Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture (2016) 1(1): 1-11
1
Roles of women in agriculture: A case study of rural Lahore,
Pakistan
Wajiha Ishaq
1
and Shafique Qadir Memon
2
*
Key Message Women of rural Lahore are actively involved in agriculture, mainly in post harvesting and
livestock management practices. They are facing problems due to lack of education, resources and financial
services.
ABSTRACT In rural areas of Pakistan, the role of women in agriculture is more pronounced because they
contribute a lot to agriculture, but their contribution in agriculture is not acknowledged. The present study
was designed in rural union councils of three towns of Lahore, Pakistan namely Nishatar Town, Iqbal Town
and Wahga Town. A questionnaire was designed to collect the data from rural women (n=207). Results
reveals that a majority of women (42.02%) started the work at 29 to 39 years of age and mostly (86.95%)
they were illiterate. A majority of the respondents (81.64%) were getting agricultural information from their
own family members, and 56.52% rural women worked 8-10 hours per day. During this study, it was also
found that wheat and rice were the major crops sown by all the respondents (100%). Out of all the pre-
harvesting activities, 94.2% positive responses were recorded against seed bed preparation. A majority of
rural women (85.02, 88.88 and 95.65%) were involved in shed cleaning, dung collection and fodder cutting,
respectively. Thirty-one percent of rural women reported that limited agricultural product was the main
cause for not being involved in agricultural marketing. Among the problems of household activities, 43.5%
rural women reported that husband wife conflicts were the major problem in their life. Need assessment
analysis reveals that rural women presented the highest need of trainings (85.5%) to improve their role in
agricultural activities. This study suggests that concerted efforts of government and non-government
agencies are required to uplift these rural women.
Keywords: Agriculture, Empowerment, Rural constraints, Role of women
1
Lahore College for Women University, Lahore, Pakistan
2
Department of Agricultural Sciences, Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad, Pakistan
*Corresponding author: Shafique Qadir Memon (shafiq_qm@yahoo.com)
To cite this article as: Ishaq, W., & Memon, S. Q. (2016). Roles of women in agriculture: A case study of rural
Lahore, Pakistan. Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture, 1(1), 1-11.
INTRODUCTION
Population is growing at a high speed in Pakistan, and a majority of the population is involved directly or
indirectly with agriculture to generate their income (Butt et al., 2010). This sector is playing a key role in
reducing poverty and acts as a source of growth in the countries where it is a main source of livelihood for the
poor (Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], 2011a; Cervantes-Godoy & Dewbre, 2010). It provides raw
materials to industries and also serves as a market of its product thereby it contributes a lot to the national
income (Begum & Yasmeen, 2011). It has several linkages with other non-farm rural activities and hence
results in employment generation and income earning opportunities (Fatima, 2012). Both men and women
play an important role in this sector. But in rural areas the role of women in agriculture is more pronounced
and the most of the agricultural activities revolve around them (Begum & Yasmeen, 2011). In a previous
research study by Luqman et al. (2006), it has been reported that women account 36.7% labour force of
agriculture in the developed countries, while 43.6% labour force in underdeveloped countries. It has been
estimated that more than fifty percent of the world food production has been done by women. Due to their
vital role in the huge world food production, women are considered as the sources of knowledge for
cultivating, processing as well as preserving of locally adapted nutritious crop varieties. Due to having such
ORIGINAL PAPER
Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture (2016) 1(1): 1-11
2
type of knowledge, women may be recognized as the innovation leaders for sustainable development in
agriculture (Chung, 2012).
The role of women in agricultural sector cannot be denied. They actively participate in the major field
crops production and their intensity of participation is directly linked with their age, social class as well as the
type of crop to be cultivated. The rural women work almost 12 to 15 hours a day. During sowing and
harvesting of farming system, they look too busy to perform their duties honestly. For the production of
wheat, cotton and vegetables, their participation is higher than that of other crops cultivation. A tremendous
labour is required to perform various activities of cotton production and this type of labour is provided by the
feminization in agriculture sector (FAO, 2015).
The women farmers work very hard. They perform a number of tasks, and remain busy from dawn to dusk
(Nazir et al., 2013). Their activities typically include the production of agricultural crops, earning wages
through agriculture and other rural business, participating in agricultural marketing as well as maintaining
their homes. In economic point of view, most of these activities are not considered as active employment in
national records but in actual figure, they are crucial for the welfare of rural households (FAO, 2011b). Batool
et al. (2014) conducted a research study on the participatory role of women in dairy farm operations for
smallholder system in Punjab-Pakistan and reported that women also take part in animal husbandry
especially grazing, fodder cutting, feeding, transportation, milking, butter preparation and preservation, as
well as cleanliness of livestock sheds. Besides these activities, women also play a crucial role in general health
care, preparation of milk products and the marketing of these products (Ahmad, 2001).
Rural women contribute a lot to agriculture but their contribution in agriculture is not appreciated.
Unfortunately, despite their wealth of knowledge and capability, they are ignored by policy makers, often not
being acknowledged as “productive” farmers. Their farm work is often unpaid or under-valued and they tend
to be debarred from decision-making (Ogunlela & Mukhtar, 2009). They are negatively affected by traditional
pattern and economic policies (Amin et al., 2009a). They face more constraints than that of men. They have
neither ownership nor control over resources. They are expected to give up their rights in favour of brothers
or husbands (Pesticide Action Network UK, 2009). They are denied of their basic rights such as owning
property, access to the health cares, getting education, securing bank credits and becoming a part of
technology transfer. They are underprivileged to avail the opportunities of socio-economic development.
They have lesser access to extension services, technology as well as trainings relative to their male
counterparts (Nosheen et al., 2008).
The present study has been designed to highlight the enormous roles of the rural women in agriculture,
determine the causes for women participation in agricultural activities, investigate different constraints faced
and explore different factors which determine their empowerment. The study would help to bring hidden
talents of rural women and would be valuable for the policy makers to formulate future policy guidelines for
rural as well as agricultural development. We believe that no such type of study has been conducted in rural
Lahore, Pakistan. So the findings of this study would constitute a significant addition to the existing literature.
METHODOLOGY
The study was conducted in rural union councils of three towns of Lahore namely Nishatar Town, Iqbal Town
and Wahga Town. The reasons for selecting three towns were time and resources constraints. It was not
possible for researcher to include all the rural union councils in given time and resources. At first stage, the
simple random sampling technique was used to select nine rural union councils from these three towns
through lottery method. At the second stage, the researcher made an effort to distribute 500 questionnaires.
The reason for selecting a sample size of 500 for this study was made following (Sekaran and Bougie, 2010)
who suggested that the sample size larger than 30 and less than 500 are appropriate for the most research
works. The researcher collected the data herself at weekends and mostly in the absence of male households
so that they could not influence the respondents. It was very difficult for researchers to collect data as the
most of the respondents were illiterate, unable to understand the meaning and context of the questions.
Therefore, face to face explanation of the questions was made possible by the researchers. It took three
months to complete this extensive phase of data collection and 207 questionnaires were filled from all the
selected rural union councils with return rate of 41.4%. The reasons for this low return rate lie behind the
Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture (2016) 1(1): 1-11
3
religious values of our society, as well as cultural complexities in this kind of environment. Therefore, the
contact with female household individually was very difficult and prohibited. Being a female researcher, I
tried with my best to approach women but faced a lot of restrictions. At the last stage, the collected data was
analyzed employing Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software version 17.0 and both descriptive
and inferential statistics were used to obtain the best results.
RESULTS
This study was conducted for the purpose of identifying the role of women in agriculture. For it, women role
in rural areas of Lahore, Pakistan was interpreted for crop production and livestock management.
Subsequently, the relation of these activities was assessed with household.
Selected characteristics of the rural women
The role of women in agriculture is considered as supporting seraphim in many societies of the world. The
women start working in early age as compared to men. In present study, various demographic characteristics
including age, educational status, sources of information, reasons for performing agricultural activities and
working hours of the respondents were considered. The data regarding demographic characteristics of the
respondents have been reported in table 1. Age is a key factor in adoption of an innovation and it has positive
or negative impact on individual behavior (Siddiqui et al., 2003). Table 1 shows that a majority of women
(42.02%) started the work at 29 to 39 years of age followed by the women (28.5%) who started the work at
18-28 years of age. The most of the women in the study area were illiterate (86.95%), while the educational
status of 10.14% respondents was primary, 0.96% and 1.93% respondents were literate up to middle and
matric level, respectively. No government or private organization was working in those areas for the rights of
women farmers nor do they have information about such agencies. They were just working on their own as
the major sources of occupational training and information. An overwhelming majority of the respondents
(81.64%) were getting agricultural information from their own family members followed by the respondents
(18.35%) that were securing agricultural information from their friends (Table 1). Table 1 also shows that a
majority of women (63.76%) started this work to support their families economically. 20.77% of the
respondents reported that they started agricultural activities due to family profession, and 11.59% women
adapted this profession because no other work was available. However, only 3.9% of the respondents started
the profession of agriculture because of personal interest. The data shows that a majority of the women were
doing this kind of job only to support their families and they showed little interest in this profession. The
study indicated that the most of the respondents were working for long hours in the fields. A majority of the
women (56.52%) worked 8-10 hours per day followed by women (19.8 and 16.42%) who worked 11-13
hours and 5-7 hours a day, respectively. Only 7.24% women worked 2-4 hours per day. However, the average
working hours of the respondents were calculated as 9 hours per day (Table 1). Hence, age of the
respondents, education status, sources of information, reasons for performing the agricultural activities and
working hours of the respondents show a mutual relationship with each other.
Crops sowing in study area
Table 2 reported the crops sown by the respondents in the research area and it is clear from the table that
wheat and rice were the major crops sown by all the respondents (100%). It also shows that 74.87%
respondents were cultivating vegetables in their fields followed by the respondents (84.54%) who were
cultivating folder crops in their fields.
Role of rural women in agricultural activities
Women are dynamic worker not only in farms and fields but they also accomplish such activities as
enhancements of agricultural productivity e.g. seed bed preparation, weeding, harvesting threshing, grain
cleaning, food storage, cottage industry etc. Jamali (2009) reported that Pakistani rural women are not only
involved in household accomplishments but also involved in rural socio-economic activities by adapting
services of crop production, cotton industry and livestock management.
Journal of Rural Development and Agriculture (2016) 1(1): 1-11
4
Table 3 describes the role of women in two different agricultural activities such as crop production and
livestock management. However, out of all the pre-harvesting activities 94.2% positive responses were
recorded against seed bed preparation and 47.82% against weeding. While all other activities were related to
post-harvesting wherein all the 100% respondents showed positive responses for harvesting, 74.39% for
picking of fruits, 74.39% for winnowing, 74.39% for drying and 100% for cleaning to transfer the agricultural
produce to the market. Similarly, 85.02% women said that they were employing in making bundles and
storing the harvested crops, respectively (Fig. 1). But all of the women said that threshing activities were
performed by men.
The data presented in table 3 also shows the role of women in livestock management. It is clear from the
table that the women did not perform the livestock activities such as grazing and bathing. A majority of rural
women (85.02, 88.88 and 95.65%) were involved in shed cleaning, dung collection and fodder cutting,
respectively. More than two-third (84.05%) of them were found to be involved in milking, yogurt preparation,
and milk and yogurt storage, respectively. 79.71% women were seen to be involved in shed building.
Regarding the ghee making activities of livestock management, 76.32% women were involved to prepare
ghee. More than half women (52.65 and 67.63%) were performing the activities of dung cake making and
providing the food and water to livestock, respectively (Fig. 1). Hence, the role of women in both crops and
livestock activities was found to be higher than that of men in the study area.
Problems faced by rural women
Women contribution is measured to be lower in a country not because of their least possible involvement
than that of men but because their involvement goes unacknowledged, unrecorded and unrecognized. In fact,
they are mainly accountable for pre-cultivating and post-harvesting operations of food crops compulsory for
household livelihood and their struggle goes unrecognized and unpaid (Government of Pakistan [GOP],
2014). Table 4 reports the problems faced by the rural women regarding agriculture marketing. There were
four main causes recognized by rural women for problems in agricultural marketing (Table 4). Thirty-one
percent of rural women reported that limited agricultural product is the main cause for not being involved in
agricultural marketing. Thirty