Women entrepreneurs can play an important role in boosting Pakistan’s agriculture, provided they are encouraged through easy loans and other facilities.
A recent study titled “Economic Analysis of Women Labour Participation in Agricultural Production in Mirpurkhas, Sindh” concluded that the majority of rural women from Mirpurkhas district have strong participation in activities such as crop production, livestock husbandry, poultry-keeping, food grain processing and its storage. Almost all respondents wanted information about crop production, livestock and preventive measures. The same need was expressed by a number of women in other villages.
Women comprise 41 per cent of the world’s agricultural labour force, which moves up to 78 per cent in some countries. In Pakistan, 67 per cent women are involved in this sector. The rural areas where the source of income is mostly through agriculture comprise a major part of Pakistan.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), if women farmers had equal access to land ownership, credit, farming equipment and new technologies, yields could increase by 30 per cent per household and in many countries there would be an increase in agricultural output by 2.5 to 4 per cent. Women also reinvest up to 90 per cent of their earnings into their households —money spent on nutrition, food, healthcare, schooling and other income-generating activities that help in breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty.
But then, arguably, the biggest hurdle for women agriculturists is land ownership. In developing countries, only 10 to 20 per cent of landholders are women and, in some parts of the world, women still cannot legally own or control land. When a female farmer isn’t empowered to make decisions about the land she works, it is impossible for her to sign a contract farming agreement that could provide higher earnings and reliable sources of income. Therefore, legal and institutional guidelines are also needed for future prospects of security of women entrepreneurs so that they are encouraged to independently go for new venture with new hope.
The Mirpurkhas study is very rightly of the view that the government should take initiatives to promote local women entrepreneurs and organize skill development training programs for women focusing on crop production in order to ensure better output. Credit facilities should also be provided at government level to interested women who want to set up agro-based industries. At present women get only 3 per cent of small-medium business loans whereas men get 97per cent loans. Similarly, only 19 per cent of microfinance loans are is given to women while 87 per cent are given to men.