Gender and agricultural mechanization: A mixed-methods exploration of the impacts of multi-crop reaper-harvester service provision in Bangladesh
This study (PDF) by IFPRI examined the gendered differences in women’s and men’s involvement in emerging markets for rice and wheat reaper-harvester machinery services in Bangladesh. Farmer hiring of agricultural machinery services is common in South Asia. Informal fee-for-service arrangements have positioned farmers so they can access use of machinery to conduct critical, time-sensitive agricultural tasks. However, both the provision and rental of machinery services are currently dominated by men, and it appears that women have comparatively limited roles in this market and may receive fewer benefits. Despite the prevailing perception in rural Bangladesh that women do not participate in agricultural entrepreneurship, women do not necessarily lack a desire to be involved. The study shows that women benefit from managing and sometimes owning machinery services, as well as from the direct and indirect consequences of hiring such services to harvest their crops. However, a number of technical, economic, and cultural barriers appear to constrain female participation in both reaper service business ownership and in hiring services as a client. In addition, women provided suggestions for how to overcome barriers constraining their entry into rural machinery services as an entrepreneur. Men also reflected on the conditions they would consider supporting women to become business owners. There are important opportunities for development initiatives to build on the women’s roles that are currently socially acceptable, as initial entry points to expand respect for women’s competence, strengthen their asset ownership, and widen the bounds of socially acceptable behavior and engagement in agriculture and remunerative activities. Distinguishing between ownership and the opportunities provided women’s roles is an important place to start, and should be recognized in the design of appropriate public policy and rural development initiatives.