Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and includes cropping, livestock, forestry and fishing. While agriculture’s share in the nation’s GDP is continuously decreasing, it contributes a significant 23% of value to the Pakistan’s GDP (World Bank, 2017). More importantly, 41% of the total labour force is employed in the agricultural sector. Considering that 72% of working women are employed in the agricultural sector it is vitally important to study agriculture-related policies which potentially impact women’s conditions in rural areas.
In Pakistan women’s employment in agriculture has been increasing while in industry and services it has been reducing or stagnating (Figure 1). Gender considerations in the agricultural sector are the subject of collaborative research initiatives between Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) and the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF) though the Australian Government funded Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) Indus project in Pakistan.
Figure 1. Trends in women’s and men’s employment (%) by sectors of the economy in Pakistan over 25 years (green – agriculture, red – industry, blue – services; solid line – women, dash line – men). Source: CSIRO preliminary findings based on the World Bank Database, 2018
Ms. Fatima Mallick and Mr. Muhammad Ashfaq, Masters students from PIDE, are conducting investigations on the impacts of agricultural policies on current agricultural practices and impacts on women’s status. Case studies have been established in Punjab and Sindh provinces in Pakistan. Firstly, a desk based study by the students is critically analysing documents issued since the 1980s, such as policy documents, statutory orders, and agricultural notifications at federal and provincial levels and their impacts. Secondly, interviews will be undertaken at government ministries and agencies or relevance.
The findings of this work will be presented as a Master’s Thesis defence at UAF and at an Annual General Meeting of the Pakistan Society of Development Economists in December 2019, as well as an International Conference on Environment and Rural Development in January 2020.
In this collaborative research CSIRO and PIDE aim to contribute to future policies aimed at modifying agricultural practices to increase water, energy, and food security and understand their impact on women’s role in Pakistan agriculture.
While a growing number of women are engaged in agricultural activities we observed that that they are often not responsible for decision-making in a farm’s operation. This situation is the focus of the CSIRO and UAF collaborative research. Ms. Iqra Mohiuddin is investigating women’s participation in various farm production activities (wheat, rice and livestock), the drivers that lead to the gender pay gap and gender inequality in the agricultural sector. The preliminary findings of the survey-based project have been presented during the international conference, ‘Sustainability of the Changing Environment: Ways for Future Development’ held at the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) Vehari Campus on 12-13 November, 2018 (Figure 2).
Ms. Iqra, a resident of a remote village in South Punjab, reported how exhilarating it was for her to attend the international event.
‘This was my first experience attending a conference and discussing my research in an international forum. It was a wonderful experience to interact with other researchers and policy makers. My attendance was made possible by the technical and financial support from CSIRO that greatly helped. Now I have confidence in presenting in front of senior researchers’.
While considerable literature exists on gender inequality and the status of rural women there is a lack of targeted studies on women’s involvement and its value in agricultural production where water is scarce, such as in Pakistan. Village and field visits (Figure 3) mean that this research will be grounded in actual practice and provide important data and insights to address this issue. The policy recommendations based on this collaborative research will assist in developing new policies aimed to modify agricultural practices, increase equity in participation of women in the labour force and economic opportunities for women in Pakistan.
This work is part of a portfolio of investments supported by the Australian Government addressing the regional challenges of water, food and energy security in South Asia.
The SDIP Phase 2 aims to improve the integrated management of water, energy and food in the Himalayan river basins, addressing climate risk and the interests of women and girls. It seeks to: