About 80% of the Indian women workforce are employed in agriculture and allied activities. Rural women employed in agricultural activities are not able to get adequate access to government schemes/services and production assets like credit, technology and subsidy. Most of them are not recognized as farmers for want of ownership of land and their efforts and activities are not adequately valued and considered economically less important. Hence to improve the status of women in agriculture and to empower them with more opportunities, the Government of India launched the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana in 2010-11.
The MKSP scheme was launched in order to enhance the productive participation of agricultural women and to create sustainable agricultural livelihood avenues for women in agriculture. It also aims to improve the skills and capabilities of women in agriculture including their managerial capacities. Women are given better access to inputs and resources provided by the government and other agencies. It ultimately aims to ensure food and nutrition securities for agricultural women and their families.
The outcomes expected from the MKSP scheme are as follows:
• Sustainable net increase of income of agricultural women;
• Improved food and nutritional security for women farmers and their families;
• Better skills and performance by agricultural women;
• Women have better access to productive land, inputs, credit, information, technology, market information and product marketability;
• Increased food production, cropping intensity, better soil health and fertility;
• Increase in number of women institutions and women entrepreneurship.
The MKSP is membership-based scheme in which women farmers who are eligible are formed into groups. To be a member of the group, she should be a resident actively employed in agricultural activities in the same village. The scheme targets vulnerable and poor landless women farmers including SC/ST minorities. Priority is also given to women-headed households who are engaged in agriculture and allied activities.
The MKSP projects are undertaken by State Rural livelihood Missions (SRLMs), NGOs, Community-based organizations as Project Implementing Agencies (PIAs).
The Ministry of Rural Development provides up to 75% financial assistance of the estimated project cost and up to 90% in projects based in North-Eastern and hill states. The remaining funds are provided by the state government or any other donor agencies. The funds are released in three installments to the implementing agencies.
The MKSP scheme, since inception, has reached out to more than 33.35 lakh women farmers across 119 districts and 20,632 villages with a project outlay of Rs 822 crore.
The scheme promotes the use of locally adopted, resource conserving, knowledge-centric, environment-friendly and community-managed agricultural practices. The mobilization of women farmers into groups is followed by increasing their technical and managerial capacity building to manage and sustain their agricultural activities. Women groups are later upgraded into People’s Training Institutions (PTIs) to support other marginalized women farmers. Activities related to agriculture such as horticulture, agro-processing and livestock activities are also supported under the MKSP project. The scheme also looks to build the marketing expertise of women besides supporting them in marketing their agricultural products.
Ordinarily, the projects are to be implemented within a period of three years.
The MKSP projects are monitored and periodically reviewed at the state level by the Rural Development Department and the Project Screening Committee (PSC) at the Central level. The State governments can also form a technical group to assist the implementing agencies in the effective execution of projects. Regular audits are also conducted to assess the physical progress of the projects.