A needs-based approach to promoting gender equity and inclusivity: Insights from participatory research with farmer-producer organisations (FPOs)

Tomás Harrington (Lead Author), Nivedita Narain, Nitya Rao, Raj Rengalakshmi, Reetu Sogani, Shuvajit Chakraborty, Astha Upadhyay

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The farmer-producer organisation (FPO) is an umbrella term used to describe modes of farmer collectivisation in India, i.e., Co-operatives and Companies (FPCs). While women cultivators play a central role in agriculture, their continued marginalisation is reflected in a lack of engagement in FPO activities and governance structures, with only 3% of existing FPOs being female-led ventures. This paper examines the nature of tensions around social inequities—and how such tensions might be addressed in the collective spaces offered by FPOs—using a gender lens. Specifically, in balancing conflicting pressures of economic performance versus inclusion and meeting specific members' needs.

Using a participatory research approach, a conceptual framework is developed and applied in three FPOs operating at various stages of development. With a specific focus on gender equity and inclusion, selected cases involved FPOs with >75% female membership and scheduled caste/tribe participation. Qualitative data on societal needs, based on the expectations and experiences of FPO participants, is then analysed to better understand (i) what might promote FPO participation and (ii) how equity and inclusion may be enabled from the ‘bottom-up’.

This exploratory study informs the collective action debate with its new and intersectional approach to gender equity and inclusivity. Empirical observations and within- case analyses involving FPOs provide new insights into the functioning of these institutions and nuanced interactions involving their members. Findings suggest that informal micro- producer arrangements (MPAs) or vyavastha, in the FPO pre-registration phase, are well positioned to act as spatial agents for establishing ethical norms as FPOs collectivise and grow. In terms of promoting social objectives and evaluating FPOs operating in different stages, a set of guiding principles are proposed with follow-on implications for policy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Social and Economic Development
Early online date23 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Nov 2023

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