Women’s Role in Agriculture and Food Security

Learnings from Gujarat and West Bengal





Agrarian distress, feminization, food security, Gujarat-West Bengal and logit model


Ushering in the next phase of agriculture in India requires a deeper understanding of the growth process across regions and socio-economic contexts with an emphasis on strengthening the role of women. This paper argues that it is critical to capture socio-cultural diversity across various agro-climatic zones to arrive at a more detailed understanding of women’s labour contributions within the changing landscape of food security. The paper is based on an extensive survey carried out in the states of Gujarat and West Bengal. The analysis shows the immense contribution of women in the agricultural sector. Women’s contribution in farms is higher in West Bengal than Gujarat, but in Gujarat their contribution in the allied sector is significant. Women’s work in farms and their involvement in decision-making are the important determining factors for maintaining household food security. Thus, women’s roles in the farm need to be strengthened for the next phase of agriculture.


Metrics Loading ...


Agarwal, Bina. 1985. “Work Participation of Rural Women in Third World: Some Data and Conceptual Biases.” Economic and Political Weekly 20 (51/52): 21–28.

Agarwal, Bina. 1994. “Gender and Command over Property: A Critical Gap in Economic Analysis and Policy in South Asia.” World Development 22 (10): 1455–1478. https://doi.org/10.1016/0305-750X(94)90031-0

Agarwal, Bina. 2012. “Food Security, Productivity, and Gender Inequality.” IEG Working Paper No. 320. New Delhi: Institute of Economic Growth University Enclave, University of Delhi.

Borooah, Vani K. 2005. “Caste, Inequality, and Poverty in India.” Review of Development Economics 9 (3): 399–414. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9361.2005.00284.x.

Chakravarty, Sujoy, and Sejal A Dand. 2006. “Food Insecurity in Gujarat: A Study of Two Rural Populations.” Economic and Political Weekly 41 (22): 2248–2258.

Chand, Ramesh, PAL Prasanna, and Aruna Singh. 2011. “Farm Size and Productivity: Understanding the Strengths of Smallholders and Improving Their Livelihoods.” Economic and Political Weekly 46 (26–27): 5–11.

Choithani, Chetan. 2019. “Gendered Livelihoods: Migrating Men, Left-behind Women and Household Food Security in India”. Gender, Place and Culture 27 (10): 1373–1394. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2019.1681366.

Directorate of Economics and Statistics. n.d. “Latest APY State Data”. Accessed 10 February 2022. https://eands.dacnet.nic.in/APY_96_To_06.htm

Duvvury, Nata. 1989. “Women in Agriculture: A Review of the Indian Literature.” Economic and Political Weekly 24 (43): WS96–WS112.

Government of India. 2014. Report of the Expert Group to Review: The Methodology for Measurement of Poverty. Planning Commission. New Delhi: Government of India.

Government of India. 2018. Economic Survey 2018–19. Ministry of Finance Department of Economic Affairs Economic Division, Vol. 1. New Delhi: Government of India. https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/budget2019-20/economicsurvey/doc/echapter.pdf.

Government of India. 2020. Economic Survey 2020-21. Ministry of Finance Department of Economic Affairs Economic Division. New Delhi: Government of India. https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/budget2021-22/economicsurvey/doc/vol2chapter/echap01_vol2.pdf.

Government of India. 2020a. Employment and Unemployment Situation in India NSS 68th ROUND. New Delhi: National Sample Survey Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India.

Government of India. 2020b. Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). New Delhi: National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India. https://www.mospi.gov.in/documents/213904/301563/Annual_Report_PLFS_2019_20m1627036454797.pdf/18afb74a-3980-ab83-0431-1e84321f75af

Gupta, Abha, and Deepak K Mishra 2014. “Food Consumption Pattern in rural India: A Regional Perspective.” Journal of Economic and Social Development 10 (1): 15–34.

Gupta, Raj, Mamta Mehra, Rabi Narayan Sahoo, and Inder Abrol. 2018. “Indian Agriculture Redefining Strategies and Priorities”. Economic and Political Weekly 53 (41): 84–91.

Keshri, Kunal, and RB Bhagat. 2012. “Temporary and Seasonal Migration: Regional Pattern, Characteristics and Associated Factors.” Economic and Political Weekly 47 (4): 81–86.

Krishnaraj, Maithreyi. 2005. “Food Security: How and for Whom?” Economic and Political Weekly 40 (25): 2508–2512.

Kumar, Anjani, Steven J Staal, NP Singh, and Dhiraj K Singh. 2007. “Livestock Sector Trade of India: Surging Momentum in the New Liberalised Regime.” Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics 62 (3): 395–410.

Mehra, Rekha, and Rojas, Mary Hill. 2008. A Significant Shift: Women, Food Security and Agriculture in a Global Marketplace. Washington, DC: International Centre for Research on Women. https://www.icrw.org/publications/women-food-security-and-agriculture-in-a-global-marketplace/

Meinzen-Dick, Ruth, Agnes R Quisumbing, Julia A Behrman, Patricia Biermayr-Jenzano, Vicki Wilde, Marco Noordeloos, Catherine Ragasa, and Nienke M Beintema. 2010. “Engendering Agricultural Research.” IFPRI Discussion Paper 00973. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.

Mishra, Srijit. 2007. “Agrarian Scenario in Post-reform India: A Story of Distress, Despair and Death.” Working Papers No. 1019. Mumbai: Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research.

Mukherjee, Shantanu, and Shivani Nayyar. 2011. “Monitoring Household Coping During Shocks: Evidence from the Philippines and Kenya.” UK Department for International Development (DFID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). http://www.uneca.org/aec/2011/presentations/Day%203/142%20Household%20Wellbeing%20and%20Food%20Prices/Mukherjee%20and%20Nayyar_Monitoring%20Household%20Coping%20During%20Shocks%20Evidence%20from%20the%20Philippines%20and%20Kenya.pdf

Pattnaik Itishree, and Kuntala Lihiri-Dutt 2020. “What Determines Women's Agricultural Participation? A Comparative Study of Landholding Households in Rural India”, Journal of Rural Studies 76 (2020) 25–39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.03.008

Quisumbing, Agnes R, Lynn Brown, Hilary Feldstein, Lawrence Haddad, and Christine Peña. 1995. Women: The Key to Food Security. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.

Rajeev, Meenakshi, and Manojit Bhattacharjee. 2018. “Farm Non-Farm Linkage and Role of Non-farm Sector for Rural Development”. Policy Brief – 20. Bangalore: Institute for Social and Economic Change.

Ramachandran, N. 2003. The paradox of gender food security. Paper presented at the Gender Poverty Summit, Women’s Political Watch and National Council for Applied Economic Research, 9–11 November, New Delhi.

Rao, Anupama. 2005. Gender and Caste. London: Zed Books.

Rogaly, Ben, Barbara Harriss-White, and Sugata Bose. 1995. “Sonar Bangla – Agricultural Growth and Agrarian Change in West Bengal and Bangladesh.” Economic and Political Weekly 30 (29): 1862–1868.

Sarkar, Sanjit, and Chander Shekhar. 2017. “Household Food Insecurity and Coping Strategies in a Rural Community of West Bengal.” Social Science Spectrum 3(1): 16–26.

Shah, Amita, and Itishree Pattnaik. 2014. “High Growth Agriculture in Gujarat: An Enquiry into Inclusiveness and Sustainability.” In Growth or Development: Which Way is Gujarat Going?, edited by Indira Hirway, Amita Shah, and Ghanshyam Shah, 225–263. India: Oxford University Press.

Shah, Amita, and Itishree Pattnaik. 2021. “Pattern and Dynamics of the Rural Non-farm Economy: A Case Study of Gujarat.” Journal of Social and Economic Development 23 (1): 48–70. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40847-020-00132-y

Siddiqui, Mohammed Zakaria, Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Stewart Lockie, and Bill Pritchard. 2017. “Reconsidering Women’s Work in Rural India: An Analysis of NSS Data 2004–05 and 2011–12.” Economic and Political Weekly 52 (1): 45–52.

Singh, Sukhpal, Manjeet Kaur, and HS Kingra. 2021. “Agrarian Crisis and Agricultural Labourer Suicides in Punjab.” Economic and Political Weekly 56 (13): 49–56.

von Grebmer, Klaus, Jill Bernstein, Miriam Wiemers, Tabea Schiffer, Asja Hanano, Olive Towey, Réiseal Ní Chéilleachair, Connell Foley, Seth Gitter, Kierstin Ekstrom, and Heidi Fritschel 2021. Global Hunger Index: Hunger and Food Systems in Conflict Settings. Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide. https://www.globalhungerindex.org/pdf/en/2021.pdf. Accessed 17 July 2020.

Kurien, V. 2004. “India.s Milk Revolution: Investing in Rural Producer Organizations”. World Bank. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/India%27s-Milk-Revolution%E2%80%94-Investing-in-Rural-Kurien/7a0cf47044be322984accdb8d0b08a00e3d4499c

Szabo, Sylvia. 2015. “Remittances as Significant Predictor of Food Security in Rural Bangladesh.” World Bank Online Blog. http://blogs.worldbank.org/peoplemove/remittances-significant-predictor-food-security-rural-bangladesh

Zakari, Seydou, Liu Ying, and Baohui Song. 2014. “Factors Influencing Household Food Security in West Africa: The Case of Southern Niger.” Sustainability 6 (3): 1191–1202. https://doi.org/10.3390/su6031191

Additional Files