- Post-independence land reform, facilitated tillers to own land, but banning tenancy limited formal access to land by discouraging (non-cultivating) landowners from leasing out their land, while the predominantly capital-poor farmers could not afford to purchase.
- Along with poor returns from agriculture, this forced many men from rural Kerala to migrate, increasing fallowing of cultivable land as well as a dependency on other states for food.
- Though women became more involved in farming, they rarely hold land legally in their name and struggle to have secure access to good productive farmland. Typically not recognized as farmers, women are often seen as ‘agricultural workers’ or ‘helpers on family farmers’ and face barriers accessing agricultural entitlements and services intended for farmers.
- Drawing upon the success of women’s collectivization around micro-credit and other socio-economic interventions, Kudumbashree, through its multi-tiered women’s collectives, promoted sustainable agriculture based livelihoods among women by enhancing their access to land through (informal) collective land leasing and supporting women farmers to access agricultural services and entitlements. This approach was later adopted as part of the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP), as a sub-component under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), while also leading to the local recognition of women as farmers.
- Collective farming can help recognition of women as farmers by enabling them to access cultivable land, finance, agriculture extension, entitlements and markets.
- However, to ensure tenure security (viz. long-term access to an economic size of productive lands) and assured access to farm entitlements, land leasing legalization and having their name on land records will be critical.
- Short-term measures, viz. involving the panchayat in leasing process and providing for a minimum lease duration for fallow lands developed through MGNREGA, can ensure longer terms and add local legitimacy to leases. As a Government Order can ensure this, other states can adopt this to enhance secured land access for women’s self-help groups and joint liability groups.
Authors and Publishers
Authors: Pranab Ranjan Choudhury, Rana Roy & Aswani Kumar Munnangi
Series editor: Mercedes Stickler
Publication Design & Illustrations: Navin Kumar Amang
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