Nutrition has been a focal point of the human development efforts in India for the right reasons. However, for women, it attains special importance because of the intergenerational carry over of the impacts through children. The nutritional status of women can make or mar entire generations, thereby carving a deep furrow on the nation’s human resources pool over time. Since we celebrated the national nutrition month in September, it may be worth looking at the link between rural women, agriculture and nutrition.
Agriculture in India is significantly dependent on women. Women make up about 33% of cultivators and about 47% of agricultural labourers in rural India. Overall, the percentage of rural women who depend on agriculture for their livelihood is as high as 84%. But systemic barriers to finance, inputs, extension services and land rights have limited their potential and recognition as the mainstay of our agrarian ecosystem. Juxtapose this with the findings of the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 which state that 26.7% of rural women are underweight and 54.2% anaemic. Clearly a majority of our women agricultural producers and workers are themselves victims of malnutrition.