Farm mechanisation driven by women farmers

Women can be empowered to handle farm operations as well as farm machinery with confidence and pride, if proper support systems are provided. With a little support from BAIF, Champion farm women in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have shown that besides handling farm equipments and increasing farm productivity, they can also empower other women.

Sustainable agriculture demands the participation of women in agriculture. According to the World Bank and FAO data of 2009, 80% of rural women of small landholding families have been involved in agricultural activities as most of the men have migrated. However, the irony is that a majority of these women worked as farm labourers.

Due to non-availability of labour force during peak agricultural operations, use of agricultural machinery becomes inevitable. Thus, mechanization of farming operations started gaining popularity. As the machinery is often costly and its use is only for a limited period, its purchase by individual farmers is not cost-effective.

BAIF Development Research Foundation, championing women empowerment in all its programmes, promoted Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs). CHCs were promoted through Project Prerna – an empowering model focussed on engagement of women farmers for crop productivity enhancement and promotion of farm mechanization at the grassroots level. Through the project, Custom Hiring Centres were set up by six Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

The capacities of the SHG members were developed through training and exposure visits to innovative farmers accompanied by expert sessions by the project team. The study visits helped them to understand the day-to-day operations as well as how to manage an enterprise. With growing confidence and abilities, they carried out farm-related activities without further assistance and guidance from the men in the families.

Farm machineries and their use

The farm machineries access enabled timely farming operations and efficient use of inputs; adoption of climate resilient practices and technologies by farmers; drudgery reduction; increase in cropping intensity; crop residue recycling and prevention of burning of agricultural crop residues; reduction in cost of cultivation and creating work opportunities for skilled labour and small artisans.

The farm machineries available at these custom hiring centres included seed drills, power weeders, sprayers, rotavators, onion sowing machine, weeders, ragi harvesters and other farm-based equipment. The women observed that with the availability of drip and sprinkler sets, more area could be brought under irrigation with the same amount of water. Seed-cum-fertilizer drills helped in introducing or expanding the intercropping area, ensured efficient use of expensive chemical fertilizers and thereby reduced nitrous oxide emissions while reducing the cost of cultivation. The equipment available in the centres were light in weight, easy to operate and efficient.  The power sprayer reduced manual labour while the power weeder and hand hoe reduced the drudgery of womenDifferent kinds of crop threshers available in the centres enabled farmers to carry out timely harvesting operations at a lower cost. This could help avoid crop damage in adverse weather conditions such as cyclone, frost etc. Zero till drills helped to save time, water, fuel and escape terminal heat stress besides enabling farmers to ensure early harvest of rabi crops. Broad bed furrow technology for wheat, soybean, and maize saved crop damage due to excess soil moisture by aiding quick drainage and avoiding water stagnation. In terms of use, 766 women farmers used these farm equipment for 187 days with a turnover of Rs. 74,730.

Women were trained on using heavy machinery too. Out of 395 women, 55 trained women farmers are driving tractors too.

 Through these initiatives, BAIF has popularised women led farm enterprises; empowered women in emerging as Development leaders, transforming the dynamics of farming in their regions. The custom hiring center being operated by farmer groups ensured easy access of needed equipment at a reasonable rate. These bold women are driving into the future with confidence and hoping for a better future.

Sujata Kangude

 Thematic Programme Executive – Women & Development 

 BAIF Development Research Foundation

 BAIF Bhavan, Dr. Manibhai Desai Nagar, Warje, Pune 411058 

 E-mail ID:

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