By Moin Qazi, Daily O (See original article)
Women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture, the farm labour force and day-to-day family subsistence. The biggest myth is that the rural woman is part of her land’s wealth. Yes, but only to the extent of generating it. They don’t own land but produce secondary crops, gather food and firewood, process, store and prepare family food and fetch water for the family.
On average, women spend about twice as much time as men doing the unpaid work that makes life possible for everyone, like cooking, cleaning and caring. As a result, women have no time to finish their education, learn new skills. The fact that the potential of so many women is going unrealised is a tragedy – but it’s also an opportunity. Girls and women aren’t just the faces of the poverty; they’re also the key to overcoming it.
The Indian woman has moved out from the kitchen, only to be shackled by other obstructions such as inheritances laws for agricultural land in favour of men, preference for sons, patrilocal marriage, female seclusion from decision making et al. Few rural women own or control land and this handicaps them in the face of poverty. She is a victim of not just these circumstances, but of social attitudes.
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From India Water Portal: http://www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/those-invisible-farm-hands
By: Aarti Kelkar-Khambete
Parvati, aged 40, is an agricultural labourer working on the outskirts of Pune. The sole breadwinner of her family, she has not been going for work for three days because of severe pain in the lower back. She asks me for some pills or ointments that could relieve her of her backache. “I go for weeding and need to stay bent through the day. I walk back home after five and then do all the housework. Else, who will do it for me?” she asks.
Agriculture, an increasingly female activity
Agriculture is undergoing a radical change in India with more and more rural men migrating to bigger cities for work, leaving women, children and elderly behind to take care of the land and agriculture. This puts extra burden on women who have their hands full already with household chores. Surveys say that almost 75 percent of women, as compared to 59 percent men, work in the agricultural sector in India  and in many parts of India, women generate their income through agricultural activities .
“We come by the bus provided by the owner. It takes around 2.5 hours for us to reach here. We need to finish all our work at home, and come here at 9am and work till 5pm. It gets almost dark by the time we reach home. It is hard work but how can we complain? We get Rs 150 per day,” says 43-year-old Sangeeta, another agricultural labourer who works on the same farm as Parvati.
From being cultivators earlier, more women farmers are turning labourers indicating the growing distress in Indian agriculture where families are finding it difficult to hold on to their lands . The census classifies an agricultural labourer as “a person who works on another person’s land for wages in money or kind or share. He or she has no right of lease or contract on land on which she/he works”. Sixty three percent of women in India are agricultural labourers, dependent on the farms of others . In the case of women working on their own farms, it is mainly the men of the house who own the land.
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As part of a drive to encourage farmers to adopt the system of rice intensification (SRI) technique of paddy cultivation, District Collector C. Samayamoorthy on Monday honoured a woman farmer from the district who had won a national award for having achieved a record yield.
The woman farmer T. Amalarani of Vasudevanallur in the district, who harvested 18,143 kg of paddy per hectare under the SRI technique, bagged the Union Government’s ‘Krishi Karman Award’ carrying the cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh and received it from President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi on January 15.
Read the original on The Hindu
In the State of Madhya Pradesh, the Tejaswini Rural Women’s Empowerment Program* has introduced a new technology for growing rice that is transforming the lives of women farmers. The System for Rice Intensification (SRI) uses high-yielding certified seeds that are first tested for germination and then sown in a nursery with the right amount of water to ensure quality seedlings. Within eight days, the seedlings are transplanted to the fields with uniform spacing. Women farmers are bring trained to use and manage SRI at each critical stage of the process – nursery raising, transplantation and weeding.
Read more in the original article on The Global Harvest Initiative
When Anil Verma’s PRAN (Preservation and Proliferation of Rural Resources and Nature) approached paddy growing women farmers in Gaya district of Bihar, asking them to try SRI (System of Root Intensification) in their fields, he was met with disdainful looks. It sounded too good to be true, especially to farmers who had been growing paddy for generations. One lady, Kunti Devi, stood up and agreed to try it (‘Out of pity for us’, Anil says). Kunti Devi was given a tiny plot of land by the Government of Bihar, but it was barely enough to grow what she needed. After trying SRI, the results from her field were amazing, with her paddy crop getting record yields. She had surplus cash and was finally able to send her children to school.
Read more from the original article on The Alternative