Empowering female farmers

Empowering female farmers

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn July 11, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/11/empowering-female-farmers.html

 

WOMEN are deeply involved in agriculture and livestock sectors in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They, however, remain deprived of access to extension services, financial empowerment and capacity-building while no facility is offered to them for training, input/services and livestock progeny.

The provincial agriculture policy 2005 and horticulture policy 2009 acknowledge that the absence of gender mainstreaming and participation, hinder the growth and development of the sector, making it less profitable for farmers, especially the poor/small growers.

While the provincial government has now acknowledged the need for empowering of women, its efforts in this direction are too feeble to make any significant impact.

In this year’s budget, a project for livelihood improvement through strengthening of gender-based livestock interventions with an outlay of Rs300 million has been launched in the province. Through this project, female livestock farmers would be provided training for rearing animal offspring and hens to help improve their skills and decision-making capacity. But only Rs15 million has been earmarked this year for disbursement for the project.

Another project worth Rs46 million is to be launched in Mardan which aims at alleviation of poverty among rural women by providing them with high calibre hens for rearing in their houses. This project will promote model poultry farms and would improve supply of poultry and its byproducts to the market.

Apart from carrying out household jobs, women also work in field preparation, cultivation, fodder cutting, weeding, drying/storing of cereals, fodder and harvesting crops and vegetables.

According to a survey carried out in five districts of KP, 82 per cent of the rural women took part in agriculture activities, spent 45 per cent of their time in fields which accounted for 25 per cent of production of major crops and 30 per cent of total food.

Around 35 per cent of rural women rear livestock and are responsible for 60 to 80 per cent of feeding and milking of cattle. Over 90 per cent of rural women keep poultry birds at home. However, they mostly apply traditional methods of rearing, breeding and management of livestock.

New concepts such as tunnel farming, modern household farming, tissue culture technology and modern animal husbandry techniques need to be used to increase production and encourage efficiency.

With expert guidance and technical, financial and marketing support provided to female farmers, agriculture would develop by leaps and bounds.

Rural women in the province have no separate agricultural extension services. Living in a backward region, female farmers would willingly attend trainings if these are arranged through female extension workers. Female veterinary graduates could be appointed for curing livestock owned by female farmers in rural areas.

They can also be provided support for opening biogas plants to cater to their domestic fuel needs that consume plenty of their incomes though other altrenatives.

The government and NGOs could empower women farmers and involve them in agriculture development by setting up a provincial body of women farmers.

The membership of female farmers in model farm services centres needs to be increased. Female farmers were part of only one MFSC in Haripur which had only 70 female farmers in the total strength of 1,600 farmers in 2009.

But with the present meagre funding, any significant progress for agriculture in the province remains a remote possibility. The share of agriculture as percentage of the provincial annual development plan has come down to 1.59 this fiscal year from 1.70 per cent in the last fiscal.

In a situation where only six per cent of the farmers in the province receive agriculture credit, the share of female farmers would be even more pathetic. The government needs to support agriculture financing by public and private sector banks to offer easy farm and non-farm loans to female farmers.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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