Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Role of agri universities underscored for ensuring women’s right to land

The women’s right to land is key to promoting sustainable agriculture and the agricultural universities in Pakistan have a bigger role to play in terms of initiating research studies on the issues of women farmers who produce more than 60 percent food but they own merely 2 percent of farm land.
While addressing a seminar on “Women’s Right to Land and Sustainable Agriculture: Role of Agricultural Universities” held on Monday at a local hotel by ActionAid Pakistan in collaboration with Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, the speakers, including academia, the agricultural economists, media, students and development specialists, highlighted the role of women farmers in ensuring food security across the globe particularly in Pakistan. 
They lamented that it was a pure injustice that women farmers were not allowed to own and to have access to land. 
Uzma Tahir, Manager Policy, Advocacy and Research Unit, ActionAid Pakistan, said that students being the future leaders of our nation needed to understand social issues and causes of injustice, discrimination and poverty. She said that more than 44 percent population of our country is dependent on agriculture as a major source of livelihood and women happened to be more than half of that population. “More than 40 percent of rural land is owned by merely 2.5 percent population of the country which informs us how much injustice and discrimination was prevalent in the country,” she added.
“Inequality and injustice toward women start from the household where male members of the family dominate their female counterparts in decision making and ownership of land and livelihood resources,” Uzma said, adding that there was a dire need to acknowledge the role of women farmers in food production and food security and to introduce gender responsive agricultural policies and frameworks. 
Professor Dr Muhammad Azim Malik, Vice Chancellor of Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, said that women’s education should be treated as a priority to facilitate women in seeking fulfilment of their basic rights particularly the right to land and a dignified source of livelihood. He said that in Arid Agriculture University, more than 34% students were girls who could play a critical role in addressing the issues of women farmers. 
He asked the government to immediately take measures to stop injustice and discrimination against women. He said that our religion, Islam has granted women due share in the inheritance but the social practices and norms stood against it. 
Lok Sanjh Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Shahid Zia said that women’s right to land is linked with the land reform issue in Pakistan. There was absence of pro women agricultural knowledge in the market which added to the worries of poor women farmers. He observed that small farmers in Pakistan were gradually becoming casual farmers as first they did not own land and secondly there was lack of policy framework to address issues being faced by them. 
Nasir Aziz, Food Rights Policy Officer, ActionAid Pakistan said that women right to land and sustainable agriculture were interlinked and they should be treated collectively. To ensure food security, Pakistan will have to focus on promotion of sustainable agriculture which could only be realized fully if women right to land was acknowledged and they were provided easy access to land. He said that it was a pity that small scale agriculture had never been the priority of the government whereas the majority of the rural population particularly women were practicing small scale farming.

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