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المنتدى العالمي المعني بالأمن الغذائي والتغذية

Re: Transforming gender relations in agriculture through women’s empowerment: benefits, challenges and trade-offs for improving nutrition outcomes

Mahesh Maske
Mahesh MaskeBorlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA)India

Promoting Agricultural technology for Drudgery reduction in Farm Women

Women are the backbone of agricultural workforce and a vital part of Indian economy. Studies have shown that Indian women work up to 14 hours a day to carry out the most arduous activities on farm and at home. Rural women perform field operations like preparatory work for sowing, transplanting, weeding, inter-culture, harvesting and threshing and primary processing of agro produce. All these tasks are time consuming and drudgery ridden.

Cotton picking is one of the laborious tasks performed by farm women in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. Cotton picking is a tedious job and it is done manually and women’s deft hands are required for quick collection. On an average, a woman spends approximately 6-8 hours daily  collecting 30-35 Kg of cotton in a  ‘Jholi’,  a traditional  ‘conventional bag’ made out of their own garments and soft clothing which is tied in the form of a bag across their shoulders and back. The whole process is very time consuming and back breaking.

After observing the problems of farm workers while picking cotton in the fields, a cotton picking bag was designed for farm women by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) Nagpur, keeping ergonomics’ in mind. Ergonomics is a discipline that aims at improving efficiency at work and minimizes health hazards. The cotton picking bag was then tested in the field and found to be user friendly and better than existing method of cotton picking. The cotton picking bag is designed as per anthropometric measurements of female farm workers. Shaped pockets are provided in front and below waist level to hold things. The straps on the shoulders make it comfortable to carry the weight of cotton. This innovation promotes workers’ comfort and safety and helps improve efficiency.

These cotton picking bags were introduced on pilot basis in all villages under the Farming System for Nutrition (FSN) study of LANSA in Wardha district of Vidarbha in 2015-16 following field demonstration and discussions with the women farmers.  Feedback from women farmers who tried them out was positive: reduction in pain in wrist, upper back and shoulders; the bags are more amenable for tying, picking, emptying, load carrying and more efficient compared to other back and front loaded traditional bags; they were able to harvest more cotton per day and cover more area/hour than under the traditional system. The bag is more efficient in cotton picking with higher output of cotton harvested and cotton harvest area covered among all cotton pickings.

There is now demand from more women for these bags. More innovations of this type that can help reduce the burden and drudgery of women farmers are urgently required.