PRC Participated in National Seminar on Women’s Role in Food Security: Bridging the Gender Gap at Aligarh Muslim University

Food production involves a variety of processes from cultivation to crop production and management and collection to further distribution. Each stage involves a variety of specialised labour being put in by many people. However, what often goes unrecognized here, is the crucial role that women play in the food production processes. According to a Krishi Vistar report on gender perspective (2021-2022), the agriculture sector in our country employs 80% of all economically active women. Women comprise 33% of the agricultural labour force and 48% of self-employed farmers, playing an active role in each stage of food production. 

This increased role of women in agriculture however needs to be located within the gendered dynamics and realities of our society and how they intersect with women’s contribution to food production. In this context, the Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, held a National Seminar to bring attention to women’s Role in Food Security. The seminar focused on the gendered aspects and inequalities in agriculture through an interdisciplinary approach. The seminar aimed to discuss the development of inclusive policies to enhance food security as well as take into account the inherent gender disparity.

The seminar dealt with several issues including gender-based violence, urbanization, agricultural technology and its impact on food security. Furthermore, the discussants also focused on issues such as nutritional distribution in a household and how climate has a cumulative effect on women in agriculture.

Under the ambit of women’s role in ensuring food security the presentation by Sidhant Kumar, Research Assistant at PRC, “Women Farmers in Delhi: A Survey of Urban Agriculture and Precarity”  was the outcome of the fieldwork conducted in Delhi’s Yamuna Floodplains– particularly Jaitpur and Okhla – to delve into the role of women farmers in Delhi.  

The presentation highlighted food demands in Delhi’s urban set-up, which are primarily met by external food sources and neighbouring states as the city faces a paucity of agricultural land. Additionally, the Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) 2021 master plan ceases activities including farming on the floodplains. Within this scenario of increasingly invisibilised urban farming in the cityscape of Delhi, only 10-15% of Delhi’s food needs are fulfilled by agriculture, this then encouraged the study of the role of women farmers within this setup. The aforementioned presentation aims to bring to the fore the overrepresentation of women in agriculture. Similar observations have been made in other parts of the globe as well. In East Africa, for instance, 80% of farming households observed the involvement of women in urban agriculture, as in Cameroon where 87% of urban farmers growing vegetables were women. 

Several factors such as lower educational qualifications resulting in lack of formal employment, proximity to home and children, and little monetary investment nudge the women to participate in urban agriculture. Another factor that the presentation introduced was the absence of men in farming for instance, men take up non-agricultural informal jobs like construction (beldari) and produce supply to the local market resulting in women’s overconcentration in farming. Another key finding that presentation showed was the inclination of women to grow food crops and men towards cash crops due to factors related to gendered division of labour. 

The seminar, in sum, provided a forum for researchers and practitioners to deliberate on the invisible contribution that women make to food security in an urban and rural context and put forward ways in which women’s role in building resilient food systems can be imagined. 

Report by Prathyusha Naidu and Aishani Puri (Research Interns). 

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