• The Role of Women in a Mixed Crop-Livestock Production System in Northern India: How can the gender gap be closed?

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  • 30/03/2013

This master thesis study was conducted by BOKU student Bernadette Mayr as part of the SAF-BIN project in India during 2011-12.


Women all over the world play an important role in overcoming poverty and other grievances. The misallocation of resources and opportunities as well as the hindered access of women to resources decreases productivity and comes at a high economic and social cost for all (UN 2010, FAO 2011, World Bank 2011). The aim of this study is to illustrate the current situation of women living off small scale farming or agricultural related activities and to identify gender-based disparities in work distribution and the access to material and immaterial resources that hinder women´s development and empowerment. Therefore an overview of the local agricultural structure in the study region and women´s occupations is presented. Additionally, a comparison between women-headed households and men-headed households is made. The data for this research was collected in both a qualitative and quantitative fashion. The qualitative data was gained through formal group discussions (FGD´s) and semi-structured expert interviews. Quantitative data was collected through structured individual interviews. Informal conversations and observations complete the triangulation of data. Data from formal group discussions and expert interviews were analyzed qualitatively, and data from individual interviews were analyzed quantitatively with PASW Statistics 18 (Predictive Analytic Software). The research was carried out in three districts of Madhya Pradesh state as well as in New Delhi, India. The targeted groups were women and families from disadvantaged castes and tribes living under poor conditions. Results show that due to the small structure of the agriculture a living based solely on their own agricultural production is not possible for the families within the sample. Many families don’t even own land or livestock. They often depend on various incomes from agriculture related, time-intensive, low skilled and low paid occupations such as wage labor work, the collecting and selling of firewood or making Indian cigars. Within the work distribution, clear gender divisions in certain fields have been detected. Often women handle time-consuming, unproductive and unpaid work. The distribution of material and immaterial resources are unequal for men and women. Women also often lack adequate access to important resources, which reduces their productivity. Therefore, women-headed households, due to the absence of a husband, are slightly better off compared to men-headed households when it comes to access of land or bank accounts. Self-help groups have been detected as important tools for women´s empowerment. Further effort needs to be put in the implementation and adaptation of new and already existing self-help groups and trainings to better adapt them to women´s needs. Additionally an intensive and more open discussion on cultural customs, often discriminating women´s needs, must be achieved in order to positively change the situation of the women in the study region.


FAO (2011). The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11. Women in agriculture. Closing the gender gap for development. FAO, Rome.

UN (United Nation) (2010). The Millennium Development Goals Report 2010. United Nation, New York.

World Bank (2011). World development report 2012. Gender Equality and Development. World Bank, Washington D.C.


For this thesis Bernadette Mayr was awarded the Inge Dirmhirn prize for gender-specific master’s theses at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna on 14.05.2012. Furthermore her work was featured in an official publication of BOKU University for Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna: BOKU Das Magazin der Universität des Lebens (2013). Issue 1,  page 45. BOKU, Vienna, Austria. Available from (publication in German).


"This study has been produced with the financial assistance of European Union. The contents of this study are the sole responsibility of Caritas Austria and its partners and under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union"