Rural Women Entrepreneurs: Empowering a New India
16th Dec, 2020
- According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey, 2018-19, 59.7 percent of women in rural India are self-employed, 11 percent are regular wage or salary earners while 29.3 percent are casual workers. While the share of nature of work among men and women in rural areas is not different, there is a huge difference in the type of self-employment between men and women.
- According to the numbers reported in the PLFS 2017-18 survey,self-employed women in rural areas earned the lowest wage among men and women from rural and urban areas. The inequality in income could be because women, especially in rural areas, are expected to be the primary caregivers for children and older household members.
- As per the PLFS report, compared to the India's average literacy rate of 78.1 percent, onIy 65.7 percent women in rural areas above the age of seven were literate as of 2019.Improving access to banks has a positive impact on the poor and disadvantaged groups, can increase economic activity, and also savings.
- To address the social issues regarding the financial dependence of the women, especially those in rural areas, the government launched the SukanyaSamriddhi Account (Girl Child Prosperity Account) in 2015.
- To strengthen financial literacy, the Reserve Bank of India has also released the National Strategy for Financial Education (NSFE 2020-25) that acknowledges the need to improve financial literacy among women.Information asymmetry is another weak link in value chain of women entrepreneurs from rural areas.
- NITI Aayog's Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) is one such digital initiative that aims to reduce the information asymmetry for women entrepreneurs. This scheme uses three pillars-Iccha Shakti to motivate inspiring women entrepreneurs to start new business; Gyan Shakti to provide knowledge and ecosystem support to foster budding entrepreneurs; and Karma Shakti to provide hands-on support in setting up and scaling businesses.
- Mahila e-haat is another government initiative for women entrepreneurs and self-help groups for showcasing their products that are made or manufactured by them on an online platform.
- In urban India, 40.9 percent households receive piped water while in Rural India, just 11.3 percent households receive potable water directly at homes.
- The next step should be to educate and support rural women entrepreneurs to start selling theirproducts directly on channels like Flipkart and Amazon that have a lot of traffic.
- Research also suggests that women entrepreneurs feel more confident conducting business with female bankers. The need of the hour is now to channelise market forces so that they can leverage their true potential.
India's New Farm Bills: Ushering in Agriculture 2.0
- To kickstart an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Indian agriculture, seminal Agriculture Infrastructure Fund is created which is a "medium-long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and credit guarantee".
- The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill seeks to completely open-up the sale of produce outside the APMCs.It not only creates an e-highway for trading and transactions, but aIso creates a structure for e-trading of agriculture produce.
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill creates a framework for contract farming.
- Smart implementation of the new farm bills will lead tofour significant changes: An increase in farmer's income, the rise of agri-entrepreneurs, massive private investments in agriculture, and a jump in farm product exports.
- Farm Bills further the process of connecting Indian farms to large-scale buyers by allowing a merger of produce from fragmented land holdings.
- This package of legislations seeks to open up the farming at both ends - production (through contract farming) and sale (through complete deregulation).
- The bills create a channel for interaction of agriculture with the booming science and technology sector of the country.
- Microsoft, being the technological partner, is working with farmers, state governments, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to create an ecosystem for AI into farming.
- Soil Health Card Scheme was launched in 2015, to provide information to farmers on nutrient status of their soil along with recommendation on appropriate dosage of nutrients to be applied for improving soil health and its fertility.
- National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) was started to bring the benefits of the digital age to Indian agricultural by providing e-marketing platform at national level and supporting creation of infrastructure to enable e-marketing.
- A dedicated MIF created with NABARD has been approved for encouraging public and private investments in Micro irrigation.
- Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA),ICAR has prepared district level Agriculture Contingency Plans in collaboration with state agricultural universities to tackle aberrant monsoon situations leading to drought and floods, extreme events (heat waves, cold waves, frost, hailstorms, cyclone) adversely affecting crops, livestock and fisheries (including horticulture).
- With its wide range of different climates and geographies within one country, India is moving towards marketing its food products according to their geographical location and uniqueness. Ex.: GI tag, ODOP scheme.
- India is already a world leader in the production in a range of fruits and vegetables and among the biggest in staples.
- To make India a world's premier food hub, India need to restructure its agriculture sector so that its productivity and farmer incomes - rise exponentially. This can be done by moving steadily towards streamlining operations, more data-driven production and a focus on processing and branding its farm products, not just for the domestic market but also for the world.