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Women as farmers, feminisation of farming August 21, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala, South Asia - General , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

What is new in the world of farming today? Well, for one, there is a ‘feminisation’ of farming in many parts of the world, and South Asia is no exception to that. Before I explain that process, let me point out first that women have always performed important roles in agriculture, whether in less- or more-developed countries and irrespective of time, but have remained invisible as farmers. This is because when women have worked side-by-side with men on the farm, they often worked as part of a family unit of labour. A powerful sexually-based division of labour meant that women’s labour and active participation were limited only to certain parts of agriculture and to certain tasks, or even to certain crops. Often, the bulk of this labour was performed under the direct or indirect control of men, who also controlled (or owned) land, resulting in both inaccurate information about and the invisibility of women and also undervaluing of their contributions to agricultural production systems.

Photo: K. Lahiri-Dutt

Photo: K. Lahiri-Dutt

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Freedom from hunger: privilege granted or acknowledged right? January 29, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan, South Asia - General , comments closed

Aly Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.”

A recent publication of Rome-based UN agencies (FAO along with IFAD and WFP of the UN) aiming at global food security is worth a serious commentary for several reasons. One is the odious South Asian situation, which includes Pakistan, of socially imposed mass hunger and malnutrition, which affectsnot just women and men but also children. If there is a single issue that defines development, then it is the situation of children today and tomorrow (as UNICEF rightly underscores). Their under- and mal-nourishment leads to untimely death of hundreds of thousands before the age of five. Survivors face a cruel future in which both body and brain remain wasted and stunted. What then is the point of investing social resources in universal schooling? Avoiding hunger often leads to employment of children in distressingly hazardous conditions and at ruthlessly exploitative wages. Government commits funds for abolition of “worst forms of child labour” but what benefit can they have when their disbursement excludes full and productive employment of their parents?

A second reason is that the FAO retains an overwhelming influence upon sub-continental professional advisors as bureaucrats and consultants, even among those who are not obviously beholden to Washington. Thirdly, food security should be included in the post-2015 agenda for universal accountability of states and the international community to citizens. In fact, food security targets may well encompass necessary commitments in education and health.

This review summarises the FAO report – The State of Food Insecurity in the World  with an emphasis upon South Asian conditions. Its policy guidelines are to be examined critically in a follow up article, through a lens provided by another recent study – Alternatives & Resistance to Policies that Generate Hunger (by the Right to Food & Nutrition Watch.

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Notes from the field: feminisation of agriculture in the eastern Gangetic plains August 14, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Features, India, Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala , comments closed

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt

… if women enjoyed the same access to productive resources as men in the world, farm yield could be raised by 20–30%…

The driver of the Tata Sumo I was travelling in not only stopped and honked several times, but, on at least two occasions, left the vehicle to physically push off the cows who were lazing on the road and relishing the midday heat of summer. More reluctant than the cows, however, were the black, white and brown goats on our path that were just lazily hanging around without a specific destination in mind. The road had lost its smooth tar cover and the large potholes of unascertainable depth meant that we were driving at not much more than walking speed. Whilst the bovine behaviour of acting as speed bumps is not unfamiliar to those who have travelled in rural India, the number and variety of goats and their goatish behaviour were noticeable at once. They were busier than the cows, chomping away on the leaves of the jute stalks that had just been cut and piled on the roadside before being dumped into the water for retting, or, on one occasion, a single goat was lying on its side, with its head on the tar, like a dead body. The goat had deliberately adopted the posture – actually to scratch its ear.

In an extremely poor area in the eastern Gangetic plains, running roughly from Champaran in North Bihar in the west to Cooch Behar near the Bangladesh border in the east and including the narrow flat stretch of Terai in Nepal, goats have become the new ‘feminine asset’.

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Doha Round: what India’s new government needs to do August 19, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Kalirajan, Kaliappa , comments closed

Kaliappa Kalirajan

Though India has demonstrated that there exists broad political support for its economic reform program, agricultural trade policy reforms need to be accelerated. The new government enjoys a better standing than before in terms of stability.  Its challenge now is to mitigate the inefficiency that exists in Indian agriculture and close the gap between its potential and actual performances by implementing a proper policy framework.

As a net exporter in agriculture products, India has more to gain than to lose from trade reforms. It has sufficiently high bound rates on most of the products and therefore flexibility can be ensured against unfair competition. It does not have to worry about its agricultural subsidies as they are already below the required ceiling. And it also does not have any serious domestic opposition to reckon with. All of these factors place India in an advantageous position. (more…)

Countering militancy in Pakistan: an engineering response August 17, 2009

Posted by southasiamasala in : Pakistan, Trevelyan, James , comments closed

James Trevelyan

Recent studies of engineering practice have started to draw aside a cloak of invisibility that has enveloped the work of engineers for centuries if not millenia.  These studies started with the observation that the real costs of essential engineered services such as water supply, electricity, transport, construction, and communications can be much higher in Pakistan than industrialised countries.  For example, safe drinking water can be between five and 25 times the cost in Australia, and electricity can be between 2 and 5 times as much (Trevelyan, 2005).

Attempts to understand these differences in cost exposed a critical lack of knowledge on how engineering practice works, even in advanced industrialized countries.  Research studies in Pakistan, India and Australia have now enabled us to understand why engineering fails to deliver in countries like India and Pakistan. (more…)