Empowering women: Is AgriTech changing the picture? - Hindustan Times
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Empowering women: Is AgriTech changing the picture?

ByHindustan Times
Mar 29, 2023 05:41 PM IST

The article has been authored by Raj Yadav, CEO & founder, Gramik.

The agriculture industry has radically transformed in the last few decades. Today, farmlands are more equipped with modern machinery, enabling farmers to expand their scale, speed, and productivity, leads to the more efficient cultivation of more land. The advancements are not limited to farm mechanization, in fact, the seeds, irrigation facilities, and fertilisers have improved as well.

Despite running 70% of India's livestock sector and 50% of agricultural practises on their own, rural women have not received the recognition they deserve, primarily due to low literacy rates, a lack of digital skills, and inadequate social and financial security. (Flickr) PREMIUM
Despite running 70% of India's livestock sector and 50% of agricultural practises on their own, rural women have not received the recognition they deserve, primarily due to low literacy rates, a lack of digital skills, and inadequate social and financial security. (Flickr)

Today, the agriculture segment is at a new juncture, where artificial intelligence, analytics, connected sensors, and other emerging technologies are taking centre stage, enabling farmers to improve their efficiency by many folds. This wave of change has also brought the efforts put in by women farmers into the limelight. Even though women make up almost half of the agricultural labour force, their production is limited by barriers to finances, inputs, and land rights.

Despite running 70% of India's livestock sector and 50% of agricultural practises on their own, rural women have not received the recognition they deserve, primarily due to low literacy rates, a lack of digital skills, and inadequate social and financial security. Moreover, these women have been marginalised by patriarchal conventions for ages and are often seen as helpless and subdued members of society. As a result, they are often relegated to unpaid farm work and household tasks, while men receive training, resources, and authority to make decisions.

But in recent years, the social structure has changed dramatically, supported by various government initiatives and policies. The addition of new tools and technologies has further emerged as a support for women farmers. Here, companies and governments also act as supporting pillars, offering special assistance to and special training to women farmers on how they can utilise these modern facilities to their optimum level, producing great yields with the minimum use of pesticides.

In line with the changes taking place in the agriculture industry, there has been a rise in AgriTech players. Today, India is home to over 2,000 start-ups, and the number is expected to grow to 10,000 in the near future. With the introduction of such gender-smart innovative solutions, along with existing assistance, women farmers now have immense opportunities to grow individually.

The support given by the private players in the agriculture industry is just not limited to assisting farmers in educating them about seeds, farm mechanization, pesticides, and others. But these players also equip women farmers with some of the best practises through which they can even sell their yields in the regional mandis, therefore, empowering them in all segments.

With rising digitisation in farming and post-harvest processes, work philosophies are also undergoing evolution. Today, farming is more flexible than it was a decade ago. Due to this flexibility, women farmers are now able to advance financially as well as socially. And with the assistance of FinTech firms, they are also empowering their fellow women farmers.

AgriTech start-ups are now enabling rural women to be their own bosses by providing them with sources of income from the comfort of their homes. Roles offered like that of ‘peer partner’, are now helping women farmers make use of their education by helping farmers not only buy agricultural inputs from AgriTech platforms in a hassle-free manner but also by connecting them with agronomists and other experts for better agricultural output.

Women farmers are the backbone of farming, and it is beneficial for all to empower women in agriculture. Of course, support from government and financial institutions has a major role to play, but the private player in this space must remain equally active and bridge the gaps that create inequality. The industry needs to make a collaborative effort in not only nurturing that women farmers but also allowing them space to grow.

The article has been authored by Raj Yadav, CEO & founder, Gramik.

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