture and ways to overcome the same.

Enhancing productivity and efficiency of agriculture.

Basics of agriculture as a business and not only subsistence.

Ways and means to enhance participation of women family members in decision making related to family farms.

Information was disseminated in the form of half-day workshops on these topics in 6 villages. Subject experts (external) and experienced team members of PIRD acted as resource persons in these workshops at the village level.

The participants shared the utility of these workshops for them and expressed their desire for further training on few subjects explored during the information dissemination workshops.

2 Cluster level training workshops. Based on the need expressed by the farmers and more importantly women participating in agriculture, 2 cluster level training workshops were organized. Each training workshop was for one working day. Training on following subjects was undertaken during the workshops:

Developments in agriculture inputs and methods of using them effectively.

Organic farming techniques.

Conservation of top fertile layer of soil.

Increasing agriculture productivity.

Methods and crop selection for market farming.

Techniques of marketing agriculture produce.

Off-farm activities to supplement agriculture income.

Processing at village level of agriculture produce.

Vilas Shete, TAA (tehsil agriculture assistant) of the local government; Shrirang Rokade (Agriculture expert); Khune; Chandrakant Katale (Organic Farming expert) and Prof. Badgire worked as external resource persons in these training workshops.

105 women participating in agriculture and 30 farmers from 10 villages participated in these training workshops.

Training on kitchen gardening for women. A 1-day training workshop on kitchen gardening was organized by PIRD for interested women and men from the project village. Mr. Rameshwar Kalwale, regional in charge of AFARM (one of the most experienced organization in Maharashtra on farming), trained the participants on importance, practicability, utility and techniques of kitchen gardening. In this workshop, conducted on 5th June 2008 at Chakur, 39 women and 19 men from 8 villages participated for the entire day and have promised to initiate kitchen gardening from this Kharif season. Vegetable seeds distributed to 105 families after the training programme to start kitchen gardening activity.

Learning tours to observe first hand and understand technological developments in agriculture and market farming practices. These learning tours were conducted in two phases. To enhance the impact of information and training workshops conducted, PIRD organized collective learning tours for farmers and women participating in agriculture.

In the first phase learning tours were taken to:

Mixed crop farming undertaken by Shesherao Mokashe in Anjansonda (Kh) village to understand various techniques of and results from mixed crop farming.

Vermi-compost production unit developed by agriculture department at Chakur tehsil to understand techniques of vermi-composting.

Satyasai horticulture farming site near Chakur tehsil to understand techniques of and profits from horticulture

Organic farming done by Maharashtra government award winner Bharat Yerme in order to understand the practical techniques, relevance and utility of organic farming.

20 women and 5 farmers of 5 villages from the project area participated in these learning tours.

In the second phase learning tours were taken to:

Mixed crop farming undertaken by Balaji Chetalbone in Chakur village to understand various techniques of and results from mixed crop farming.

Horticulture and market farming undertaken by the Bhalke couple in Shelgaon village to understand practical utility and ways of undertaking vegetable and fruit farming for market.

Nursery and vegetable farming undertaken on the drainage water of Chakur town by Ashatai Waghmare to understand involvement of and practical difficulties faced by woman farmer and micro-entrepreneur.

75 women and 20 male farmers from 7 villages of the project area participated in these learning tours.

Demonstration plots on production of organic fertilizers and manure in 7 villages. To promote organic farming and substitute chemical based fertilizers, PIRD demonstrated production of organic fertilizers and manure in 7 villages using latest scientific techniques developed by agriculture universities in Maharashtra. In these demonstrations, PIRD encouraged women to participate more since this (production of organic fertilizers) can be a source of livelihood for them in future. 129 women and 78 male farmers participated in these demonstrations on organic fertilizers. PIRD requested Mr. Chandrakant Katale (an authority on organic farming) to demonstrate the basics and nuances of organic farming, especially production of organic fertilizers. He participated in all the seven villages and answered all the queries of the participants.

Follow up

Based on this experience gained by PIRD while undertaking this project, PIRD concludes that information dissemination and training workshops is a start… The information and knowledge received by farmers and women has equipped them with options to existing patterns of agriculture. However, PIRD feels that these project participants would need handholding support in future to bring into practice the knowledge gained as part of this project.

PIRD would concentrate on:

Making agriculture efficient and productive.

Developing women initiated and managed agriculture produce processing units at village / cluster level.

Increasing crop diversity in order to achieve food security at household level.

Promote organic farming.



[1] Source: Census 2001

[2] Source: Census 2001, small landowner has a land holding of up to 2.5 hectares and medium landowner has a landholding of 2.5 to 5 hectares.

[3] Neighboring group of villages… usually 6 to 8 villages form a cluster.

[4] 3 to 4 months starting end-May to mid-November where the primary source of irrigation for agriculture is monsoon rainfall (a phenomenon peculiar to southeast-Asia).

[5] Government of India, Revenue department unit governing on an average 100 villages in Maharashtra.