Let us utilize agriculture for making women self-reliant
Housewife Parvin Begum, a resident of Charan Gardi village in Palash upazila of Narsingdi district, has achieved success in mushroom cultivation. Wife of farmer Amir Hossain, Parvin cultivates vegetables near her house.
Inspired by a local NGO regarding mushroom farming, she let the matter to know her husband, who also supported her in this regard. The woman then started mushroom cultivation in an abandoned small room after collecting its seeds.
"I have achieved success in mushroom cultivation and learnt a good technique of earning money staying at home", said the housewife, whose success inspired many others of the area to go for the cultivation.
Like her, many women in our country are now making progress in the agricultural sector. According to sources, the main sector of rural economy is agriculture and women's contribution to agriculture is 71.5% percent.
According to Agricultural Information Service (AIS), about 80 lakh women are engaged in the sector, which also includes forestry and fishery. Women are the main home-based driving force in agriculture and in its sub-sector.
Women make essential contributions to the agricultural and rural economies in all developing countries. Their roles vary considerably between and within regions and are changing rapidly in many parts of the world, where economic and social forces are transforming the agricultural sector. Rural women often manage complex households and pursue multiple livelihood strategies.
Their activities typically include producing agricultural crops, tending animals, processing and preparing food, working for wages in agricultural or other rural enterprises, collecting fuel and water, engaging in trade and marketing, caring for family members and maintaining their homes.
As women in Bangladesh is comfortable engaging in agricultural activities within the boundary of household rather than in the field for crop production activities, home-based agricultural activities like livestock and poultry production as well as homestead gardening should be encouraged through providing more credit and training facilities to women.
The participation of women in agriculture is not new. In many area of Bangladesh, agriculture is the main occupation of women. Many ethnic groups, for example Santal, Chakma, Garo have been for centuries working as agricultural labour force. The same is also true for many female members of the communities all over the country.
Women after joining agricultural work have taken a dual role, which includes earning money by working in the field and at home, and maintaining household works.
Female contribution to overall economy, particularly in agriculture is high in Asia. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam have particularly high percentages of women employed in the agricultural sector, with estimates ranging between 60 and 98 percent (FAO, 2003).
There has been scarcity of rural agricultural labour force in recent years and farm technologies have not yet sufficiently developed to cope with this scarcity. Therefore, women participation, particularly in agriculture as entrepreneurs is increasing in Bangladesh. The progress is attributed to poverty, empowerment of women, and migration of male members from agriculture to non-farm occupation.
In the absence of male members, women's role is changing from unpaid family worker to farm managers, termed as "feminization of agriculture".
The international development community has recognized that agriculture is an engine of growth and poverty reduction in countries where it is the main occupation of the poor.
But the agricultural sector in many developing countries like Bangladesh is underperforming, because women, who represent a crucial resource in agriculture and rural economy through their roles as farmers, labourers and entrepreneurs, almost everywhere face more severe constraints than men in access to productive resources.
Female agricultural workers face a number of problems. They are the victims in wage discrimination while working as labourers. They are deprived of getting agricultural materials and necessary services. They lack ownership over land, training on agriculture, improved technology and training on its use and credit facility.
Women farmers face trouble in selling their products due to lack of women-friendly market system and proper transport facility.
Women's contribution to agriculture has been lauded at home and abroad. As part of women's recognition to agricultural sector, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations selected the theme 'Women supply food' for World Food Day in 1998.
It is difficult to ensure food security and development without evaluating women farmers. Participation of women in agricultural sector is contributing to our food security, while our per capita income is also rising.
Hence, it is essential to ensure their rights. Our efforts to achieve the goals for agricultural development, economic growth and food security will be strengthened and accelerated if steps to alleviate the constraints women face mostly in all fields and cases are taken sincerely. It is we, who have to hold the hands of our women.