Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Speaking out on feminisation of agriculture in Nepal

Ms Sujata Tamang is a good example of a young female scientist making a significant contribution to her country’s forestry research through ACIAR. She works for Forest Action Nepal and is involved in ACIAR’s project Enhancing livelihoods and food security from agroforestry and community forestry in Nepal.

Ms Sujata Tamang presenting at the
3rd World Agroforestry Congress in New Dehli

Sujata recently presented a paper at the high-profile 3rd World Congress on Agroforestry, in the session on 'The Gender Dimensions of Applying Agroforestry Innovation'. She was one of 28 scientists from six partner countries (Ethiopia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Rwanda and Vietnam) that ACIAR sponsored to attend the congress.

She spoke on the feminisation of agriculture in the middle hills of Nepal, describing the changed situation in many rural areas of Nepal that has resulted from 4 million of the country’s males working overseas. For many families this has meant the women left at home now do all the farming, while the men earn money elsewhere. The range of tasks for women has expanded to include those traditionally performed by men, such as ploughing, as well as traditional women’s work such as planting crops. 
colourful painting of lady with agriultural symbols
This beautiful painting by a 12-year-old Indian girl
won first prize in an art competition at the congress,
for capturing the issues associated with trees in
agricultural systems.

Sujata pointed out that many of the current agricultural technologies are not women-friendly and that there is not enough labour to complete all the agricultural tasks. As a result, in many regions, up to 30% of farming land is now under-utilised, with either no crops being planted on it or a reduction from three rice crops to only one per year. This in turn means that many communities now face increased food insecurity in terms of local production, even though families may have more income (from remittances) to buy food.

In her current project, Sujata is investigating ways to enhance the effectiveness of community forestry user groups. She is also looking at innovative approaches to productively use the under-utilised agricultural land. Her efforts will help enhance people’s livelihoods and food security in rural Nepal.

Attending the congress gave Sujata the opportunity to present her work to a global audience, gain new knowledge of agroforestry research around the world, and join a network of scientists from other countries who are also working on ACIAR-funded agroforestry research.

By Tony Bartlett, ACIAR's Forestry research program manager

More information:
ACIAR project FST/2011/076 Enhancing livelihoods and food security from agroforestry and community forestry in Nepal

Sujata’s paper was jointly authored with two other ACIAR project researchers, Dr Krishna Shrestha and Dr Krishna Paudel.


  1. We have been bombarded with gender issues on agriculture such as discrimination of women in agriculture, inequality of women to men, lack of land rights, and so on. Ms Tamang has presented a new gender-related agenda happening in rural Nepal – the increasing farm workload of women due to ‘emigration’ of male labour. The blog pointed out that women are doing farm works which traditionally are done by men – which eventually led to more land being abandoned. This also means that in many areas of rural Nepal women are also left with responsibilities on community forestry. The community forestry may also suffer the same fate with agricultural land – ‘deterioration’ of community forest. Women in rural Nepal are now becoming ‘SUPER WOMEN’ with the never-ending list of tasks left to them to sustain a family and society. There is indeed a huge challenge for research to develop new technologies and policies that will ‘lighten’ the heavy loads of rural women in Nepal and in agrarian countries where there is considerable emigration of men labour. A philosophical question however may be asked: “what level of decision-making related to farming and land use and perhaps forestry is left to women?”.

  2. Apart from male labour migration, family are migrating within country to urban/city area for better life (for children education, health & security). Due to absence of strong male in home left many families to look for alternative for their safety & securities. Due to this lands had been used haphazardly for housing which itself is becoming major problem.


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