Working Papers
  • Women Leaders in Agriculture: Lessons from Case Studies
  • Author : Madhavi Mehta
  • Nov-2016

Existing literature is replete with references about how challenging it is for women to become agriculture leaders. The policy discourses and discussions recognise the need to empower women and consider empowerment of women as imperative for a plethora of problems ranging from agricultural productivity to issues of malnutrition.

This paper, while recognizing these discussions and discourses on challenges and difficulties, focuses on the characteristics of women leaders in agriculture at the grassroots as can be deciphered from their actions. Women are found at almost all points in agriculture value chain. While recognition of women as leaders in agriculture is rare, one does find some big names at the national level exerting influence at different points in the agriculture value chain. In order to explore women leadership in agriculture at the grassroots, some primary case studies were conducted in addition to analysing the cases documented by Non-Government Development Organisations (NGDOs) working with women farmers.

LEAD – Lead by Example, Experimentation, Authenticity and Desire to learn continuously – are the key characteristics observed across the cases analysed for this paper. The analysis also indicates that these women leaders, starting from members of Self Help Groups (SHGs) and farmers to Krishi Sakhi (Agriculture Service Provider) and primary processors, have struggled to reach where they are today. The courage of their conviction, the courage to experiment, to experience the consequences of the advice they want to give to their followers helped them achieve success. While the courage of their conviction forms the foundation for leadership, they have also developed their own technical knowledge, communication and decision-making skills. What makes these women leaders effective is their ability to empathise with fellow women farmers and their humility, resulting in an egalitarian style of leading. In the course of their development, they were supported by government, NGDOs, corporate programmes and schemes, along with family and friends.

The paper concludes with implications for policymakers, researchers, and development organisations for ascertaining and facilitating the emergence of women leaders in this very critical sector of the Indian economy.

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