Feminization of Agriculture

Feminization of Agriculture

This article deals with ‘Feminization of Agriculture .’ This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • Feminization of agriculture means the increasing visibility and participation of women in agriculture.
  • Women constitute nearly 35 % of all agricultural workers (NSSO 2011-12). 
  • However, they are joining agriculture as agrarian proletariat /labour class (& not as owners). 
Feminization of Agriculture

Historians and even M.S. Swaminathan believe that it was women who first domesticated crop plants and initiated the art and science of farming. While men went out hunting in search of food, women started gathering seeds from the native flora and cultivating those of interest from the point of view of food, feed, fodder, fibre and fuel.”

Reasons for Feminization of Agriculture

  • Migration of males from rural areas to cities leaving behind agricultural chores to women. This trend in the agriculture sector was most visible during 1999-2005, marked by declining agriculture growth rates which saw a distressed migration of male members to relatively better-paying jobs either in the urban informal economy or the agriculturally prosperous states.
  • Widowhood forces a woman to till the land to feed her family. 

Has this led to women’s empowerment?

Yes, it has

It has increased the participation of women in the workforce & helped them to

  1. Acquire financial independence  
  2. Imbibe decision-making skills. 

No, it hasn’t

  • Feminization of Agriculture is not an intended consequence but an unintended impact of distress migration.
  • Due to the patriarchal nature of society, they are referred to as flexible labours. Hence, they are joining the sector as an agrarian proletariat.
  • Although they participate in agriculture, they don’t have  land rights (According to the agricultural census, 73.2% of rural women are engaged in farming activities, but only 12.8% own landholdings.)
  • Because of rural sector schemes like MGNREGA,  men are migrating back, and women are again confined to domestic spheres (a phenomenon known as the ‘de-feminization of agriculture’).


  • Lack of Property Rights: Given India’s social and religious set-up, women do not generally enjoy equal property rights as their male counterparts. As a result, they are not guaranteed the rights they would otherwise be given if they were recognized as farmers, such as loans for cultivation, loan waivers, crop insurance, subsidies or even compensation to their families in cases where they commit suicide.
  • Women also have poor access to credit, irrigation, inputs, technology and markets.
  • Agricultural implements are designed for men. 

What steps can  government take in view of feminization of Agriculture ?

  • Gender-responsive agricultural budgets and policies are the need of the hour. 
  • More property rights should be provided to women.
  • Machines like tractors should be specifically designed for women.
  • Women should be provided preferential membership in rural cooperatives.
  • Formation of Agricultural SHG for women. 
  • Providing creche facilities to such women farmers.

Steps taken by Government

  • 15 October is celebrated as ‘Women Farmers day‘.
  • At least 30% of budget allocation should be provided to women beneficiaries in all schemes & programs (including agriculture).
  • Low duty and tax if the land transfer is in a women’s name in some states like Punjab.
  • The government is promoting Women’s Agricultural Self-Help Groups (SHGs).  

Side Topic: Defeminization of Agriculture

  • Due to schemes like MGNREGA, men who migrated to other areas in search of jobs have started returning. It has led to a reverse process known as the Defeminization of Agriculture.

Concept: Feminization of work

It has three dimensions

  1. When more females are working
  2. When there is an increased concentration of women in certain jobs
  3. When men start participating in the work that was traditionally the domain of women (Eg: cookery)

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