Ag policy in India needs to account for domestic workload

by Dan Verderosa, Cornell University

Women’s increased agricultural labor during harvest season, in addition to domestic house care, often comes at the cost of their health, according to new research from the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition (TCI).

Programs aimed at improving nutritional outcomes in rural India should account for the tradeoffs that women experience when their agricultural work increases, according to the study, “Seasonal time trade-offs and nutrition outcomes for women in agriculture: Evidence from rural India,” which published in the journal Food Policy on March 24.

“To earn more income during peak seasons, landless women have no choice but to spend time in agricultural work, besides engaging in domestic work,” said first author Vidya Vemireddy, a TCI alumna and assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. “In contrast, women who have larger farms or higher incomes may choose to reduce the time they spend on agriculture and household activities via hired labor or labor-saving technologies.”

To see how time constraints impact women’s nutritional outcomes, Vemireddy and TCI director Prabhu Pingali surveyed 960 women from rural Maharashtra, India, about their time use and diets. Their work included an index of standardized local recipes to measure nutrient intake and cooking time.

Women in rural India face severe constraints on time. They spend about 32% of their time on agricultural activities such as transplanting, weeding and harvesting, while also responsible for unpaid household labor like cooking, cleaning, fetching water and caring for children, Vemireddy and Pingali say. This workload increases during peak agricultural seasons, when they must spend up to five and a half hours per day sowing and harvesting.

During peak agricultural seasons, the increased labor leaves women with less time for other personal activities. Vemireddy and Pingali found that these time trade-offs are associated with a decrease in caloric, protein, iron and zinc intake. More specifically, each 100-rupee increase in a woman’s agricultural wages per day—meaning she spent more time working on the farm—is associated with a loss of 112.3 calories, 1.5 g of protein, 0.7 mg of iron and 0.4 mg of zinc.

> Source: PHYS.ORG