Women farmers have for long struggled to find their identity in land records. However, the battle may just come to an end as the Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh recently announced that the government will take up the issue of recording women farmers and cultivators in land records with the departments of revenue and land resources, ET reported.

Singh was speaking at a two-day conference on Mahila Kisan Diwas in New Delhi, where he reflected on the role of women farmers in the country. He said women lead 18% of the agricultural households in India and that he has asked state government officials to address concerns of women farmers in land issues, marketing, extension service and knowledge on government policies.

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As men from rural parts of the country are migrating to cities for better occupational opportunities, women face several challenges in farming in the absence of men. They cannot avail institutional credit, extension services and other government entitlements including relief measures because of lack of land ownership.

“With land revenue being a state subject, the states will have to amend the Revenue Act and make it compulsory to ensure women in the household also be made owners of the agriculture land,” said Ashok Dalwai, additional secretary, agriculture ministry. He added that out of 13.7 crore farmland holdings only 2.02 crore is under women.

Apart from agriculture, women play a significant role in other kinds of farming as well, like horticulture, fisheries, animal husbandry, beekeeping.

Mountaineer, farmer and resident of Munsiyari village in Uttarakhand, Mallika Virdi spoke on this development and told SheThePeople.TV, “This is something that we have also been asking for and it is good to have the government respond to it. Now whether it would apply on ground-level or not is a big struggle. Law and policies are enabling instruments as they send out a clear message that the state is in favour of women getting ownership.”

“Today the debate is that it is not necessary to own land to be called a farmer, women agricultural labourers who work on others’ lands are also farmers. So the recognition does not have to attach with landowners,” she added.

Virdi pointed out the challenges women farmers face without land ownership, “To avail benefits from agriculture or horticulture department, women have to make a group and then demand for it. In Munsiyari when we make a collective of several women farmers, only then do we get any help from government departments. But when it’s a man, they can go alone and apply for benefits. This is how state discrimination comes into play.”

This is something that we have also been asking for and it is good to have the government respond to it. Now whether it would apply on ground-level or not is a big struggle. Law and policies are enabling instruments as they send out a clear message that the state is in favour of women getting ownership.”

“Secondly, because women don’t own land, they cannot apply for kisaan credit card. And in a place like Munsiyari where there are no investments and returns in agriculture, men want to sell their lands and leave the village. However, women don’t feel the same, they give more importance to their land and since they don’t have any authority they cannot fight to save their lands,” Virdi said.

Talking about the lack of rights of women farmers, noted economist Devaki Jain told SheThePoeple.TV, “There efforts are not included in the economy and that is why many empowered women today point out that not only women are farmers, they till the land, they do the marketing while the men are out in the cities particularly in the Uttar Pradesh hills. Land ownership is an issue which feminists are trying to negotiate for a long time now but we have not been as successful as we should be.”

If the government includes women in land records, this could act as a game-changers for lakhs of women farmers across the country. Singh had also said the government has allocated more than 30% funds for women under various major schemes, programs and development-related activities in order to bring women into the agricultural mainstream.

Picture credit- Oxfam

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