Empowering women in Bangladesh by strengthening the agriculture-nutrition-gender nexus


Cross-posted from ifpri.org written by Akhter Ahmed, Julie Ghostlaw, and Nusrat Hossain

This week's International Women’s Day 2017 celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Despite significant strides toward gender equality in Bangladesh, there are still many barriers to women’s participation in the agriculture sector. Evidence from IFPRI’s research in Bangladesh shows that an increase in women’s empowerment in agriculture helps to move people out of poverty; improve household, child, and maternal dietary diversity; and increase agricultural diversity.

Ministry pilot project links agriculture, nutrition, and gender
Motivated by this research-based evidence, IFPRI designed the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Gender Linkages (ANGeL) project, a two-year effort piloted by the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture through its Department of Agricultural Extension. ANGeL is evaluating the impact of three types of interventions for promoting nutrition and gender-sensitive agriculture:

  • Agriculture Production—Facilitating the production of the high-value food commodities rich in essential nutrients through the diversification of crops, livestock, and the like.
  • Nutrition Knowledge—Conducting high-quality training in behavior-change communication to improve people’s knowledge of nutrition.
  • Gender Sensitization—Undertaking activities to empower women and raise their status while encouraging gender parity.

Results highlight women’s persistent disempowerment
Before launching ANGeL’s field-level activities, empowerment data were collected from 4,000 households across 16 districts in rural Bangladesh.
ANGeL baseline results (graph at upper right) show that 69 percent of women are disempowered. In other words, only 31 percent of women are empowered—10 percent less than the share of men who are empowered (41.5 percent).

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Virtual Dialogue on Goods and Services Tax Bill

Cross-posted from India Food Security Portal written by Jaspreet Aulakh

Onions. Source: Flickr, Bindaas Madhavi

The International Food Policy Research Institute held a virtual dialogue on the impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on trade and agriculture in India on November 30.  The implementation of the GST is expected to significantly boost trade inside India (this topic has been previously discussed in a blog on the India Food Security Portal). The GST will eliminate the current multitude of taxes, duties, and surcharges that exist between states, thereby effectively creating a common Indian market. However, the taxes that will be imposed on the movement of goods are not clear. Experts that participated in the dialogue included the following:

  • Purushotham, Adjunct Professor, CESS
  • CA Sachin Sinha, Partner, Prakash Sachin & Co.
  • Amit Pujara, Assistant VP, NCDEX
  • Rahul Ganatra, NCDEX
  • PK Joshi, Director, IFPRI-South Asia
  • Devesh Roy, Research Fellow, IFPRI

A summary of the key questions that were discussed in the virtual dialogue are as follows and all of the comments for each question are available on the forum as well as a full summary.

How will the GST impact the production of and trade in agricultural commodities? How will the GST impact agricultural producers? 

The GST is expected to create a more seamless movement of agriculture produce between states and is expected that primary markets can respond quickly to the market signals avoiding local shortages and avoiding transportation costs of up to 3-5 percent depending upon the region and commodity. There is also the idea that this will help favor the e-National Agricultural Market (e-NAM) given that taxation on agricultural products will be simplified.  The e-NAM will help in avoiding mandi fees and taxes and link farmers with buyers and improving market efficiency, hence benefiting both farmers and buyers. Both the GST and the e-NAM have a common goal to create an integrated national commodities market with a uniform tax structure for uniform market fees across the nation.

The press release by the GST Council on November 3, 2016 noted that the GST will be levied at multiple rates ranging from 0 percent, 5, 12, 18 to 28 percent with food grains exempted from the tax. The lowest taxes will go to several food items such as meat products, milk and dairy, and other processed foods. Purchase taxes, market fees (mandi taxes), and infrastructure development taxes will be incorporated into GST. It is expected that better compliance will help in widening the tax base and hence lowering the tax burden on average dealer in agriculture trade.

Participants agreed that market competitiveness will be improved, helping export markets. It is expected that uniformity across states and the nation will help in compliance and the new GST tax structure, and is expected to help protect the interest of small traders and hence attract more traders, boosting competition.

The impacts on production are unclear as it might dis-incentivize the farming community.  The reduction in the number of tax-exempt products from 300 to 90 under GST may include some farm inputs that currently have tax exemptions and concessions; that might be increase in their price and hence impact the net income of the farming community. Seeds will continue to be exempted and IFPRI South Asia

How can farmers and agribusiness prepare for the new tax regime? 

Multiple participants in the dialogue noted that the GST may help facilitate and significantly increase the trade of goods and services within India. Bihar is the only state without the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and has also welcomed the ratification of GST saying it will increase country-wide trade and state tax revenues since it has no organized market sector. The multiple layers of taxes with the supply chain will be clubbed into a single tax. The movement of goods and services will at ease across the states. For example, successful GST implementation is expected to eliminate the queues of trucks waiting at state boundaries. Indian businesses are generally supportive of the GST as it is expected to simplify their value chains.

Every supply chain will be affected by the new tax regime meaning that farmers will also be affected.  However, the effect is not clear yet since the laws in the act exempt agriculturalists but the allied services might be affected and hence can impact agriculture. To best understand the system, farmers need to understand the documentation, system compliance, and use of information technology along with the digital transactions. There can be some resistance due to initial new system adjustments.

The implementation of the GST along with demonetization may require farmers to increasingly use banking channels and appropriate banking policies may be required to waive feeds and help low-income farmers access the banks.

Which agricultural commodities should be labelled as ‘necessity commodities’ which fall under lower tax brackets? 

There is significant debate across the political spectrum at what standard rate the GST should be set and which items to include and exclude. The opposition parties are advocating for a rate below the generally proposed 18 percent while some States are proposing to set it at 20 percent to ensure adequate revenue collection. A report for the government on how to ensure neutral revenue rates after GST implementation recommends a standard GST rate of 17- 19 percent for most goods and services, a 12 percent rate for some goods (including most agricultural goods) and a 40 percent rate for luxury goods.

The central government has clarified that all food grains and food commodities that go into the common food basket will be exempted from the tax and a few items will be taxed at the 5% percent level. It is not yet clear which items will be taxed and how that may affect nutrition.

How will an increase in agricultural trade in India support improvements in food security? 

The implementation of the GST is expected to significantly boost trade within India. As discussed above, the GST will eliminate the current multitude of taxes, duties, and surcharges that exist between states, thereby effectively creating a common Indian market. However, the taxes that will be imposed on the movement of goods are not clear. For instance, if goods move from producing states to consuming states, it is unclear which state will receive the tax benefits and how those benefits will be structured. However, ‘producing’ states are likely to experience a decrease in total tax revenues, and ‘consuming’ States an increase in total tax revenues, due to changes to where goods are taxed. It is hoped that the taxation of services by states will allow them to mitigate the expected shortfall in tax revenues.

The Central and State governments have joined hands to register for the new Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that will provide shared technological infrastructure. The key objectives of the GSTN are to provide a standard and uniform electronic interface to provide shared information technology infrastructure for all state government agencies.

It is expected that market signals will be clearer and food grains and other food commodities can move from surplus zones to deficit zones. This may help more traders participate and increase competition in the markets to respond to local food shortages. The GST system will help incorporate more accurate information on agricultural and food stock levels nationally and regionally, assisting with food security decisions. Perishables can move faster and cheaper due to less checks, paper work and taxes during transport.

The main concern in the application of GST to food is the impact it would have on those living at or below subsistence levels. It was noted that in the rural sector, the predominant distribution channel for unprocessed food would be either a direct sale by the farmer to final consumers or through small distributors and retailers. Even where food is within the scope of the GST, such sales would largely remain exempt because of the small business registration threshold. Further, the output of agricultural sector is mostly exempt from tax, and inputs in agricultural sector like power and fertilizer are heavily subsidized and will continue to be subsidized.

In effect, this means that ‘producing’ states are likely to experience a decrease in total tax revenues, and ‘consuming’ states an increase in total tax revenues, due to changes to where goods are taxed. However, it is hoped that the taxation of services by states will allow these states to mitigate the expected shortfall in tax revenues. Thus, the shorter-term and longer-term impacts of GST will be discovered in the near future. With the rollout planned to be next year on April 1, the important decisions rest on the shoulders of the GST council, regarding the GST rates. The capping of the GST at rate of 18 percent will not be favorable as it might lead to revenue deficits in some states.

A full summary is available here.




More Money for Men, Less Drudgery for Women

Women Farmers, Palghar, Thane district of Maharashtra, India Source: Md. Tajuddin Khan, IFPRI
Women Farmers, Palghar, Thane district of Maharashtra, India Source: Md. Tajuddin Khan, IFPRI

Women are major stakeholders in India’s agriculture. In 2011, women constituted nearly half (46.2 percent) of all agricultural laborers and one-third (32.9 percent) of all cultivators in India. Women’s contribution to cultivation of rice—India’s largest crop by area and production--is even higher as they contribute 60-80 percent of the labor required to grow the crop (Ricepedia, 2016). Women may have different preferences from in the families and adoption of new technologies or practices in agriculture may affect them differently. Still, both research and extension in India tend to ignore female farmers in understanding technology adoption and promoting new technologies and practices. In recent years, however, there is a growing emphasis in all development programs, including programs to promote climate-smart agriculture, to actively target female farmers, who are more vulnerable to climate change (Arora-Jonsson, 2011), but are often left out due to existing gender inequalities.

As a part of our research on Gender dimensions on farmers’ preferences for direct-seeded rice with drum seeder in India under the CGIAR Program on Climate Change and Food Security (CCAFS), we carried out a discrete choice experiment to examine the heterogeneity between male and female rice farmers’ preference for direct-seeded rice (DSR) with drum seeders in two predominantly rice growing districts of Maharashtra, India. Both Government of Maharashtra and Government of India have been promoting DSR as a climate smart technology that can reduce the labor required in rice cultivation and offer other benefits, such as yield gain, lower seed requirement, higher profits, more resilience to weather shocks and a reduced carbon footprint.

We enrolled both female farmers in our experiment about 337 women and 329 men farmers took part in our experiments. Of these, 542 men and women were from the same families.  Key findings from the study emerges are :-

  • Both female and male farmers prefer cheaper drum-seeders and would buy it only if it is subsidized significantly from its current market price;
  • Both groups have positive willingness to pay for increased yield, reduced seed rate and reduction in labor use, but;
  • They have different relative valuations of different attributes of the drum seeder: women value labor saving more than men while men value reduction in seed-rate and increase in yield more than women.
  • The overall willingness to pay (WTP) for drum-seeder is higher for women than the men. Further, women in our experiment are significantly more interested in switching from transplanted to direct-seeded rice. Each choice-set in our experiment offered respondents three options, including the status-quo option of continuing with the transplanted rice. Women were 20 percent less likely to choose the status-quo option than the men in their families.

For the study, we used the Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) to collect self-reported data on the role and say of women in agriculture. The respective gender roles in the family and on the farm, seem to explain some of these differences. Men have a greater say over how the family spends the cash. Accordingly, men tend to have a higher willingness to pay for attributes that increase income (increase in yield) or reduce cash costs (reduction in the seed rate). Women contribute a large share of the labor for transplanting rice, much of which is unpaid work on family farms. Women, therefore, seem to value labor saving significantly more than their male counterparts.

The study’s findings of women having higher WTP for a new technology runs somewhat contrary to the existing literature on technology adoption, which shows that women have slower observed rates of adoption of a wide range of technologies than men (Doss and Morris 2000) and lower WTP for new products, such as weather-indexed insurance (Akter et al. 2016), probably due to greater time and resource constraints, lower human capital endowment (education and exposure to the outer world), and poorer access to complementary inputs (Kamwamba-Mtethiwa et al. 2012). In our study, women are far more interested in and are willing to pay more for a new technology that promises to reduce the backbreaking work.

The WEAI data shows that women in rural Maharashtra work harder in rice cultivation, but they have a significantly lower say than the men in household decisions related to farming, such as choice of crops, inputs to buy, and the adoption and purchase of new technologies and equipment. This study also found, however, that although women have less say than the men in their families, they are not completely powerless. In fact, women do have a considerable say in many household decisions. Therefore, existing development programs, including agriculture extension, should not ignore women when promoting new climate-smart technologies, products, or practices, as ignoring women may reinforce the existing gender inequalities. Given women’s interest in new and better technologies, extension for the promotion of DSR drum seeder is likely to be more successful if it also targets female farmers and highlights the attributes of the technology that are of greater interest to them.

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Dialogue on Climate Change and Livelihood Adaptation in Gujarat

IFPRI Conference
IFPRI Conference

It is predicted that climate change and rising temperatures will increase the demand for water used in agriculture and in urban areas. This poses significant risks for the livelihoods of rural communities and the food security of urban populations. In order to address these risks there is a need to understand issues surrounding  water security in India.  For instance, options that address increasing water scarcity through better co-management of water at the river basin are needed in many water-stressed areas.

In this context and with the goal to improve the understanding of water resource management and its relationship to climate change, a dialogue was organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the National Council for Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Public Leadership (NCCSD) on May 7th, 2016.  The workshop was attended by 124 participants that included scientists, government officers, social workers, civil society members and 36 farmers and students. The workshop was undertaken as part of the India FSP, which undertakes studies and organizes policy advocacy dialogues to improve food security at the national and state levels in India.

Dr. Kirit N Shelat, executive chairman of the NCCSD, presented an overview on climate change, food security, water and energy security, environmental degradation and natural calamities in India. He specifically highlighted that despite achieving consistent annual agricultural growth rates between 2 and 4 percent in recent decades (except in the last two years) climate change is affecting the productivity of agriculture. An example given illustrated how increases in soil salinity in parts of Gujarat are affecting root development and productivity. He also emphasized that India does not have a comprehensive policy on river basin management. In effect, this means that India has no effective policy response to the concurrent floods that it is experiencing.

The workshop included a session on farmer Interaction which provided farmers with the opportunity to discuss their observations and problems with water salinization and climatic change. During the session the participants highlighted a number of issues that need to be addressed and produced a number of suggestions which they request are sent to relevant policy makers, the government, research organizations and agricultural universities.

The workshop also highlighted a number of successful initiatives that have been implemented in Gujarat that have addressed water scarcity in recent decades. An example of such an initiative is the “Narmada Water Cannels”, a massive water conservation program that links multiple rivers and provides large scale micro-irrigation. Another successful initiative is the participatory scheme for Communities water Conservation which has improved the Gujarat groundwater table.  Overall, the Government of Gujarat has integrated approaches for water management that involve water conservation, inter-basin water transfer by interlinking, strengthening of existing canal system, participatory irrigation management, and micro-irrigation.

Despite these successes, climate change and two consecutive droughts are increasing the water stress communities in Gujarat are experiencing. Moreover urban-rural tensions are emerging as water levels are falling rapidly in rural areas due to increasing demand in new urban areas. Dr. Tushar Pandey, from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) emphasized the urgency of developing climate smart agriculture, enhanced water storage, on demand irrigation, and improved resilience in farming livelihoods as effective strategies tackling water scarcity. This is especially relevant as on current trajectories India is expected to face a 12 percent demand supply water supply gap by 2025.

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By: Nisha Shah, NCCSD and Jaspreet Aulakh, IFPRI

Pulses for Sustainable Agriculture & Health

Cross-posted from the FSP India website written by Jaspreet Aulakh
Global demand for pulses is rapidly increasing. As noted in a recent editorial, filling the demand-supply gap will be critical.  For the South Asia region, pulses are traditionally importantPulses food commodities and cheap sources of protein. The region is now experiencing shortages of pulses which is causing an increase in imports.  In an effort to increase consumption of pulses, a number of states have included them in the Public Distribution System and a recent IFPRI discussion paper evaluates the opportunities and constraints for including pulses in the PDS.   Pulses are also emerging as the ‘future food’ in developed and many African countries. The challenge is to increase pulses production efficiently not only to meet the domestic requirement in the region but also supply for new consumers in developed and African countries.

On January 5, 2016, IFPRI held a roundtable discussion on “Enhancing Opportunities for Increasing Production and Consumption of Pulses.” This event highlighted the importance of increasing consumer awareness of the nutritious benefits of pulses, as well as integrating government efforts and filling research gaps to encourage pulse production and consumption. A second dialogue was organized on May 31 and June 1, 2016 and featured representatives from eight different countries, 48 discussions, and 104 poster presentations.

The main themes of this latest workshop touched on major aspects of the pulse sector - Global and Indian Perspective on Pulses; Pulses Production, Consumption and Environmental Services; Pulse Consumption Behaviors; Price Behavior of Pulses; Drivers of Pulses Production; Pulses, Climate Change and Eco-system Services; International Trade in Pulses; Aggregation Models for Pulses; Leveraging Markets to Increase Pulse Production; and Evidence for Market Integration in Pulses; and Value Addition for Pulses through Food Convergent Innovation. An additional session on Farmer Producer Organization for Pulses was attended by farmers from Bihar and Maharastra.

The main theme that emerged from the inaugural session was that focus should be placed improving India’s national pulse sector through the use of technology and increased government support. There is scope for India to become the world’s largest pulse-producing country, but to make this happen, research must identify ways to fit pulses into the country’s current cropping pattern and yield gaps must be addressed so that pulse price volatility can be better managed.

Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, launched the Global Food Policy Report 2016 at this event. Pulses receive special mention in the report, as they fall under stress-tolerant, environmentally friendly, and nutrient-rich protein options. Pulses also have high payoff potential if improved technologies are used (this is particularly true in the Indian states of Bihar and Odisha) they have high payoff potential with improved technologies.

Dr. Parthasarathy Rao, a former ICRISAT scientist provided an overview of pulse production, consumption, and demand, citing the Global Perspective of Pulses. According to the presentation, pulses account for 5.8 percent of the world’s arable land. In India, they account for 18 percent. Six pulse varieties contribute 80 percent of pulse production globally – drybeans (32 percent), chickpeas (17 percent), drypeas (15 percent), cowpeas (9 percent), and lentils and pigeonpeas combined (6 percent). Pulse production shows a rising trend in Asia and Africa; together, these regions account for about 67 percent of global pulse production. Global demand for pulses for use as both food and feed is also increasing for food and feed; 75 percent of pulses are consumed as food in developing countries, while 35 percent are consumed as food in developed countries. Pulses contribute 13 percent of India’s overall protein intake. In terms of production, Asia has not yet reached self-sufficiency. Canada, Myanmar, the US, Australia, and China account for 75 percent of all global pulse exports, and India is largest pulse-importing country in the world.

Pulse imports to India are mainly from Myanamar, Canada, and Africa. Raj Chandra of IFPRI showed evidence that imported pulses do have a cooling effect on the domestic prices of Indian pulses.  A unitary shock in the imports at first leads to a sustained increase in prices up till 20 weeks, after which price stabilizes. Import needs to be operationalized quickly as it takes some time to have effect on prices. Canada has started branding and promoting pulses via programs focusing on the crops’ nutritional and health benefits. Lack of availability of seed was reason for low production in 2016 due to high world pulse prices.  We can reduce non-renewable input use such as nitrogen phosphate and less water with the help of pulses. It was also pointed out that different pulses have very low elasticity of substitution. There should have pulse brand value instead of generic branding. Nutritional security is important in the long run.

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/southasia-ifpri/tag/ifpri-pulses-conference-2016

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/96625205@N02/albums/72157669653492066

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