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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Women’s Empowerment in Indian Agriculture: Does Market Orientation of Farming Systems Matter?


This paper studies the relationship between the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) and market orientation of farm production in India. This is the first time that the WEAI has been used in an Indian agricultural context and the first time that it is being associated with market orientation. We used data on 1920 adults from 960 households in the Chandrapur District of Maharashtra and classified the households into three groups—(1) landless, (2) food-cropping, and (3) cash-cropping—that reflect increasing degrees of market orientation. We foind that women are disempowered in two major domains of agriculture—resources (access and decision-making) and leadership (group membership). A multivariate regression analysis shows that empowerment levels were significantly higher for women belonging to cash-cropping households, followed by food-cropping and landless households. Other significant determinants of empowerment scores are women’s age, education level, and household-level characteristics such as ownership of livestock, irrigation, electricity, and amount of land owned. As a secondary objective of this paper, we find that women’s empowerment in agriculture was also significantly associated with their decision-making in non-agricultural domains. The strong relationship between market orientation and empowerment levels suggests that linking women to markets can be a pathway to enhancing their empowerment in agricultural domains. Ensuring their ability to make decisions related to the cultivation of crops and their participation in the sale of those crops, with associated income, can be some areas for which relevant policies can be designed, tried, and studied.

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