Why female farm workers’ nutrition levels drop during peak agricultural seasons

Why female farm workers’ nutrition levels drop during peak agricultural seasons
Why female farm workers’ nutrition levels drop during peak agricultural seasons

When ladies put in additional hours on farms in peak seasons of sowing, transplanting and harvesting, it might impression their meals preparation time and scale back nutrient consumption, a study finds. The analysis attracts consideration to the results of elevated time burdens on farms and the opposed results on ladies’s vitamin.

Women-friendly, labour-saving gadgets on farms and at residence can assist the rising participation of ladies in agriculture, however a stronger coverage response is required in India the place ladies represent over a third of the farm labour power.

Women in India spend about 32% of their time on agricultural actions similar to transplanting, weeding, harvesting; juggling a number of roles, they spend a median of 300 minutes per day in unpaid work from home in cooking, and different home actions together with caring for youngsters/household.

But when their work on farms is prolonged in peak seasons, they pitch in additional time. On common, a girl spends virtually the identical time as a person in agriculture, however males spend restricted time in meals preparation, home work, and care actions, notes the examine.

“There is a chance value concerned for girls in agriculture,” mentioned the examine co-author Vidya Vemireddy. “If they lose out on time in agriculture then they are going to lose out on that wage; the wages foregone in the event that they spend extra time at residence, is the chance value. In peak seasons, wages enhance, so time spent on farm will increase and the chance value additionally will increase.”

The rising alternative value of ladies’s time is related to a dip in nutrient consumption when it comes to energy, proteins, fat, iron and zinc. For each ten extra minutes spent in agricultural work, cooking time is lowered by 4 minutes through the night meal. The outcomes of the examine present {that a} Rs 100 enhance in a girl’s agricultural wages (alternative value of time) per day is related to a decline in her energy equal to 112.3 kcal, 0.7 mg iron, 0.4 mg zinc and 1.5 g protein.

More hours of farm work in peak season eats into the time and vitality ladies would spend on cooking, particularly through the night meal preparation. They might select to cut back cooking time, make simple dishes that take up much less time to cook dinner and require much less effort. As the variety in diets falls, this, in flip, can have an effect on vitamins derived from these meals, mentioned Vemireddy from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

Vemireddy and co-author, Prabhu Pingali, who’s a director on the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition, Cornell University, surveyed 960 ladies from Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district about their time use and diets, throughout cropping patterns, seasons, and land-ownership. They additionally created an index of standardised native recipes to measure nutrient consumption and cooking time.

To the west of Chandrapur, money crops similar to cotton are cultivated and paddy within the east. According to the 2011 Census of India, greater than half of the inhabitants in Chandrapur is engaged in agriculture as a supply of principal employment. This district can be characterised by poor dietary standing, significantly in rural areas.

“We present with proof that ladies contribute loads to agriculture as farm labourers, farm managers in varied actions unfold throughout seasons,” emphasised Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition alumna Vemireddy “We should recognise ladies’s participation in agriculture and recognise that it might have destructive penalties if their burden will increase any additional.” This would imply the coverage must be aligned to ladies’s wants in agriculture – be it expertise, finance and extension.

Women-friendly interventions

Agricultural interventions and growth packages ought to make it possible for the advantages of participation in agriculture outweigh losses similar to time for family actions and leisure, says the examine.

Moreover, it’s vital to introduce labour-saving methods each in agriculture in addition to in home work. For instance, the combination of labour-saving applied sciences within the National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology.

R Rengalakshmi, who’s a director of ecotechnology on the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation and was not related to the examine, echoes the observations that labour-saving applied sciences enhance ladies’s dietary deficiencies particularly addressing undernutrition (weight reduction and adjustments within the Body Mass Index through the peak agricultural season) by decreasing the usage of bodily vitality each for home and productive work.

“Labour-saving applied sciences at residence scale back the unpaid time burdens, well being hazards and workload which assist ladies to have extra time for productive work or leisure which helps to enhance their decision-making roles on the family degree,” Rengalakshmi informed Mongabay-India.

Representational picture. Photo credit score: Sanjay Kanojia / AFP

But a “combined response” from the federal government on the inclusion of labour-saving gadgets for girls in agriculture shouldn’t be matching as much as the development of feminisation of agriculture.

According to India’s Economic Survey of 2017-2018, rising rural to city migration by males is resulting in the feminisation of agriculture, with extra ladies moving into roles of cultivators, entrepreneurs and labourers. “There is a requirement for women-friendly farm mechanisation as agriculture is going through labour shortage and there’s a rising development of feminisation of agricultural labour power and work,” identified Rengalakshmi.

For occasion, below the twelfth five-year plan, the Ministry of Agriculture launched a sub-mission on agricultural mechanisation, a subsidy-based coverage to advertise the adoption of equipment use amongst smallholders from socially marginalised sections with particular consideration to ladies farmers.

While a number of provisions have been included within the coverage to advertise the entry and use of expertise on farms with a focused strategy to deal with social and gender fairness, there’s a want for analysis organisations to put money into applied sciences tailored to ladies’s necessities.

“There are cultural challenges in addition to lack of gender sensitivity in growth and innovation of expertise,” Rengalakshmi added. “There is a division of labour between women and men who’re culturally oriented to particular works, wage disparity, and prevailing gender discrimination the place it’s deemed improper for girls to make use of heavy machines in fields.”

One main gender disparity lies in landownership: solely a small proportion of ladies farmers, have the land they toil on, to their names. The Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017-’18 in India states that in rural areas, about 55% of the male employees and 73.2% of the feminine employees are engaged in agriculture. Yet solely 12.8% of ladies personal landholdings, highlights the Centre for Land Governance index. The relaxation function of their household land which is essentially within the title of male members, underscores Rengalakshmi.

Findings from the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition’s Maharashtra survey recommend that about 85% of ladies within the pattern households work as agricultural labourers. About 31% of them are landless, whereas many of the pattern households personal under 5 acres of land.

Landless ladies haven’t any alternative however to work as agricultural labourers in peak seasons, along with family work, going through worse dietary deficits whereas women with giant landholdings can select to rent labour and expertise and scale back their time spent on the sphere and at residence.

The findings additionally reveal that paddy-growing and combined crop-growing households have pronounced destructive impacts of rising time constraints on their nutrient intakes, whereas cotton-growing households should not have the identical expertise. “The time constraints are totally different throughout totally different cropping techniques since every crop includes totally different actions and due to this fact totally different time necessities on the sphere,” Vemireddy defined. “Secondly, the cotton-growing family has higher incomes usually so the time constraints don’t bind them as a lot.”

Rengalakshmi noticed that the Indian authorities and totally different state governments have taken some initiatives to recognise gender roles in agriculture particularly in manufacturing and post-harvest processing sectors however there may be nonetheless a protracted strategy to go.

Managing time burdens alone isn’t sufficient, add Vemireddy and Pingali. Ensuring the consumption of various diets all year long requires a reorientation of Indian public coverage in a number of methods similar to shifting in direction of nutrition-sensitive meals techniques from largely staple-centric manufacturing techniques, making provisions of non-cereal meals by means of the general public distribution system, conducting group consciousness campaigns; enhancing market infrastructure and meals availability throughout seasons can be important.

Climate change

As proof mounts on the consequences of local weather change on agricultural manufacturing and the livelihoods of farmers, there may be growing recognition of the variations in local weather change impacts on women and men.

The gender-differentiated impacts of local weather change are particularly pronounced amongst rural ladies, as they rely extra on biomass (eg agricultural crops, wastes and wooden and different forest assets) than males for his or her vitality wants and livelihoods. Rural ladies additionally rely greater than rural males on ecosystem providers for meals safety, as they’re usually closely concerned in agricultural manufacturing and the administration of pure assets, as per the Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook.

India’s agriculture sector is closely impacted by local weather change. Environmental and local weather uncertainties maintain farmers on their toes. The nation’s agriculture additionally drives its financial system. India can be the world’s largest shopper of groundwater, which performs a significant function in irrigated agriculture liable for over 70% of India’s foodgrain manufacturing.

But declining monsoon rainfall – a lifeline for over half of India’s internet cultivated space – has harmed the nation’s groundwater storage, significantly in north India. India’s marked positive aspects in meals manufacturing over the previous 50 years is primarily linked to elevated cropping depth because of higher irrigation entry, pushed by the growth of tube wells. But it has additionally triggered a looming water disaster as many elements of the nation take care of extreme groundwater crunch.



The use of groundwater for agriculture shouldn’t be regulated in India to this point. Photo credit score: TeshTesh/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]

In a 2021 paper, researchers warn that groundwater depletion might scale back cropping depth by as much as 20% throughout all of India and by as much as 68% within the areas projected to have low future groundwater availability in 2025. These giant projected losses are of concern provided that India is without doubt one of the largest agricultural producers worldwide, and over 600 million farmers rely upon Indian agriculture as a main supply of livelihood.

In September 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, when the federal government of India unveiled new farm legal guidelines, it triggered waves of protests among the many farming group, prominently that includes ladies, who really feel that the brand new legal guidelines don’t promise a minimal assist value for his or her crops – one thing the current legal guidelines have been doing.

The farmers and organisations working for them notice that for a rustic like India the place greater than 50% of the inhabitants is instantly or not directly concerned in agriculture, a assure within the type of the minimal assist value for his or her crops is essential, particularly contemplating the environmental and local weather uncertainties.

This article first appeared on Mongabay.

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