Nepali women in farming

Women constitute 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries.

In Nepal where more than 80 per cent active population is involved in agriculture, the maximum share of agricultural activities are carried out by women, especially rural women.

Women account for half of the total population of the country. According to World Bank collection indicators, 2016, 81 per cent of Nepali population is rural based, of which around 43 per cent are women. According to Food AID Foundation, if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.

Agriculture has diverse dimensions of production, processing, and marketing. But in Nepali context, more than 80 per cent women are more active in agricultural production as the labour force than in processing and marketing dimensions. The main reasons why Nepali women are lagging behind in the agriculture sector are illiteracy and lack of ownership of agricultural resources such as land and agricultural equipment.

According to the national census 2011, the literacy rate of Nepal is 65.9 per cent. The female illiteracy rate has decreased from 65 per cent to 43 per cent in one decade, which no doubt is a good achievement, but not enough. Illiteracy is one of the major reasons for decreased confidence among women, which is affecting women’s leadership and entrepreneurship qualities. Similarly, illiteracy makes women bread maker rather than bread earner. Illiterate women are often paid less and have poor access to agricultural resources as well as decision-making process. So women should be perceived as key actors in agricultural transformation and should be brought in decision-making process. Our social structure is yet another reason for poor status of women in agriculture. Women have no or less ownership of land than the male members of society. According to FAO, less than 10 per cent of women own land in Nepal.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) focus on women empowerment in tackling climate change, poverty and inequality. The adversity of climate change and poverty could be relieved by increasing the agricultural produce, which in turn addresses the increasing hunger issues. The increased agricultural production has direct relation with women empowerment in agricultural field.