KATHMANDU, Nepal — The agriculture sector comprises about 27 percent of the Gross Domestic Income in Nepal. While many of the country’s men are employed abroad, women have stayed behind and taken over the farms. This created a movement called the “feminization of agriculture.” However, due to gender discrimination, women face challenges that their male counterparts do not.
Female Farmers Stepping Up
In Nepal, 98 percent of the workers employed in agriculture are women. The contribution of female farmers is imperative due to a mass migration of men leaving the country to search for higher-paying jobs. In turn, women have no other choice but to take charge of the household and the farm work.
Female farmers in Nepal have to overcome the societal thinking that they lack the physical skills required to work on a farm. Often they are not taken seriously in the industry and may lack the training opportunities that are offered to men. Unfortunately, women are not able to start on the same equal footing as men because of laws preventing them from owning land, making financial decisions and being able to gain credit. Although, there has been some improvement over the years as one-fifth of total agricultural landholders in 2011 were female. This increase represents a rise of 10 percent since 2001.
Initiatives Increasing Opportunity
Female farmers in Nepal have also started a women’s group that grows and harvests lemongrass and citronella to produce essential oils. This is allowing them access to export markets. Increasing access to markets and financial literacy training is fundamental for women to make sustainable incomes for their families.
The Tribeni Community Library, located in Bhimdhunga, Nepal was established in 2011. It is part of a “Practical Answers” program. The program is run by the anti-poverty organization READ Nepal and the British charity Practical Action. This program assisted more than 200 active members by offering resource books and financial training.
The Heifer Organization works with female farmers in Nepal with financial management and links them with distribution markets. Heifer launched the first phase of its market-focused project in 2012. In six years, the project has “supported 107,000 families across 28 districts to increase their incomes.” Since then, they have launched a second phase that, if successfully implemented, will end poverty for half a million families by 2023.
The Importance of Female Farmers
The success of women in the agriculture industry is steadily growing. Further, the Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment Joint Programme helped by building an irrigation system in the Sarlahi district of Nepal. This made it possible for female farmers to have access to water closer to their homes and increase crop production. The program also has support groups that encourage women in leadership positions and offer women jobs in construction projects. This all paves the way for women to earn more income, independence and opportunities.
Female farmers in Nepal have stepped up to the challenge of running the family home and farm despite the gender-biased roadblocks in place. The rise of the empowerment of women within the country has been imperative for women to handle the burden and sudden load they have been given. Women must receive the same opportunities to provide and be financially independent. This will benefit the country overall by upping production rates and nutrition value. The importance of women in the agricultural industry is no longer going unnoticed on such a large scale.
– Taylor Pittman