: a O "
CENTRO INTERNATIONAL DE MEJORAMIENTO DE MAIZ Y TRIGO
INTERNATIONAL MAIZE AND WHEAT IMPROVEMENT CENTER
NOTES ON THE ROLE OF RURAL PAKISTANI
WOMEN IN FARMING IN THE NORTHWEST
It is gradually being accepted that women in Pakistan make a direct
contribution in the farming sector. The extent and nature of their contribu-
tion, however, is not fully known to development planners. In the past, very
little socio-economic research has been directed toward the role of rural
Pakistani women: as a consequence, their participation in agricultural deve-
lopment has been ignored.
This short article is an attempt to enhance understanding of the
general role that women in the NWFP play in farming. The data used are taken
from the maize economic survey study undertaken in selected parts of NWFP in
1975-76. This study was organized by CIMMYT in collaboration with the NWFP
Department of Agriculture. Data were gathered from 240 farmers.
This short note is on elaboration of a small piece from the over-
all research manuscript by Dr. M. Ashraf, titled "Maize in the Small Farm-
ing Production Systems of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan".
Support for this research study was received from CIMMYT, Ford Foundation,
NWFP Department of Agriculture and Maize and Millets Research Institute,
Pirsabak. The author is particularly indebted to Donald Winkelmann and
Richard Perrin for their continued support during all phases of research
Dr. Ashraf received his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at the
University of Massachusetts in 1974. He was employed by CIMMYT during the
period when the study was undertaken and report was written. He is now
with the USAID in Pakistan. Views reflected here are not necessarily those
of CIMMYT or SAID.
Several questions were included which permit inferences about wo-
men's contribution to production, especially as it relates to the produc-
tion of maize. Readers may be cautioned that the data were gathered by
male agricultural extension workers through interviews with male farmers.
It is, therefore, likely that the women's contribution is underestimated,
as farmers do not readily volunteer information about women of their fa-
Farming activities examined for the role of rural women are a
combination of activities performed in the house plus those performed in
the fields. Because of traditional Islamic values the location of a farm
job is an important variable influencing participation of women. According
to these customs, women are not expected to be seen barefaced outside their
homes. Some ethnic groups such as Syeds, Rajputs and Pakhtuns observe
these norms very strictly while other ethnic groups like Jats and Arians
observe such taboos less restrictively and let their women come out of
"Purdah" to assist in field chores. The parts of NWFP where this study was
undertaken include the districts of Mardan and Peshawar and the division of
Hazara. The inhabitants of Peshawar and Mardan are mostly Pakhtun but those
in Hazara are ethnically mixed and more liberal in their behavior.
Table 1 includes eight typical farm activities pertaining to crop
and livestock enterprises. The first three activities are related to the
handling of grains after they are transported from the fields. A typical
farmer in NWFP grows about 4 grain crops including wheat, maize, beans and
pulses. He then stores the produce in sufficient quantities to meet the
year round needs of the family. Food and seed grains are usually stored to-
gether in ordinary clay or wooden bins. The clay bins of 100 to 600 kilos
capacity, are constructed by women.
The activities concerned with livestock include feeding and milk-
ing dairy animals. Feeding activities usually include: pasturing, harvest-
ing green forage from the fields, chaffing, processing feed concentrates and
manger feeding. For purposes of this paper the first three items are not
included since they are usually handled by men. The remaining items are
usually done inside the family compound. Similarly, milking dairy animals
is done inside the compound. Some other daily milk handling activities,
which are not included here, but which are always done by women, are pas-
teurization, fermenting milk for Dehi (yogurt) and processing butter.
The remaining three production activities refer to harvesting,
shelling and crop cultural practices. Harvesting of maize includes removal
of ears and husking, which are done in the field; and shelling which is per-
formed both in the fields and inside the home. Larger harvests are usually
shelled in the fields through cooperative effort by the neighboring farmers.
Crop cultural practices like thinning and hoeing are obviously performed in
Having discussed the nature and location of various farm work
activities, the data given in Table 1 may now be examined. Rural women are
actively involved in all farm-related activities handled inside their homes.
Table 1. Participation of Women in Various Farm Work Activities in Selected
Tehsils of N.W.F.P., Pakistan
(Percentage of Families)
Hazara Division Mardan Dist. District
Farm Work Activity Hari- Abbot- Mansehra/ Swabi Mardan Char- Nowshe- Average
pur tabad Batagram sadda ra/Pesh-
No. of Sample Farms 32 44 44 26 34 26 34 240
1. Cleaning Seed 81 59 70 62 62 58 71 66
2. Drying Grains 47 73 80 46 79 69 71 68
3. Selling Grains 9 0 5 0 0 0 0 2
4. Feeding Livestock 28 52 39 46 76 58 56 50
5. Milking Dairy
Animals. 34 52 32 62 91 92 100 64
6. Harvesting and
Husking Crop 28 55 39 0 0 0 15 23
7. Shelling Cobs 22 25 32 65 38 38 59 38
8. Thinning/Weeding 16 27 41 0 0 0 0 15
This is true for all ethnic groups, as represented by regions, irrespective
of differences in tenure, farm size and family size. One exception to this
rule is observed for the marketing or disposal of surplus grains. Farmers
alone make all decisions pertaining to period of disposal, place of disposal,
person to whom farm produce is sold and prices obtained. The marginal con-
tribution of women for marketing grains is in determining the surplus quan-
tity available for sale, taking grain out of the containers, and helping to
put grain in gunny sacks if marketing is done in the town market. These
aspects were, however, not investigated formally. While 18 percent of the
sample farmers in Hazara, 37 percent in Mardan district, and 20 percent in
Peshawar district reported selling grain, no women in Mardan or Peshawar
district were involved as selling parties. In Hazara Division a few families
(4 percent) did report that women do the marketing job.
In contrast, about two thirds of the farmers reported that women
dry and clean grain. Drying grain is a particularly tedious job. Once or
twice a year grain is sundried by manually transporting it to the houseyard
or roof top and back to the storage containers. Women usually do this job.
Families in Hazara usually dry their grain on the roof top, while in Mardan
and Peshawar the job is done in houseyard to avoid exposing women to out-
Differences in the contribution of women are not evident from dis-
trict to district in those activities which are undertaken within the family
compound. Women seem to contribute less to livestock activities and to shel-
ling grain in Hazara than in Mardan and Peshawar districts. Perhaps this
difference arises because the more labor intensive agriculture of these two
districts, where virtually all maize land is irrigated, absorbs virtually all
of the labor of the men, requiring that the women contribute more to the
livestock activities. This is in contrast with Hazara, where the degree of
irrigation is far lower.
Differences in the contribution of women are most notable in har-
vesting and husking maize and in thinning and weeding activities. These
activities are carried out in the field, outside of the. family compound.
Here, the more conservative behavior of the ethnic groups of Mardan and
Peshawar districts is quite evident and virtually no women are reported to
engage in this field work. This .is in marked contrast to Hazara Division,
where the ethnic mixture makes for less conservative behavior and where
roughly one third of the farmers interviewed reported that women are in-
volved in field work.
In conclusion, it can be said that rural women in NWFP play a
selective role in farming. There is a division of labor among men and
wcmen; men doing the field jobs and women contributing to farm jobs which
can be done inside the family compound or which relate to care of livestock
and, in some areas only, on jobs involving field work.