Closing the gap: women-focused initiative empowers farmers in Odisha

Women farmers make up a sizeable part of rice production, but they have less opportunities to be productive compared to men. In Odisha, a new initiative is trying to change that.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), together with Access Livelihoods Consulting (ALC) India and the Department of Agriculture and Farmer Empowerment (DAFE), is taking steps to narrow the gender gap for women farmers through a new Women Producer Company (WPC) initiative in the Dharmagarh and Kokasara blocks of the Odishan district of Kalahandi.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, closing the gender gap in access to productive resources such as land, seeds, credit, machinery, or chemicals can increase agricultural output by 2.5 to 4%, which translates to increased food security for an additional 100 million people.

“The gender gap in access to productive assets, resources, and inputs is well established,” said Ranjitha Puskur, senior scientist and theme lead for IRRI’s gender research. “Due to a multitude of societal and structural barriers, women farmers tend to face serious challenges in accessing good quality agricultural inputs at the right time, place, and at an affordable price. Women’s access to markets tends to be limited, as they are not often recognised as farmers. This also limits their ability to access inputs from formal governmental sources or co-operatives. Through WPC, we can begin to address many of these constraints.”

Led and managed by women, the WPC initiative in Odisha has over 1300 members, and provides comprehensive services that include input provision (seed, fertilizers, bio-pesticides), custom hiring of agricultural machinery, financial services, and even marketing. It also facilitates access to the latest technologies in production, processing, information, and traceability.

For the latest cropping season, WPC has procured seeds and fertilizer from…