Women's self-help groups, decision-making, and improved agricultural practices in India: From extension to practice

This research was undertaken as part of the Women Improving Nutrition through Group-based Strategies (WINGS) study, and was aimed at understanding ways to improve agricultural practices among women farmers in India. Effective agricultural extension is key to improving productivity, increasing farmers’ access to information, and promoting more diverse sets of crops and improved methods of cultivation. In India, however, the coverage of agricultural extension workers and the relevance of extension advice is poor. We investigate whether a women’s self-help group platform could be an effective way of improving access to information, women’s empowerment in agriculture, agricultural practices, and production diversity. We use cross-sectional data on close to 1000 women from 5 states in India, and employ nearest-neighbor matching models to match self-help group (SHG) and non-SHG women along a range of observed characteristics. We find that participation in an SHG increases women’s access to information and their participation in some agricultural decisions, but has limited impact on agricultural practices or outcomes, possibly due to financial constraints, social norms, and women’s domestic responsibilities. SHGs need to go beyond provision of information to changing the dynamics around women’s participation in agriculture to effectively translate knowledge into practice.