Women in Agriculture

In Bangladesh, agriculture is the single largest producing sector of the economy comprising about 21% (as of 2010) of the country's GDP and employing around 48% of the total labor force. More than 55% of the total surface area is used for agriculture and 58% of holdings are in farming occupation in Bangladesh. In this assessment we shall include crop production, livestock and poultry and fisheries to some extent as the agricultural sector. The small-scale farmers (holding land between 0.05 – 2.49 acres) comprise 84.27% of the total farming community. "As a major occupation of the population of Bangladesh, census of 1961 shows that the number of people depending on agriculture was 86% (with 85% men and 91.8% women) while in the census of 2001 the number of people depending on agriculture reduced drastically to 50.9% (with 52.2% men and 43.9% women) . Yet, it is the small farm households, which has kept the agriculture as a major occupation and continue to produce food for the country. Any effort to increase food security will require enhancing the capacity of the small scale farmers. The major agricultural crops as recorded in the government statistics are Rice, Jute, Sugarcane, Tea, Pulses, Oilseeds, Vegetables, Condiments and Spices and Tobacco.


Women’s role in agriculture is very significant in the context of overwhelming presence of the small farm holding families. These are family-based holdings involving family members in different stages of production. But unfortunately women are not recognized as ‘farmers” in any national documents – they are the wives and daughters in the farming households.

Women’s work in agriculture remained invisible for a number of reasons. For a long time, the division of labour in agriculture was that men were engaged in the fields for planting upto harvesting of crops, while women were engaged in post harvest works and seed preservation. Secondly rural women lack ownership of land, the most crucial rural asset. The existing inheritance laws give women lower share in the landed property of the parents as well as husbands.

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