Lockdown imposed due to Covid-19 outbreak pushed single women farmers in Maharashtra in distress, deprived them of work, cash, and sufficient food. Now, these women farmers face huge challenges in the upcoming Kharif to procure seeds and loans to cultivate.

Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MKAAM) -- Forum For Women Farmers' Rights along with other organisations in Maharashtra recently conducted a study across 17 districts of Maharashtra to assess the impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown on single women engaged in cultivation and working as wage labourers.

The study found that overall food consumption declined in this period with shrinking income. “About 45 per cent of women did not get a single day of work in the 50 days of the lockdown. The others who did get a few days work received less than ₹2,000 as wages in the 50 days. Lack of cash created significant challenges and left them with no cash to invest in economic activities and health and other needs” the study mentioned.

About 91 per cent women who participated in the study were widows belonging to diverse caste groups and 28 per cent were from farm suicide affected households. Most of them received ration in April, but those without ration cards were deprived of it. Also, they faced problems linked to online verification of cards. Rice and wheat were available on ration shops but overall food consumption declined, the study concluded. The demand to expand PDS to include nutritious food such as cereals including jowar, bajra and pulses and dals, oil, sugar is gaining momentum.

“With limited incomes from farming, women were in distress due to the lockdown. 30 per cent women were to harvest their produce when the lockdown was announced. Produce was destroyed as a result of the problems in harvesting and just 24 per cent were able to sell their produce and major losses were reported. These women now face huge challenges in the upcoming Kharif” said Seema Kulkarni of MKAAM. During the lockdown, most women sold their produce to the private traders at lower prices than usual times.

“We hope the government ensures that income transfers are made, work on NREGS sites is started and free seed and other inputs is provided immediately to ensure that women farmers do not miss on this season” said Kulkarni.

MAKAAM has approached the State government and had discussions with Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe.