Based on the stocktaking exercise, we developed schedules to collect information on funding, reach and operational challenges of implementing existing women specific programmes in Pudukkottai (Tamil Nadu) and Prakasam (Andhra Pradesh) districts. The purpose of the study was three fold:
Identify and document the existing projects and programmes for women in agriculture
Determine the scale of the relevance i.e. to what extent these projects and programmes are relevant to the different sections of rural women
Identify the ‘real’ support needs of rural women who are engaged in different vocations.
Substance: Programme content of existing programmes for women in agriculture includes distribution of subsidies, inputs, farm implements: technical training: formation of groups; exposure visits, formation of SHGs, revolving funds, micro capital assistance, and construction of working sheds.
Reach: There was a total lack of awareness by women on the different programmes being implemented by different agencies. This clearly reveals that the programmes did not penetrate to the grass roots level. By way of design too, these programmes also target only a small fraction of the women population. Many of the programmes only reach the selective and better off farmers.
Funding: Funds available for programmes targeting women are meagre, and with these meagre funds, the programmes reach only a fraction of the economically active women. If one considers the population of women or the economically active women in a district, the per women allocation is less than Rs. 50/- a year. The government allocation for women specific programmes is unlikely to increase significantly in the coming years, even if the economy grows at 8% or more.
Approach: The programmes/schemes are supply driven and not demand led. Programmes are designed centrally (at national or state levels) and implemented based on uniform guidelines with practically no flexibility to change norms and ways of working. All these programmes are subsidy and input focussed with meagre resources for organising one-time technical training and exposure visits. Majority of the rural women in both the districts are engaged in agricultural labour and livestock rearing. However, the majority of the programmes/schemes being implemented do not meet the requirements of this majority of women who are predominantly poor.
Support for new enterprises- Despite some rural enterprises on sericulture, dairying, goat rearing, chick rearing, vegetable production and rope making providing income, rural women face several constraints in managing these enterprises. Women especially the poorest do not have access to the right package of support (technical, financial, logistical, marketing and business) to ensure that these activities remain successful. Most of these enterprises are managed by the women as individual activities.
Poverty Relevance: Considering the funding, approach and effective reach, the programmes being implemented do not have any great relevance except for research or piloting purpose. If these programmes have to make any scalable impact on poverty, more resources (financial as well as human) are necessary. Designing and delivering relevant programmes for women in agriculture requires a great deal of exploration.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PROGRAMME DESIGN
Resources: Financial allocations to programmes targeted for women have to be raised substantially. Considering the inability of the governments to raise allocations significantly, the increased support must come from agencies outside the government -- mainly from financial and business service providers, community resources and pro-poor social entrepreneurs.
Handholding and integrated support: Rural women clearly need a complete handholding approach that also includes an integrated set of support and services (including technical support). A new and radical approach to reaching rural women is therefore required on the ground.
Demand-driven programme development: Programmes need to be designed specifically based on the livelihood/activity profile of the clients/customer; their support requirements; and leveraging capital, human resource and market opportunities that could be harnessed to provide support.