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Is Ag-Tech Gender Biased?

Studies show that women’s profits have increased by 82% with the adoption of technology due to the access it gives to new international buyers’ market, weather & market data and transparency to the supply chain. Even when it’s the case, there is a significant difference found in the rate of usage between male and female in agriculture, and one big reason is that technology is simply gender-biased.

The Indian agriculture market reached a value of INR 20,336 Billion in 2020, with the sector contributing to nearly 19.9% of the GDP of the Indian economy. According to the IMARC group report, the Indian farming market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.4% during 2021-2026.

Smallholder farmers are the majority in Indian farming who rely on conventional resource-intensive farming techniques. One of the most significant challenges to India’s sustainable agriculture is climate change, as it causes soil erosion and lowers crop yield and production. It also contributes to a rise in pest attacks including locusts, as seen most recently in December 2019, when over 25,000 hectares of crops were destroyed in the worst such attack in 25 years, according to experts.

According to a report by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), climate change-related challenges could reduce agricultural yields by up to 9% in the medium term (2010-2039). Farmers are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change, such as droughts and floods, which can result in the loss of crops, livestock, and infrastructure, as well as decreased production and losses. But the introduction of technology in agriculture has changed a lot, for the better.

Most of the challenges faced by farmers in the real world are sorted with the help of technology in agriculture. Farmers are beginning to understand how to leverage solutions that use the latest technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Cloud that offers them greater climate resilience, higher crop yield, and better price control.

gender bias in agriculture technology

Though the technologies are providing drastic changes in the agriculture sector but the involvement of women in the agri-tech is still being a big question mark. Agriculture is a sexist industry. Poverty is a sexist phenomenon. And, without a doubt, technology is sexist. Thus, without the help of a “gender expert,” anyone working at the intersection of growth and technology should be aware of these three tenets. There are certain areas in the agri-tech where women would expertise and could create value to the sector. Some of the measures that will help them to shine in the agri-tech are:

1. De-Gendered Technology

De-gender the technology when gender complexity becomes too much of a hurdle to work with and around. Women’s safety and empowerment can go hand in hand when we are both creative and have done deep ethnographies in areas where gendered technology use is sanctioned, especially in a time when global newspapers are filled with stories of honour killings based on women’s social media use. Under what conditions can women use technology? This needs to be the first question, which often requires extensive work with power-brokers in the community to achieve explicit permission.

2. Confidence and Training

Confidence is just as important as connectivity. Combine your Agri-Tech app with programming that promotes and strengthens women’s agency, both online and off. Examine how technology-mediated venues can be used to foster women’s skills and achievements.

3. Female Leadership

Men and employers who ensure that women are included in all aspects of using Agri-Tech should be praised. Go so far as to require women’s participation and leadership. Deploy solutions targeted specifically at women, as they are the ones who will most likely remain in the community when men are forced to move to cities or countries overseas.

What can be solved by better adoption of technology among female farmers?

In India, 75 percent of the full-time workers in agriculture are women. Despite these figures, it’s no news that women in the sector often face gender-gap in pay, and are exposed to marginalisation and fraud in the market. Adoption of technology by the female workforce can be a reformation to these situations, if not a solution. 

While the cultural domination for male has a lot to do with the agriculture system in India, technology could pave the way for women to make better decisions and acquire knowledge about their produces. Role of women farmers is often limited to less skilled work such as sowing, weeding, and harvesting, and technology can help them in taking superior roles that will give them direct access to markets and a say in decision-making processes. Taking part in women-oriented training and approaching an FPO will provide them with better data opportunities such as periodic updates on weather via their mobile phones, direct access to consumer markets etc. With innovations like supply chain traceability providing organizations the transparency to pinpoint their entire value chain, brands/companies can also help empower their women growers by providing them technical training and accessibility to devices. But most importantly, technology adoption and hence better access to data will help in reforming many of the policies that fail to recognise women as ‘farmers’ which consequently restricts their access to institutional credit.

Want to be part of a gender-neutral technology revolution?

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Kamalavani Ravi
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