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Rural Women role in a griculture of Pakistan: contributions and constraints.

Byline: Zaheeruddin Mirani, M. i. Kumbhar, habibullah Magsi and shuhabuddin Mughal

The study was conducted to analyze participation level, competence and constraints faced by the rural women in agricultural activities in the rural Sindh province of Pakistan. A descriptive survey research was designed to collect the information from 100 females who were selected by employing multi-stage random sampling technique. Results showed that the majority of the respondents were illiterate, married, engaged in various household and agricultural activities, i.e., sowing, thinning, weeding, hoeing, harvesting and cotton picking, aimed to support their families. Results further revealed that the competency level ranked 1st in harvesting followed by weeding, hoeing, sowing, thinning, storage, seed sorting, fertilizer application and drying ranked 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, respectively.

The results further suggested that women were competent enough, but their illiteracy, lack of awareness about advanced technologies and transportation facilities recorded as one of the major constraints to contribute as a professional agriculturists and to travel to remote fields. Finally based on the results it is recommended that at least middle school should be established at village level.

Keywords: Women; Gender; Agriculture; Sindh; Pakistan;

Introduction

Available data from Pakistan on rural and agricultural feminization shows that about 49.09 percent of women reside in rural areas as compared to 50.91 percent of males (GoP, 2013). Majority of our women population residing in rural areas are directly or indirectly involved in agricultural activities. They play a significant role in agriculture with their contribution is nearly 43 percent. Women work as mothers, household laborers, and as social production workers. They are involved in a number of on-farm agricultural and related activities such as weeding, hoeing, grass cutting, cotton picking, animal grazing, milking etc. They constitute over 25 percent of entire family workers in agriculture household and over 75 percent as a part time labor force. Women include the largest percentage of the workforce in the agricultural sector, but do not have access and control over all land and productive resources (Magsi, 2012).

Rural women play a key role in agriculture and livestock management and in supplying food to men in the fields, hauling water, collecting fuel wood, and managing livestock. Rural women really supplement their efforts in cultivation of the crops right from the preparation of soil to the post-harvest operations (Habib, 1996). According to a report by UNDP (1997) rural women's participation rate in crop and livestock production activities is about 79.4 percent which is higher than that of men (60.8 percent). Women are also responsible for managing pre-harvest, post-harvest and food security activities. A large majority of them are also engaged in poultry and livestock production.

The women are equally efficient in other field operation such as seed bed preparation, tilling, sowing, fertilizer application, fodder cutting, weeding, inter-culturing, transplanting, husking, threshing, drying, storing cereals and fodder, selling produce and harvesting of crops, fruits and vegetables (Ahmed and Hussain, 2004). Rural women often devote more time to these tasks than men do. Surveys have revealed that a woman works 12 to 15 hours a day on various economic activities and household chores. According to another survey report by FAO (2001) rural women often devote more time from 16-18 hours against 8-10 hours by men in a day to these tasks. Rural women residing in rural areas of four provinces extensively involve in the production of major field crops. With respect to crops, their participation is particularly high in cotton, rice, pulses and vegetables (Nosheenet al., 2008).

Rice and cotton cultivation in Sindh jointly account for more than one-third of women's annual agricultural activities. It has been estimated that women account for 29.28 percent of labor in rice production and 23.55 percent in cotton-wheat areas. One study in rice and cotton producing villages in Pakistan showed that in agricultural activities women spent 39.34 and 50.42 percent of their time in rice and cotton growing areas respectively (Shaheed and Mumtaz, 1990; Rashdi, 2002). Asghar (1994) reported that women are involved in various primary and secondary cotton operations, such as weeding and thinning (59.5 percent), manuring (29 percent), hoeing (52.5 percent), cotton cleaning (77 percent), and stick removing (72.5 percent). Actually their participation in production of major crops has been estimated to be approximately 30 percent in rice, 25 percent in 152 cotton, 23 percent in sugarcane, 18 percent in wheat and 26 percent in vegetables (Ahmed and Hussain, 2004).

Despite the important roles they play in agricultural economies, rural women in Pakistan suffer from the highest illiteracy rates and are the most visible face of poverty. They constitute about 36 percent of the total population residing in the rural areas of Pakistan but only 7 percent can just read and write. The literacy rate of women living in the province of Sindh is only 5 percent. Being less educated, the rural women cannot properly take care of their livelihood, children and make account of their earned income. As a result of women's great efforts in agricultural production, cannot guarantee their self-sustenance. This is still not enough, however, to cover other needs, such as health care, paying for the education of their children or the acquisition of other products and goods which are necessary on a day-to-day basis since they have a limited financial capacity caused by an inefficient supply chain and poor conservation of their surpluses.

Although, so many research studies had been designed to investigate the rural women; involvement in agriculture in the past but there is still an inadequate database on what farm women do. To integrate women in any agricultural development project's design and implementation, it is essential to have a complete knowledge of what women do'. The single major reason attributed to this lopsidedness of development plans and policies is that economic contribution by women has not only been underestimated and un- recognized but very little has actually been written and known about what women do in different sectors of the national economy and particularly in agricultural sector. This research is an attempt to highlight the pronounced but invisible hand of women in agriculture, and come up with the findings that deprive women to get access to productive resources and considerable livelihood earning.

So keeping in view the above facts, an attempt had been made to explore the extent of rural women's participation in different agricultural activities related to crops, livestock and poultry production in the TalukaJhando Mari from District TandoAllahyar which was purposively selected for this study. Moreover, specific objectives set-forth for this study are (i) to determine the level of participation of rural woman in various agriculture activities, (ii) to assess the competence level of rural woman in performing roles related to agriculture production and the constraints, faced by rural woman in farm practices.

Methodology

Location and description of study area

The study was conducted in a randomly selected union council of TalukaJhando Mari, District TandoAllahyar (Figure 1). Like other Talukas of Pakistan, the literacy level of female was comparatively low than male in rural areas of Jhando Mari (GoP, 2013). TalukaJhando Mari has normal climate and canal water supply that irrigates agricultural crops. Especially, Cotton, Wheat, Sugarcane are the major crops grown in this Taluka. All types of fruits and vegetables, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Tomato, Okra, Radish, Spinach, Chilies, Onion Oil Seeds, Soybean, Sunflower, Fodder like Maize, Millet, Berseem etc. are also grown in this area. TalukaJhando Mari is also famous for orchards such as; Mango, Chikoo, Guava, Grewia (Falsa), Banana, Papaya and Citrus.

Sampling procedure

Descriptive survey research was designed to collect the information from 100 females who were selected by employing multi-stage random sampling technique. The five villages were taken randomly from TalukaJhando Mari District TandoAllahyar, Sindh. Twenty farm families were selected from each selected village at random. A questionnaire was developed in this regard. A multistage sampling design was used for the selection of study respondents using random sampling technique. For random selection of a farm family list of farm families residing in the selected villages was prepared with the consultation of local management (councilor) and then it was verified from the local voters list. Then the names of farm families were written on the piece of paper and respondents were selected through lottery method from each farm family thereby, making a sample of 100 respondents.

The data were collected during 2013 through a well-structured, validated interview schedule (Eck and Torres, 1996; Cho, 2002; Wingenbachet al., 2003). The extent of rural women participation in agricultural activities was measured by using a five point scale namely Never', Once a month', Once a week', Almost', and Every day' which was assigned scores of 1 = Never, 2 = Once a month, 3 = Once a week, 4 = Almost, 5 = Every day (Sailaja and Reddy, 2003). Competence level of rural women in agricultural activities was measured by using a five point continuum namely Not at all', Poor', Satisfactory', Good', and Excellent' which were assigned scores of 1 = Not at all, 2 = Poor, 3 = Satisfactory, 4 = Good, 5 = Excellent.

Similarly, the extent of constraints faced by rural women in agricultural activities was measured by using a five point scale namely Not at all', Some time', Often', Almost always', Always' which were assigned scores of 1= Not at all, 2 = Some time, 3 = Often, 4 = Almost always, 5= Always. The ranking of activities was completed on the basis of the mean value. The study was descriptive in nature and reliability of data was checked through Crobbach's Alpha. During data collection efforts were made to keep it simple and understandable so as to capture all the necessary information on participation level of women farmer's in various economic activities. The collected data were analyzed by using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS).

Study Findings

Descriptive statistics

This part shows the main findings of the research. Likewise it is observed that majority of the respondents (50 percent) were married and the majority of them (50 percent) were also illiterate, where only 10 percent received 10 years of standard education (matriculation). We have also observed that around half of the respondents were in the category of 31-45 years of age, while 40 percent were 16-30 years, while 10percent belonged to the age of 46 years and above. Similarly, 85 percent of the total respondents were engaged in agriculture, 15 percent engaged in other then agriculture, e.g. sewing, housewives etc.

Participation and competency of rural women in agricultural activities Rural women in Pakistan perform a variety of tasks in the field of agriculture. To determine their extent in crop production activities questions were asked to the respondents and their responses are given Table-1. Data in this table reveals that most of the women participated in pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest activities. They were involved in pre-harvest activities like weeding, hoeing, thinning and seed sorting. Similarly, they actively participated in harvesting activities, either it is vegetable and cotton picking or it may be wheat and sugarcane cutting. The rural women could always be seen working in the field.

The women are always involved in post-harvest activities like harvesting, storage and drying. However, they were least concerned in irrigation and fertilizer activities. Most of the responses regarding working hours suggest that they spent about 6 to 8 hours in the field working shoulder to shoulder with their men. They don't care of the about the severity of season or weather. It may be sizzling cold of winter or tough hot summer but they are always working in the fields.The data presented in Table 12 depicts that among agricultural activities women's participation in harvesting of was at the top (M = 4.87, SD = 0.39).

Followed by hand weeding (M = 4.83, SD = 0.51), hoeing (M = 4.42, SD = 0.67 ), sowing (M = 4.15, SD = 0.98), storage (M = 4.09, SD = 0.93), thinning (M = 3.86, SD = 1.07), drying (M = 3.61, SD = 1.14), seed sorting (M = 3.02, SD = 1.16), seed treatment (M = 2.77, SD = 1.37), threshing (M = 2.73, SD = 1.52), seed preparation (M = 2.69, SD = 1.51), land preparation (M = 2.36, SD = 1.25), fertilizer application (M = 2.31, SD = 1.31) and irrigation application (M = 1.20, SD = 0.49.)

table-1 Extent of participation of rural women in farm level agricultural activities

###Frequency and Percentage of respondents

Categories###Almost

###Once a Once a###Every Mean SD Rank

###Never###Every

###month week###Day

###Day

Harvesting###0###0###2###9###89###4.87 0.39 1

Weeding###0###2###3###8###87###4.83 0.51 2

Hoeing###0###0###10###38###52###4.42 0.67 3

Sowing###3###5###12###34###46###4.15 0.98 4

Storage###2###5###17###36###40###4.09 0.93 5

Thinning###6###5###19###39###31###3.86 1.07 6

Drying###3###17###23###30###27###3.61 1.14 7

Seed sorting###9###32###14###38###7###3.02 1.16 8

Seed treatment###26###21###11###34###8###2.77 1.37 9

Threshing###29###25###9###18###19###2.73 1.52 10

Seed preparation 31###5###21###29###14###2.69 1.51 11

Land preparation 29###34###18###10###9###2.36 1.25 12

Fertilizer

###38###19###27###6###10###2.31 1.31 13

application

Seed rate###67###0###3###22###8###2.04 1.52 14

Irrigation

###84###10###4###2###0###1.20 0.49 15

application

Ranking of rural women's participation in farm level agricultural activities has been based on responses as per set scale: 1 = Never, 2 = Once a month, 3 = Once a week, 4 = Almost, 5 = Every day are given in Table 12. The data analysis reveals that the participation of rural women in harvesting of different crops (wheat, cotton picking, sugarcane cutting) ranked on the top. About 89 percent women out of sample of 100 responded that they were involved in harvesting of almost every crop; cotton picking was on the top of all. It was followed by activities like; hand weeding, hoeing, sowing, storage, thinning, drying, seed sorting, seed treatment, threshing, seed preparation, land preparation, fertilizer application, seed rate, and irrigation application 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th.15th, respectively. The women were least involved in irrigation application, land preparation and threshing activities.

84 percent women responded that they were not involved in any kind of irrigation activity hence; this activity was ranked the last (15th), while sixty seven (67) women did not know about the seed rate required for cultivation of any crop. While on the other hand rural womens participation is low in seed rate that ranked 13th among the other agricultural and production related activities. The data further suggest that low ranked activities were mostly carried out by the men. However, women were sharing in the activities like seed sorting, seed preparation and seed treatment.

The data reveals in the Table-2 that most of the women were competent enough in pre-harvest such as weeding, hoeing, sowing, thinning and seed sorting, harvest and post-harvest like storage, harvesting and drying activities.

Table-2 Competence level of rural women regarding farm level agricultural activities

###Frequency and Percentage of respondents

Categories###Not at###Mean###SD###Rank

###Poor Satisfactory Good Excellent

###all

Weeding###1###1###3###43###52###4.44###0.70###1

Harvesting###0###1###2###53###44###4.40###0.59###2

Hoeing###2###2###10###38###48###4.30###0.86###3

Sowing###5###6###12###30###47###4.08###1.13###4

Thinning###4###6###21###37###32###3.87###1.06###5

Storage###4###5###40###22###29###3.67###1.07###6

Seed sorting###35###28###11###13###15###2.48###1.45###7

Fertilizer

###26###31###25###8###10###2.45###1.24###8

application

Drying###36###27###23###5###9###2.24###1.25###9

Seed treatment###34###45###11###7###3###2.00###1.01###10

Seed preparation###41###35###17###4###3###1.93###1.01###11

Threshing###40###37###19###3###1###1.88###0.89###12

Land preparation###48###39###8###5###0###1.83###1.11###13

Seed rate###62###22###13###3###0###1.58###0.84###14

Irrigation

###84###10###4###2###0###1.24###0.62###15

application

Ranking of rural women's competence level in agricultural activities has been based on responses as per set scale: 1 = Not at all, 2 = Poor, 3 = Satisfactory, 4 = Good, 5 = Excellent are given in Table 2. The ranking is based on the competency level shown from their responses. They were asked whether they can perform good or excellent to be ranked at number one. The data analysis reveals that the rural women' were competent enough in harvesting of different crops (such as: wheat, cotton picking, sugarcane cutting, vegetables etc.) ranked on the top. Their competency level ranked 1st in weeding followed by harvesting, hoeing, sowing, thinning, storage, seed sorting, fertilizer application and drying ranked 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th, respectively.

The weeding (M = 4.44, SD = 0.7) , crop harvesting (M = 4.40, SD = 0.59) and hoeing (M = 4.30, SD = 0.86) were their favorite activities; they were equally competent to carry the tasks of sowing (M = 4.08, SD = 1.13) and thinning (M = 3.87, SD = 1.13). Their response to these activities was either good or excellent. The irrigation application (M = 1.24, SD = 0.62), Seed rate (M = 1.58, SD = 0.84), land preparation (M = 1.83, SD = 1.11), threshing (M = 1.88, SD = 0.89) seed preparation (M = 1.93, SD = 1.01) seed treatment (M = 4.08, SD = 1.13) were their less attracted activities. About 84 percent women were not involved in any irrigation activity, hence they did not know much about it. Similarly, they were poor in fertilizer application and drying almost 26 percent and 36 percent women did not show interest in both activities. In their opinion men can perform better in threshing than women.

The women seem competent in cotton picking, wheat harvesting, weeding, thinning, and hoeing as compared to land preparation, seed sorting, and crop storage. The women seem incompetent in irrigation application, land preparation, seed treatment, seed preparation, seed rate, drying and threshing activities. 84 percent women responded that they were not involved in any irrigation activity hence this activity was numbered 15th in the ranking list, while, 62 percent women did not know about the seed rate required for sowing of any crop and ranked number 14th.

Participation of rural women in other economic activities

In the study area rural women were actively involved in household activities to generate income, where their participation was evaluated in terms of activities like: stitching, embroidery, wood collection, handicraft, and basket making. The responses were measured on scale: 1= Never, 2 = Once a month, 3 = Once a week, 4 = Almost, 5 = Every day, and results are presented in Table 7. Comparison of results suggests that women have significant contribution in stitching (M = 4.39, SD = 0.68), embroidery (M = 4.17, SD = 0.87), and wood collection (M = 3.23, SD = 1.14). However, very few rural women were involved in handicraft (M = 2.42, SD = 0.89), and basket making (M = 1.37, SD = 0.53).Ranking of rural women's participation in economic/household management activities has been determined and results are presented in Table 18. A questioner was set with scale: 1= Never, 2 = Once a month, 3 = Once a week, 4 = Almost, 5 = Every day to seek the responses.

The data analysis reveals that the participation of rural women in stitching (48 percent), embroidery (42 percent), wood collection (41 percent), ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, respectively. While, handicraft (4 percent) and basket making (zeropercent) ranked 4th and 5th, respectively.

Table-3 Extent of participation level of rural women in economic/household activities

###Frequency and Percentage of respondents

Categories###Once a Once a Almost###Every###Mean###SD###Rank

###Never

###month week Every Day###Day

Stitching###0###2###5###45###48###4.39###0.68###1

Embroidery###0###5###15###38###42###4.17###0.87###2

Wood collection###11###14###25###41###9###3.23###1.14###3

Handicraft###12###45###36###3###4###2.42###0.89###4

Basket making###65###33###2###0###0###1.37###0.53###5

For this study the responses regarding respondent's competence were measured on scale: 1 = Not at all, 2 = Poor, 3 = Satisfactory, 4 = Good, 5 = Excellent and results are plotted in Table 4. Comparison of results suggests that women were competent enough in embroidery (M = 4.52, SD = 0.63) and stitching (M = 4.40, SD = 0.57). The wood collection (M = 3.82, SD = 0.81) was also their requirement to cooking in the house. However, very few rural women were involved in handicraft (M = 3.31, SD = 0.91) and basket making (M = 1.61, SD = 0.92). They have very little knowledge on basket making and handcrafting. The aged and trained women used to teach the younger girls and women the techniques on homemade crafts. They used earn some money by selling their home made crafts at very meager rates to support their family.

Table-4 Competence of rural women in economic/household activities

###Frequency and Percentage of respondents

Categories###Not at###Mean###SD###Rank

###Poor Satisfactory Good Excellent

###all

Embroidery###0###1###4###37###58###4.52###0.63###1

Stitching###0###0###4###52###44###4.40###0.57###2

Wood collection###2###4###16###63###15###3.82###0.81###3

Handicraft###4###7###54###24###11###3.31###0.91###4

Basket making###61###24###9###5###1###1.61###0.92###5

Competence level of rural women's was ranked on the basis economic/household management activities and given in Table 8. A questioner was set with scale: 1 = Not at all, 2 = Poor, 3 = Satisfactory, 4 = Good, 5 = Excellent. The data analysis reveals that rural women ranked on top in embroidery (58 percent) followed by stitching (42 percent) and wood collection (15 percent), respectively. While, handicraft (11 percent) and only (1 percent) basket making have excellent skills. The aged women used to teach the techniques on homemade fashioning to younger girls and women. They were earning some money from the embroidery; however they were selling their products at very meager rates.

Constraints faced by rural women working in agriculture sector

Respondents were interviewed to find out their perceptions about constrains faced by rural women in terms of their economic conditions, money ownership, lack of knowledge, lack of transportation facilities, lack of adoption of agricultural technologies, lack of coordination, long distance to attend meeting and non-regularity of meetings. The data on their response are given in Table 5.

An overwhelming majority of the respondents (over 95percent) indicated that they have difficulty in understanding the technology and 86percent has weak economic conditions (M = 4.94, SD = 0.28). Similarly, over 88percent responded that they do not have their own money (M = 4.85, SD = 0.44). Lack of mobility was another major constraint to travel to long distances (M = 4.86, SD = 0.40) so that they were unable to attend meetings. Constraints faced by rural women were ranked on scale: 1 = Not at all, 2 = Some time, 3 = Often, 4 = Almost always, 5 = Always.

The data analysis reveals that the constraints of rural women were ranked under categories as: technology difficult to understand, weak economic conditions, having no own money, irregularity in meetings, lack of knowledge, lack of communication, long distance meetings, lack of transportation facilities, lack of adoption of agricultural technologies, and lack of coordination and they followed the ranking order as: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th, respectively.

Table-5 Extent of constraints faced by rural women working in agriculture sector

###Frequency and Percentage of respondents

Categories###No at Some###Almost###Mean###SD###Rank

###Often###Always

###all time###always

Technology difficult

###0###0###1###4###95###4.94###0.28###1

to understand

Weak economic

###0###0###2###12###86###4.86###0.40###2

condition

Not having own

###0###0###3###9###88###4.85###0.44###3

money

Long distance to

###0###8###0###0###92###4.76###0.82###4

meeting

Irregularity meeting###0###0###5###21###74###4.69###0.56###5

Lack of adoption

agriculture###0###0###15###31###54###4.43###0.69###6

technologies

Lack of

###0###3###4###49###44###4.41###0.55###7

communication

Lack of knowledge###0###0###6###72###22###4.16###0.51###8

Transporting

###0###0###12###60###28###4.16###0.61###9

constraints

Lack of coordination###0###6###12###51###31###3.56###1.00###10

Conclusion and Recommendations

The results of the study indicate that majority of the rural women in the study area were illiterate and engaged in various agricultural activities (sowing, thinning, weeding, hoeing, cotton picking, wheat and sugarcane harvesting) and household activities, aimed to support their families. In fact maintaining balance between domestic duties and farm related activities is one of the main challenges for them which not only create social problems but also spoil their own health. It is concluded that in the study area vast majority of rural women were engaged in cotton picking and fodder/grass cutting, which is traditionally found in rural Pakistan (Nazar, 2004). Besides this they were also found in serving for their domestic animals that is also commonly found among housewives in the country (Luqmanet al. 2013).Although the women have favorable attitude from their family members by women working in farms but they have to face unfavorable attitude of the landlords.

On the basis of results of we recommend that educating a woman is educating a family. There should be a balance between their role in family/ household assignments and agricultural practices so that a healthy and creative environment can be flourished. Negative stereotype images of rural working women should be changed through various organs of the mass media. In the study area women did not find to be part of decision making for the family matters while their contribution were also ignored by their husbands/guardians that led violation of their rights, which must be protected. This situation has been emerged after illiteracy of female population tin rural areas of the country, it is recommended that at least middle school should be established at each village and rural women may be given training on home economics. Provincial agricultural departments should also train the rural women regarding latest technologies on agriculture and livestock in order to improve their economic conditions.

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Date:Dec 31, 2014
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