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    Exploration of Women Farmer Collectives: Gender Dynamics and Socioeconomic Realities

    AgricultureAgri-businessExploration of Women Farmer Collectives: Gender Dynamics and Socioeconomic...
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    Exploration of Women Farmer Collectives: Gender Dynamics and Socioeconomic Realities

    In the quest to fathom the lives of women farmers, a profound metamorphosis surfaces, characterized by a significant paradigm shift towards agency and spatial mobility. The women, once confined to the precincts of their households, now step forth with newfound confidence.

    By Jyoti

    The first mental imagery associated with the term “farmer” or “Kisan” typically depicts a male figure standing in a field, plough in hand. This imagery is not innate but rather shaped by our surroundings and male-centred discussions. This skewed representation overlooks the crucial role of women farmers, who contribute significantly to the national income. Despite their substantial contribution, women farmers have remained largely invisible due to societal constructs.

    In reality, the engagement of women in agriculture surpasses that of men: According to the Participation Labour Force Survey of 2020, approximately 70 per cent of the rural female workforce is involved in agriculture, whereas the corresponding percentage for men is 55 per cent. This significant gender disparity in participation remains obscured, further deepening the lack of recognition for women’s contributions as agricultural labourers.

    An attempt to address this issue of intersection of gender and work and shed light on the efforts of women farmers by analysing their collective farming unveiled a disconcerting reality: women across the nation find themselves ensnared in a state of ‘time poverty.’ This term encapsulates the profound deficiency in the allocation of time for activities related to social reproduction within the realm of the family unit. This paucity stems from their substantial engagement in routine household chores. Notably, this predicament escalates when women concurrently partake in work beyond the confines of their domestic sphere.

    This interconnectedness between domestic and public labour spheres engenders a noteworthy synergy, albeit with implications for the working conditions endured by women. The confluence of these two domains yields a significant impact on the overall conditions faced by women workers.

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    Agriculture Production Cluster (APC)

    Take for instance the Agriculture Production Cluster (APC), a project designed for the tribal region of Odisha to promote synchronized farming practices and collective marketing. The project targets hilly, undulated, and topographically challenging areas with low crop productivity and limited irrigation, often leading to migration. In these areas, farmers lack organization and market connections. The APC project seeks to address these issues by focusing on capacity building, improving resource availability, connecting farmers to markets, and enhancing infrastructure. Its functioning involves organizing small and marginal farmers at the grassroots level into producer groups. Each group consists of around 130 women farmers. These producer groups then form producer companies, with 28 to 30 members from different producer groups. These producer companies play a central role in decision-making. They determine the choice of crops, market strategies, and product pricing. The core purpose of the APC is to create an organized structure for collective farming and to facilitate access to markets where farmers can sell their products at favourable prices.

    The APC project envisions strengthening Women Farmer’s Producer Companies through financial support from Odisha’s Mission Shakti Department. This involves establishing producer companies that drive input provision and establish market linkages. The project also focuses on aggregating and collectively marketing various products, including oilseeds, pulses, fruits, and vegetables, through the producer company framework. This future-oriented approach aims to empower women farmers and enhance their economic opportunities by fostering a collaborative and organized farming ecosystem.

    How does the implementation of the Agriculture Production Cluster (APC) program impact the lives of women within farmer collectives, and what are the gender, caste, and socioeconomic dynamics that shape their experiences in diverse village contexts?

    Teaching skills, giving more say

    In the quest to fathom the lives of women farmers, a profound metamorphosis surfaces, characterized by a significant paradigm shift towards agency and spatial mobility. The women, once confined to the precincts of their households, now step forth with newfound confidence, actively participating in meetings, and events, and occasionally venturing beyond the confines of their homes. This transformation, with its far-reaching implications for social mobility and access to public spaces, is unequivocally endorsed through affirmative responses. Its resonance, however, transcends superficiality, permeating multiple dimensions of their lives.

    An example: Within the realm of the Paikbori OBC colony, a remarkable narrative unfolds. The contours of this transformation are enhanced social recognition and an augmented support network. This newfound mobility extends its embrace to encompass access to credit and loans, nurtured through a fabric woven with threads of training and capacity building. This transformation, a confluence of multifaceted factors, reverberates as a testament to their evolving agency. Yet, this narrative is not devoid of challenges. Amid the canvas of transformation, strokes of inadequacy emerge. The presence of insufficient financial resources casts shadows on the newfound strides. Moreover, the accessibility to markets remains curtailed, imposing constraints that stand as markers of the journey ahead.

    Challenges of inadequate resources and access persist, highlighting the need for further research to comprehend APC’s impact on the social mobility of Scheduled Caste and tribal women. Women in farming groups experience things in different ways, depending on their circumstances.

    The Agriculture Production Cluster (APC) program has helped some women by teaching them skills and giving them more say, but it hasn’t fixed all the problems. Different villages have had different results with APC, showing the need to adjust the program to fit each place’s needs better.

    Jyoti studies at Centre for Political Studies, JNU. This piece has been extracted from her research report following her stint as an Abhijit Sen Research Intern with the National Foundation for India.

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