The Future of Agriculture – Putting Women in the Driver’s Seat

Posted By: Rise Team|Dated: June 17, 2011

Throughout the developing world, women are often a quiet force behind a country’s agricultural advancement.

As a growing number of men leave the farm for jobs in cities, the resulting gender gap and labor shortage in agricultural India allows women to step into more prominent roles -including operating farm equipment and machinery. Mahindra’s Lady Tractor Drivers Training Program equips women with a new skill that is vital for the continuing growth of our agricultural sector.

Putting Women in the Driver's Seat

The growing role of women in agriculture

According to “Women in Agriculture – Closing the Gender Gap for Development,” a report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, women make essential contributions to agriculture in developing countries. On average, 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries is made up of women. This average is even higher in India, where it is estimated that women make up 60 percent of the farming population and complete 70 percent of the farm work.

Despite these impressive numbers, women still have significantly less access than men to resources and opportunities in agriculture including land, livestock, labor, education, extension, financial services, and technology. This gender gap imposes significant costs on agriculture, the broader economy and society, and on the women and their families.

Helping women in India reach new heights

The labor shortage caused by men taking jobs in the cities has made mechanization increasingly important on farms.  Tractors till the land that farmhands once worked – and, especially in India, they are typically operated by men.

Women could fill an important role by taking control of these tractors. The problem, however, is that most women in India do not drive and are not licensed to do so. And they are especially unfamiliar with operating heavy farm machinery.

Mahindra’s Lady Tractor Drivers Training Program gives women the opportunity – and education – to get behind the wheel of one of their farm’s most valued assets. This program, and others like it, is helping women step out of the shadows and into the forefront of farming.

Shattering barriers in just three days

The Lady Tractor Drivers Training Program was established as a three-day workshop to teach both maintenance and handling of tractors. Mahindra, its dealers, and the farmers who buy its tractors developed courses that would help women build self-confidence in safely handling tractors and their accessories, educate them in tractor maintenance, and prepare them for proper licensing to operate tractors as professional drivers. At the conclusion of the three-day program, the women receive their licenses and a gift for their participation.

It’s an ambitious goal: teaching women how to do everything from operating and driving a tractor to becoming licensed operators all in just three days. But Mahindra knew how driven Indian women can be when faced with a challenge, and it was confident that the program would be a success.

Implementing the Lady Tractor Drivers Training Program

The first course took place in Rasipuram, Tamilnadu, in close association with the village Panchayat. The women took quickly to their tractors and were soon driving with confidence. Many expressed excitement at the prospect of becoming professional tractor drivers. And while they had to forgo their wages to participate in the training (approximately Rs.750 for the three-day course), the participants are now excitedly sharing their experience with their peers and encouraging them to take part.

In fact, the first program was so well received that additional programs have blossomed throughout India; a total of 1,147 programs and counting have been held!

The future of the Lady Tractor Drivers Training Program

The Lady Tractor Drivers Training Program has put a much-needed skill in women’s hands and helped them work on farms throughout India. These women are now playing a vital role in India’s food security, in the face of a troubling labor shortage.

As other women learn about the possibilities for them to take an increased role in agricultural production, many more are expressing interest in the program. Mahindra tractor dealers are excited to be a part of this and anxious to see what the future holds for women and farming.

“The women who have learned tractor driving today will pass the learning to other groups and generations,” says Haridwar dealer Mr. Ashok Kumar. “This will help improve the productivity and prosperity of our village and our country.”

Increased opportunity for everyone

Mr. Kumar’s statement holds true on many accounts. The more this program and others like it grow across India, the better prepared we will be to move forward. The UN study mentioned earlier suggested that efforts to close the gender gap will result in significant gains – not just for agriculture, but for our society in general. It indicates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent. This could ultimately raise productive output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent – and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 percent.

These women are putting us on the right track as they break barriers that previously held them back. And our country is stronger for it.

What challenges do you still see for women in India, or worldwide? How do you think we can continue to close the gender gap? What skill would you like to learn if there were no obstacles in your way?


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  • Bobjoe


  • sandhya

    Good start up..

  • Hitesh

    very good for future………. farmers

  • Daryl

    Wonder what impact their new training/jobs has socially?



  • Rajhit

    “This average is even higher in India, where it is estimated that women make up 60 percent of the farming population and complete 70 percent of the farm work” — is this due to increasing urbanization, or do these figures precede that?

  • Dr.Vijay

    future of agriculture comodity production in india may be down in future.Our study shows that it due to mainly of three fector .(1)Manpower shorteg: about 65 % Agricultue laboures are diverted in another works and remaining labours  is not intrested in agriculture works.(2) land holding will be decrease in future so that macanization can not be done.(3) Climate change: exsisting crop varieties of crop may be affected, resulted disease problem, pest control,lower production etc.

    Solution: Mechanization and group farming are onle the solution.Organize farming system should be developed. For mo@rediffmail:disqus 

  • Vikrant

    I am only worried about the safety. Loose clothes may get entangled in the equipment and cause danger. Mahindra should recommend a dress code for operating tractors.

  • Tom Raub

    I”d like to see mahindra make a 2 or 4 post 200 pto horsepower version of the Hytec 575 DI In an area like susq. county I”d prefer farm women around here at least not wear mini skirts on tractors let alone a dress code while operating tractors

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