- Women’s groups have emerged as an important platform for promoting the economic, political and social empowerment of poor women. In India, Self Help Groups (SHGs), are becoming substantially involved in agricultural development activities, largely through the National Rural Livelihoods Mission platforms (NRLM) and with the assistance of NGOs.
- In the tribal areas of Odisha, women farmers’ access to land is low, even though they are closely involved in farming activities. In fact, most tribal women are legally landless, meaning, either they don’t own land or own less than one standard acre (a minimum area required to ensure food production for an average family).
- Individual forest rights are now being recently formally recognized under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, which requires that both spouses’ names are recorded. The Record of Rights (RoR) maintained by the Revenue Department lacks a column to record the landholder’s gender and does not always record land jointly in the name of wife and husband. As most of the agricultural land titles are maintained in the RoR, women lack recognition as landowners and hence women farmers.
- PRADAN, an NGO with considerable experience of working with SHGs and agriculture, used collective farming as a strategy in Rayagada district to augment the livelihoods of tribal women SHG members and also to support their recognition, at least among local actors, as women farmers.
- Along with a strong institutional support system, PRADAN assisted the women’s groups to lease in private land and also cultivate on government land, with the consent of the village community, supported by robust extension, communication, convergence and market linkages, to significantly increase their farm income.
- Group farming can be an alternative production model for women farmers to pool land, labour and capital to create larger farms, improve their agricultural income and also become recognised as women farmers at least by local actors.
- In the absence of legal sanction and enforceability of the leasing arrangements - which are informal, due to the prevailing legal framework banning agricultural land leasing in Odisha - these groups, however, face the risk of landlords either demanding higher rents after witnessing the increasing profitability of group-farming or preferring to withdraw their land from the lease arrangement due to their fear of losing the land to the SHG through long-term possession, as per existing laws.
- As most women farmers are landless, lack land records and operate through informal land leasing, they are also not eligible as individual farmers to access formal credit and government entitlements, which affect the profitability of group farming and individual returns, in addition to the pace and inclusivity of agricultural transformation
Authors and Publishers
Authors: Pranab Ranjan Choudhury & Pravanjan Mohapatra
Series editor: Mercedes Stickler
Publication Design & Illustrations: Navin Kumar Amang
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