Understanding gendered modalities for sustainable adoption of stress-tolerant rice varieties in Odisha

Post date: Aug 2, 2018 7:08:00 AM

by Ranjitha Puskur and Mathilde Thonon

Despite a rapid decrease in its poverty rate during the past decade, Odisha still remains among the poorest states in India. A focus on social components such as gender, ethnicity, or location reveals uneven progress with regard to the state’s social and economic growth. Poverty rates for rural women and scheduled tribes show the weakest signs of improvement. Social inclusion for poverty eradication has yet to reach its full potential. Sixty percent of the state’s rural poor are engaged in agriculture, in which women represent a significant proportion. Agricultural growth is hardly taking off with only a 0.9% GDP increase between 2010 and 2015. In addition, climate-induced events such as droughts are intensifying and jeopardizing a state that is still dependent on rainfall. Given Odisha’s structural, social, and climatic challenges, the introduction of stress-tolerant rice varieties represents a good opportunity for the socioeconomic development of Indian farmers.

Beyond the need for more resilient varieties, a study being conducted in the state is trying to unravel the subtleties and modalities for their adoption. With a main emphasis on gender disparities, the program intends to understand the influence of other intersecting social and economic factors such as age, economic class, caste, and location, among others. In 2016, a survey was conducted in five districts with 1,500 sample households, including some that received stress-tolerant rice varieties (STRVs) in 2014 and others that did not. A preliminary analysis of the data revealed some useful insights. They will be complemented by qualitative data to unpack the subtleties of gender dynamics, lead to a better targeting, and enhance the project’s impact.

Who makes the decision?

For all households, a focus on decision-making dynamics reveals that joint decisions between the wife and husband or husband-made decisions are the most recurring cases for crop and variety choice, including STRVs. Wives rarely have the final say, sometimes surpassed by other family members in making a choice (Fig. 1).

What drives varietal choice?

Among the 750 households provided with Sahbhagi and Swarna-Sub1 varieties in 2014, 84% and 82%, respectively, chose to continue growing these varieties in the following year. Good cooking quality, improved yields, and ability to resist abiotic stress were the most cited traits that induced these households to grow these varieties. Yet, within adopters of both varieties, 22% ceased growing the Sahbhagi variety and 34% stopped using Swarna-Sub1 after a year (Fig. 2).

Challenges for sustained use of STRVs

In the study area, restricted accessibility and/or availability of seed are the most recurring and common constraints mentioned by respondents who discontinued using stress-tolerant rice varieties (Figs. 3 and 4). Investing in the development of seed systems that can provide good-quality and affordable seed at the right time to poor and vulnerable farmers in remote locations is critical for ensuring benefits to Odisha’s farmers if we have to make a dent in poverty. A multipronged strategy might be in order to address this challenge. STRASA is working with government and nongovernment partners and women’s self-help groups (SHGs) to develop community-based informal seed systems for STRVs. Strategies also need to be developed to engage private seed dealers to reach out to women and poor farmers in the unreached areas through engaging rural youth and women in the seed supply chain.