TEXT: Across the globe, women are making significant contributions in diverse fields, including the agriculture sector. In Asian agriculture systems, rural women are notably important. The agriculture sector in Pakistan is considered the backbone of the economy, in terms of GDP growth, and our hardworking women are at the core of this agriculture-based economy. Women work alongside men to produce food, and they are essential in tasks such as picking cotton, feeding cattle, and harvesting crops. Rural women in Pakistan also take on responsibilities such as looking after their children, and homes while supporting men in farming.

According to recent stats, in developing countries, women constitute 63 percent of the total workforce involved in agriculture. In Asia, the percentage of women working in agriculture, both in urban and rural areas, remains high. In low-income countries, 80 percent of women rely on agriculture and related sectors for their livelihood, compared to 40 percent in middle-income countries. It's worth noting that these countries make up 85 percent of the world's total population. Unfortunately, despite their critical role, the work of women in agriculture is often unrecognized and underappreciated. Rural women in Pakistan are vital to the country's agricultural sector, with approximately 43 percent of them engaged in agricultural activities.

They play a crucial role in the preparation and mixing of insecticides, cotton picking, separating seeds from fibers, and working in cotton ginning factories, among other activities. Additionally, the women also take care of the livestock.

Being a market leader within Pakistan’s agriculture industry, Fatima Fertilizer has always strived to be at the forefront of supporting Pakistani farmers, especially the female ones. Historically, the company has organized innumerable public campaigns and events recognizing the exceptional bravery and resilience of Pakistani farmers and their important role towards protecting national food security. A recent example of such commitment was the launch of ‘SarsabzTabeer’ – a program that focuses on female farmers as they are an integral part of Pakistan's agriculture related workforce, but their contributions are often overlooked. It is providing them with a voice, platform, and resources to improve individual economic lives as well as of others around them.

As part of Sarsabz Tabeer, Sarsabz organized flood relief drives for female farmers to help the affectees during the devastating floods in 2022. Realizing the dismal state of affairs, Sarsabz Tabeer program stepped in to support these female farmers by providing them with food rations, tents, comforters, and special hygiene kits. The program carried out three drives in different areas of Pakistan, supporting 125 families in Nawabshah, and 50 families each in Swat and Gilgit Baltistan areas.

Moreover, the aim of the program is to empower women through farm processing, which is why a comprehensive vocational training program has been developed for women farmers and their daughters. This program focuses on teaching food processing skills to empower women. To date, ‘Sarsabz Tabeer’ has provided training to approximately 200 women through the completion of three training courses in Lodhran, Khanewal, and Faisalabad. To conduct these training courses certified trainers from USAID were recruited. The goal of this training program is to provide women with a platform to enhance their income by selling their products more effectively and improving their quality of life. In future, 20 more trainings are planned all over the country and this is just the beginning.

Fatima Fertilizer actively encourages and celebrates women progressive farmers locally and internationally. In 2022, ‘Sarsabz’ hosted a special panel discussion at the Pakistan Pavilion at Dubai Expo to celebrate exceptionally inspiring female farmers including Rabia Sultan, Azra Mehmood and Nazo Dharejo who shared their stories with the world. Their real life stories painted a new courageous and resilient image of Pakistani rural women.

Sarsabz launched a series of web series ‘Sarsabz Kahani’ that seeks to bring true stories from Pakistan’s rural community to the world in a series of short films & dedicated first two episodes to women. The first episode was Nazo’s story; a valiant girl from Sindh who fought off dacoits to save her land and the second episode highlighted the efforts of Jugnu Mohsin and her struggles to bring back the lost gem of cotton crop – Khaki Desan back to life. The story resonated with not just rural community but also urban folks who are realizing how empowered, courageous and determined women are in the rural sector of Pakistan.

Fatima Fertilizer acknowledges the significant contribution of women in the agricultural sector and strives to identify new opportunities for innovation and inclusion in Pakistan's agriculture industry. As educational and training institutions for women expand, more women are participating in various professional fields, playing a role in the economic and social development of the country. However, it is crucial for the government to provide support and equal rights and opportunities to working and business women.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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