New Delhi: At least 30% of the fund allocated in the budget for agri schemes is being earmarked for women as part of efforts to bring them into mainstream agriculture, Union Minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Wednesday.

The ministry is trying to ensure that women become part of the mainstream agriculture and contribute to farm productivity and production as well as in doubling the income of their families, the agriculture minister said. He said women should reap benefit of every penny spent in the farm sector.

Singh was speaking at an event, themed ‘Securing Rights of Women Farmers: Developing a Roadmap for Action’, organised here by the National Women Commission in association with UN Women and Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM). He also highlighted measures taken to bring women into the mainstream agricultural, including “earmarking at least 30% of the budget allocation for women beneficiaries in all ongoing schemes/programmes and development activities".

The government has initiated women centric activities to ensure that benefits of various beneficiary-oriented schemes reach them. The ministry is focusing on women self-help groups (SHGs) and to connect them to micro-credit. It also decided to celebrate October 15 of every year as Women Farmer’s Day.

Singh said female labourers are facing several inequalities and they work much longer hours than men and are paid lesser than their male counterparts. The minister said women play multi-dimensional roles in agriculture -- from sowing, harvesting, applying fertilisers, irrigation, plant protection to weeding, storing etc. Singh said women are active in other agriculture related activities like cattle management, fodder collection, poultry, beekeeping, mushroom farming, pig farming and goat rearing.

According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) survey, a decline in both male and female labour force in agriculture has been observed in the last three decades. However, there has been a greater decline in the number of male labour force employed in the agri sector as compared to female workforce. The decline in the number of women is significantly lower than the men and “this can be easily called the feminisation of agriculture", the statement said.

Singh said rural women’s contribution to the Indian economy is vital. According to NSSO report, women lead almost 18% agricultural households and there is not a single area of agriculture in which they are not involved. As much as 80% financially independent women are engaged in farm-related activities. Out of them, 33% work as agricultural labourers and 48% as self-employed farmers.