Renowned scientist M S Swaminathan spoke to Kundan Pandey on the private member’s bill initiated by him in Rajya Sabha in 2011 to protect the interest of women farmers. He also talked about what needs to be done to secure their land rights and improve their access to technology, credit and the market. Excerpts
How could the bill moved by you have helped the cause of women farmers?
My private members’ bill was to create awareness of the need for attending to the special needs of women farmers in the area of access to technology, credit, insurance, inputs, irrigation water, extension services and above all assured and remunerative market.
What is the condition of women farmers in other countries? Does any country recognise women as farmers?
The status of women farmers varies from country to country. In industrialized countries men and women share the work load in every aspect of farming. In many developing countries women play an important role in post-harvest management. In almost all cases, the work assigned to women involves more drudgery than the ones being handled by men.
How do you see this Aroh campaign?
Aroh is an important initiative since it helps to awaken consciousness of land rights of women farmers. Without ‘patta to land’ women farmers are not able to get access to credit.
Do you think, the government will take up this matter in future?
The government is interested in the principle but words do not match actions. Fortunately, our present prime minister is much more committed to the cause of women farmers' empowerment.
What are the special needs and challenges of women farmers?
The special needs are the areas of land rights, technology, credit, and market.
What could be the possible model to change things on ground level?
We have to empower the 50 per cent of women in the panchayats with new skills. At M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), for example, we are converting them into climate risk managers, hunger fighters, plant doctors, academicians of the virtual academy and biodiversity conservers. This gives them both pride and self-esteem and their contributions to leveraging agriculture for nutrition are increasing.
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