Published On: Fri, Jul 24th, 2015

Women farmers play important role in Balochistan agriculture

baloch women file photo
Bari Baloch
Women play a key role in agriculture sector which is said to be the backbone of economy of Pakistan but in return neither is their hard-work recognized nor are they paid for their most tedious and back-breaking tasks.
Approximately fifty percent of farmers around the world are women, playing a hectic part in crop production such as sowing, weeding, harvesting and transplanting. Moreover, they also play their role in post-harvest operations such as threshing, winnowing, drying, grinding and husking.
The situation of women farmers in Balochistan the largest mineral rich but ironically least developed province of the Pakistan is graver as they have little income share in agriculture despite playing a pivotal role in this sector.
“Women farmers perform a crucial role in farming working day and night along-with their male partners in almost all districts of Balochistan, particularly in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad,” said Hakeem Baloch, a social activist in Naseerabad district of Balochistan.
Women have to look after home, children but unfortunately, their hard-work goes unrecognized, and owing to lack of education and awareness, they also do not speak about their rights, he added.
baloch women 2

Hakeem Baloch said mostly lands belonged to feudal lords who were at the same time the representatives of people in the parliaments enjoying perks and privileges. ‘Why should they frail their hegemony in the area by bringing land reforms?’ Hakeem Baloch questioned.
About 25% of Pakistan’s total land area is under cultivation and is watered by one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. Agriculture accounts for about 23% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs about 44% of the labour force.
Naseerabad and Jaffarabad districts of Balochistan are called “green” districts and ‘green belt’ of Balochistan which are irrigated through canal system. Thus fertile lands of Naseerabad and Jaffarabad produce a number of crops, including that of wheat, rice and vegetables.
As compared to other districts of the Balochistan, women are more engaged in farming in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad districts working from dawn to dusk.
“Without support of women agriculture is incomplete, because they perform a number of tasks from sowing to reaping different crops, picking vegetables and reaping onions,” confessed Nizam-ud- Din Mengal a -26- year old farmer of Nushki district, adding that it was true that women were not paid cash for their labour but males were responsible to meet and ensure domestic needs and requirements.
“The condition of women working in agricultural fields is very dismal as they have to work throughout the year in scorching heat and chilling winters,” said Ayub Khosa a local journalist in Naseerabad, adding that there was an urgent need for protecting the rights of women farmers.
He said that mostly women in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad districts were deprived of land rights and owing to illiteracy, they were even oblivious of their rights.
A report said in the Asia Pacific widespread discrimination against women and girls socially culturally and legally results in lower agricultural productivity and poorer health and nutrition particularly among women and girls, who make up 60 per cent of undernourished people worldwide.
“Women are subjected to abject poverty, malnutrition and various tortures, due to their weaker position in the society, and their land ownership is almost denied in the name of tradition, customary tribal laws and absence of strong legal system which could provide them with justice,” said Mahjabeen Khan, General Manager of Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) Pakistan.
She said in Balochistan, the women farmers were always under the rustic feudal culture of Pakistan and their condition has historically been the same, adding that throughout the history of Balochistan women farmers had been exploited by the powerful elite class and by the state.
She said that against all odds Mai Jori set an example for all women in Balochistan when she stood against an influential land- lords in the general elections from district Jaffarabad.
Mai Jori Jamali came to the limelight when she stood against an influential tribal chief in the general elections from Jaffarabad District in Balochistan in 2008.
Sultan Ahmed, coordinator for Pakistan Kisan Ittihad (PKI) Balochistan chapter, said that PKI was working in four districts of the province on farmers, imparting them trainings about crops, seeds and enhancing coordination between small farmers and agriculture and livestock departments.
“PKI is helping both male and female farmers in four districts of the Balochistan and intends to widen its network in the province,” he said, adding PKI was also playing its role in creating awareness among the women farmers about their land rights.
He said that owing to tribal areas women were deprived of their land rights as nobody was willing to give land right to women owing to various reasons.
Amid more drought and floods, women, who make up the bulk of small-scale farmers, are hard hit in both their loss of income and their ability to feed their families.
In order to strengthen women livelihood, sustainability, Azad Foundation (AF) in collaboration with other NGOs has made some efforts by imparting trainings to women farmers.
“We trained women how to develop kitchen gardening, small business, marketing, seeds, diary in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad districts,” said Habib Ahmed, AF project director in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad.
He said that they established 25 farmers fields of women in both districts the projects were aimed at strengthening farmers’ livelihood, providing seeds, leveling lands as they suffered following the devastating floods in both districts.
“SCOPE is running many livelihood projects in Thatta, Mithi and Nagarparkar, however funding agencies never give priority to deprived areas of Balochistan besides governments were equally responsible for not creating any opportunities for people of Balochistan,” said Mahajbeen Khan.
She said despite being an agrarian country, one in every three Pakistanis did not have regular and assured access to food. “Children, particularly girls, women and the elderly among the lower income groups are more vulnerable to access food,” she said.
She said Government should fix the rate of women labour so that they could be able to file a case against those who did not give them actual labour cost. Similarly, she said Government urgently should make plan to corporate with Agriculture Farming Policy (CAF) which is posing a serious threat to the interest of landless farmers and small holders to lose their livelihood.
Agriculture experts believe that removal and amendment of discriminatory land and labour laws would help women farmers and food producers, and paying women a decent wage and right access to land would have a huge multiplier effect on food security and hunger reduction.-

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