Agriculture plays pivotal role in strengthening the backbone of a country’s economy. It makes growth prosperous and helps to control poverty. Women are the important agents providing a bulk of labor in agriculture which leads to healthy productivity. The labor of women in agriculture is often underestimated but the fact is without the role women production especially rural production is almost impossible. The character and extent of engagement of women vary from place to place. But without any doubt women are independently active in agricultural activities and not just as assistants to their male counterparts. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that women represent a considerable share of the overall agricultural labor force not just as individual food producers but also as agricultural workers. (Smita Majumder; Women, Labour and Economy; 2014).
According to census of 2011, out of total women main workers, 55% were agricultural laborers and 25% were cultivators. But women own only 12.8% of operational holdings which reveal gender discrimination regarding ownership of land holdings in agriculture.
Involvement of women in agricultural labor force
The involvement of women in the agricultural labor force was over 40% in the developing countries as of 2010. There is a little increase in the figure since 1980 and ranges from around 20% in America to almost 50% in Africa. (FAO, 2011). On an average at the global level female share of the agricultural labor force is high in the Asian region. Within the Asian region the average female share of labor force is dominated by China where the share has slightly enhanced during the eighties, nineties and first half of the 21st century. (Majumder, 2014). However the share in India remained stagnant at over 30%. But the female share significantly increased in Bangladesh by 50%. On the other hand, the Asian countries like Malaysia has witnessed decline in the female labor share in agriculture.
Coming to the context of Africa, women comprise 50% of the agricultural labor force in Sub-Saharan African. There is an increase in this percentage from 45% in 1980. At present women in agriculture is over 40% in Southern Africa which is slightly over 50% in Eastern Africa. But oddly in developing countries like America the average female labor is low as compared to developing countries like Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru where the average female share of agricultural labor has increased. The probable reasons for the decreasing number of female share in different parts of world can be huge involvement of rural population in a poor fashion of employment and increase in migration to urban areas. Other reasons can be men are more into off-farm activities and women are only meant to take responsibilities at homes.
Feminization of the agricultural sector
Reports suggest that the increasing number of migration by men from rural to urban areas in search of a better life is letting more women into the agricultural sector. Such a situation is creating a “feminization” of agriculture with the involvement of more women in the sector wielding their roles as cultivators, laborers and also entrepreneurs. Rural women are considered more efficient in using the natural resources for meeting their daily household needs. This is why women farmers and agricultural laborers use more natural resources like land, water, crops, seeds etc given that they possess sound knowledge about the elements meant for use. So without discriminating women from agricultural activities if they are trained and made involve in the process of cultivating, withdrawing and wielding crops, etc then this can improve productivity and enhance the value of agriculture in the nations. Women face multiple constraints in terms of equal access to economic resources, assistance, opportunities related to land credit, technology, information of the market and many more. But without the presence of women the field of agriculture cannot produce impressive or fair economic growth. Hence the significant role of women in agriculture cannot be denied. Inclusive policies and gender friendly agricultural norms should be introduced so that gender disparity in agriculture doesn’t continue to exist. Such a thing can go a long way in raising productivity and integrate men and women in the production activities on equal levels.