Gender Responsive Budgeting: A Focus on Agriculture Sector


Despite women’s vital contribution to agriculture in India, they lack control over land and livestock and don’t have access to irrigation, credit, extension services (including technical updates) and markets, observes this 2017 report.

The report is the outcome of a UN Women project that involved a ‘gender-responsive budgeting’ (GRB) analysis of the agriculture sector (using secondary sources). GRB is an internationally recognised tool that has helped governments make their budgets and policies more gender-sensitive.

Part I of the report provides an overview of the constraints faced by women farmers and reviews government policies and programmes aimed at supporting them. Part II has the findings of the GRB analysis of two centrally funded agriculture sector schemes – the Support to State Extension Reforms (also known as Agriculture Technology Management Agency) and the National Horticulture Mission. Part III offers policy recommendations to help empower women farmers and strengthen the schemes.


  1. According to the 2010-11 Agriculture Census, women’s land holdings account for 12.79 per cent of all land holdings and comprise 10.36 per cent of the total operated area. 

  2. Data collected by the India Human Development Survey 2011-12 showed that the average size of a land holding among women is 0.94 hectare whereas it is 1.18 hectares among men.

  3. An ILO study indicates that 81 per cent of woman agriculture workers are from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, 83 per cent are from landless, marginal or small farm households, and more than half the woman workers in agriculture are unpaid family labour.

  4. Census 2011 shows that 65.1 per cent of female workers and 49.8 per cent of male workers depend on agriculture for their livelihood and work as cultivators or agricultural labourers. In absolute numbers, 14.98 crore women work in agriculture.

  5. Studies indicate that women’s participation in agricultural sectors is around 47 per cent in tea plantations, 46.84 per cent in cotton cultivation, 45.43 per cent in oilseeds production, and 39.13 per cent in growing vegetables. All this is labour-intensive work, but often considered ‘unskilled’. Women account for almost 93 per cent of the workers in dairy production. 

  6. In addition to agriculture and livestock farming, women in India work in allied sectors such as fishing. In 2011, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 21 per cent of the total population involved in fisheries (in marine, coastal and inland areas) were women, as were 24 per cent of those involved in fish farming. 

  7. Data for 2011 from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) shows that except for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the gender disparity in wages is significant – men’s wages in agriculture are 1.4 times higher than the wages earned by women.

  8. Even though women work as cultivators and agricultural labourers, they say that they are ‘principally engaged in housework’. According to Census 2011, 61.6 per cent of rural women (aged 15-59) say household work is their principal activity. Of these, 45 per cent work in the kitchen garden, take care of the household’s animals, and collect and process food. The report says that this so-called household work can be considered a part of farming.

  9. The reasons why women’s work in agriculture is under-reported in official statistics are many – it is often home-based, informal, flexible, an extension of their domestic work, and difficult to differentiate from paid work. 

  10. Analysts have argued that giving new machinery to men increases their control over agriculture and widens the gap between men’s and women’s productivity. Others have said that mechanisation may also make female wage labour redundant, eliminating jobs for women in agriculture without providing alternative sources of employment.

  11. To empower women farmers, the report recommends ensuring equal access to credit, insurance, technologies, extension services, inputs such as seeds and other measures. It also says that women farmers should be registered with the state, have better working conditions, equal wages, pensions, child care support and maternity entitlements.

  12. Further, the reports recommends the joint registration of land (with the names of both spouses), recording women’s names in the cultivator’s column of land records, compensation packages in case of natural or climate change-induced disasters, technical training of women farmers, and at least 50 per cent allocations to women across all schemes.

    Focus and Factoids by Urja.


Author: S. Seethalakshmi

Editorial Inputs: Isha Chaudhary


UN Women