Long road to recovery: Key challenges faced by women farmers in the context of Covid-19
This report was published in August 2021 by Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM), a nationwide network of individuals and organisations that advocates the rights of women farmers.
It presents the results of
a survey conducted between August 4 and September 10, 2020, assessing the impact
of the first wave of Covid-19 in India on women farmers. The report studies the
challenges they faced relating to livelihoods, food security, health, access to the
government’s relief measures as well as domestic violence.
The survey covers 930 women across 11 states: Assam, Bihar, Gujarat,
Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh,
Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The 46-page report is
divided into five chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Background of the women
respondents (Chapter 2); Disruptions in Livelihoods (Chapter 3); Pradhan Mantri
Garib Kalyan Yojana (Chapter 4); and Key findings, conclusions, and
recommendations (Chapter 5).
Nearly three-fourth of the 930 women surveyed were married. About 41 per cent had not received formal education, 30 per cent had studied till Class 5, and 21 per cent till Class 10.
About 610 respondents (65 per cent) were cultivators, 372 (40 per cent) undertook livestock rearing and 270 respondents (29 per cent) were agricultural wage labourers.
Over 40 per cent of the women surveyed – 404 respondents – said their households did not have a salaried income during the lockdown. During the first wave of the pandemic, 425 respondents reported a decline in their salaried income.
The survey was conducted in August 2020, after the kharif season had ended. As many as 563 of the 610 cultivators had found it difficult to access agricultural inputs during the lockdown: 43 per found it hard to procure seeds, and 33 per cent to obtain fertilisers and pesticides.
Out of the 372 women who reared livestock, about 34 per cent reported facing difficulties in cattle grazing and 40 per cent were unable to procure fodder.
The survey recorded the responses of 43 women farmers from the states of Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, who collected non-timber forest produce for a living. Majority (70 per cent) of them faced forcible evictions from their lands during lockdown, and 74 per cent reported a reduction in their income.
In March 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), a 1.7 lakh crore package to provide relief to the poor during the lockdown. It entitled the 80 crore beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act, 2013, to receive five kilos of additional food grains for free. Around 10 per cent of the 827 ration card holders surveyed were ‘above poverty line’ and did not qualify for free grains.
For existing beneficiaries of widow, old age and disability pensions, PMGKY granted an additional amount of Rs. 1,000 to be paid over two instalments in April and May 2020. Majority (77 per cent) of the 158 eligible for widow pensions in the survey received this amount between March and June 2020. Half of the 47 entitled to old age pensions did not receive the amount during the lockdown. And 67 per cent of the 12 entitled to disability pensions received an instalment in April, while only 58 per cent received the amount in May.
The government of India’s Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, which was launched in early 2019, entitles landholding farm households to cash transfers of Rs. 6,000 a year, disbursed in three instalments. The report states that only 35 per cent of the surveyed women were beneficiaries of this scheme.
The surveyed farmers reported having an issue accessing banks during the lockdown. About 36 per cent had to walk long distances to withdraw money; 32 per cent were unable to reach banks at all; 20 per cent had to take expensive travel options; and five per cent had to pay extra to bank agents who visited their village.
Nearly half of the respondents did not have a job card under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, which entitles households 100 days of paid work in a year. As a result, they were not eligible for jobs under this scheme. Of those who did have the required cards, 39 per cent reported not getting a single day of work during the lockdown, and 17 per cent reported getting only 25-50 days in this period.
Focus and factoids by Khushi Agrawal.
Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch
Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch