by Paris T.R., Singh A., Cueno A.D., Ismail A., Singh R.P., Ram P.C., Jagdish
In eastern Uttar Pradesh, sodicity is a major problem in rainfed areas grown under rice. The problem is more severe during the dry season, preventing farmers from growing a second crop of rice. Aside from sodicity, farming households are faced with drought and submergence that result in low rice yields. To address these problems, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in collaboration with Narendra Deva University of Agricultural Technology (NDUAT) initiated research in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India, under CPWF Project 7 ‘Development of Technologies to Harness the Productivity Potential of Salt-Affected Areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plains and Mekong Delta’ in 2004. The project conducted baseline socioeconomic surveys, including gender analysis, in assessing the needs and constraints in rice productivity, as well as opportunities for improving the livelihoods of men and women farmers. A pretested structured questionnaire was used in conducting farm-household surveys at selected villages with sodic problems. Based on the results of the surveys, women’s labor participation in rice farming is highest among the marginal and small farming households who belong to the lowest rung of the social ladder. Women from lower caste farming households with nonsodic lands contributed 63% to total labor inputs in rice production, while those with sodic lands provided 59%. Most of these women are illiterate and face several constraints to increasing rice productivity, such as lack of access to seeds of varieties tolerant to sodicity, and lack of knowledge on nutrient management practices. To overcome these constraints, the project deliberately involved women and men in technology evaluation and dissemination. Salt-tolerant lines/varieties and nutrient management technologies (use of pressmud2, pressmud+zinc sulfate, and Sesbania3) were validated by men and women farmers on their own fields. Focus group discussions revealed the benefits derived by women in participating in the project activities such as: a) increased crop yields; b) gained confidence in applying knowledge on new rice varieties and in expressing their opinions regarding new technologies; and c) recognition as farmers.
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