Acknowledging the role of Pakistan’s women in agriculture

September 10th, 2020

The issue

Pakistan’s agriculture is labor intensive with women making an essential contribution. Their roles are substantially different across regions and are changing rapidly.

Despite this active participation in the agricultural sector, women have less access to assets, services and opportunities compared to men. This gender gap generally relates to access to inputs (including improved seeds, agrochemicals and machinery all essential elements for improving farm productivity), services, land ownership, livestock, technology, education, extension and financial services. Information about labor input in the production process in general, and about activities performed by female laborers in particular, is patchy and better understanding will promote gender considerations.

An image of two women working in the field in Pakistan
Women working in agriculture, Pakistan. Photo credit: Ms Iqra Mohiuddin, UAE

Women working in agriculture, Pakistan. Photo credit: Ms Iqra Mohiuddin, UAE

Our research

To fill this gap, CSIRO in collaboration with the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF), established a project. The project aimed to provide evidence of the level of women’s contribution across agricultural activities and the reasons for female labor participation. Three areas were investigated:

  1. activities dominated by family and hired female labor in the rice-wheat cropping system of the Punjab province;
  2. gendered family and hired labor force dynamics across different farm scales; and
  3. factors influencing participation of family female and hired female labor in farm activities.

The study was a part of a Masters research project of Ms. Iqra Mohiuddin, a member of the collaborative CSIRO and UAF team. Over 300 interviews in four districts of Punjab province were conducted. The biggest challenge encountered by the field team was to find female respondents from the sampled respondents to participate. The team hired experienced female interviewers who actively helped with data collection and interviews from women.

A woman interviewing a man to collect data
Ms Iqra Mohiuddin interviewed many participants as part of the study. Photo credit: Ms Iqra Mohiuddin, UAE

Ms Iqra Mohiuddin interviewed many participants as part of the study. Photo credit: Ms Iqra Mohiuddin, UAE

The results

Female labor is predominantly used in manual harvesting of wheat, rice nursery transplantation and harvesting, and most of the livestock-related activities. Female labor participation significantly depends on the landholding status of farmers, household size, family type and level of education.

However, labor relations are rapidly changing. Ongoing mechanisation threatens conventional female labor activities as females lack the skills to operate machinery. This lack of training is caused by informal state policies and cultural barriers. The study has important policy implications for including gender considerations in agricultural policy and rural development.

This study contributes directly to the Sustainable Development Goals on Gender Equality (SDG#5) and Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG#8), and indirectly to No Poverty (SDG#1), Zero Hunger (SDG#2), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG#12) and Climate Action (SDG#13).

Journal paper

Iqra Mohiuddin, Muhammad Asif Kamran, Shokhrukh-Mirzo Jalilov, Mobin-ud-Din Ahmad, Sultan Ali Adil, Raza Ullah and Tasneem Khaliq. 2020. “Scale and Drivers of Female Agricultural Labor: Evidence from Pakistan”, Sustainability 12:663. DOI: 10.3390/su12166633.

About SDIP

This news post, designed and implemented by CSIRO, contributes to SDIP and is supported by the Australian aid program.

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:

  • strengthen practices for regional cooperation
  • generate and use critical new knowledge to enhance regional cooperation
  • improve the regional enabling environment for private sector engagement.

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