NEW DELHI: The Centre has directed states to spend 30 per cent of funds allocated towards farm schemes for empowering women farmers, whose share is significant in the country's agri workforce, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said today.
He, however, expressed concern over negligible number of women cooperatives in India and emphasised on the need to strengthen by providing financial help to them.
The government has decided to celebrate October 15 as 'Female Farmers Day' to recognise their contribution.
"About 60 per cent of the country's population is dependent on agriculture. Out of which, women are 30 per cent. We have asked the states to partner women in all our schemes and programmes," Singh said at the national workshop on 'Strengthening Women Cooperatives' organised by NCDC here.
Women play an important role in sowing and harvesting process as also in allied farm activities. Therefore, the states have been directed to spend at least 30 per cent of the allocation to empower women farmers, he said.
Singh also emphasised that there is a need to set up more women cooperatives in the country as at present they are only 20,014 out of the total 8 lakh in India.
"Women can contribute in a big way in allied farm activities like dairy, beekeeping and poultry farming. They need to be trained and given adequate finance to indulge in such farm activities," he said and asked National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) to support women cooperatives.
Stating that the government is making efforts to empower women farmers and labourers, the Minister said it has been made mandatory to deploy one female scientist in 668 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (farm science centres) spread across India.
As many as 3.1 lakh female agriculturists have been trained so far in 2016-17 fiscal by these kendras.
A gender knowledge portal has been developed for women farmers. A central institute for women in agriculture in Bhubneshwar has also been set up for women farmers by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, he added.
NCDC Managing Director Vasudha Mishra said women cooperatives find difficult to market their products and the corporation has decided to provide market linkages and training to them to manufacture products with better designs.
Women cooperatives will also be trained how to manage funds and run the cooperative in a professional way, she said.
National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI) President Chandra Pal Singh and Self Employed Women Cooperative (SEWA) Cooperative Federation Chairperson Mirai Chatterjee were also present at the event.