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□¡□Asia's women in agriculture,□¡□

Key Facts • Indian population is 48.1% women and 51.9% men
• Female illiteracy is 62% whereas the male illiteracy rate is 34%
• The labour force participation rate of women is 22.7%, less than half of the men's rate of 51.6%
• In rural India, agriculture and allied industrial sectors employ as much as 89.5% of the total female labour • Women have extensive work loads with dual responsibility for farm and household production
• Women's work is getting harder and more time-consuming due to ecological degradation and changing agricultural technologies and practices
• Women have an active role and extensive involvement in livestock production, forest resource use and fishery processing • Women contribute considerably to household income through farm and nonfarm activities as well as through work as landless agricultural labourers
• Women's work as family labour is underestimated
• There are high degrees of inter-state and intra-state variations in gender roles in agriculture, environment and rural production
The Indian population, particularly the rural, is highly dependent upon forests. Fuelwood contributes 84% ofthe total household energy consumption (UNDP, 1997). There are66.5 million tribals in India and with few exception, the majority of them are forest dwellers (FAO, 1997). Unfortunately, forests are deteriorating massively due to encroachment of agricultural production, mining, construction of dams, industrial and railway demand. The country has been loosing 1.5 million hectares of forest cover annually (GOI, 1988). In India about 16% of the total geographical area is covered by woodland and forests (EIU, 1991).
Gender roles in using forest resourcesvary widely depending upon the region as well as socioeconomic class and tribal affiliation. Rural Indian women's interface with the forests isvarying - gathering, wage employment, production in farm forestry and management of afforested areas in the community plantation (Saxena, 1991). In India, women are the major gatherers and users of a much more diverse range of forest products than men. Depending upon the sociocultural variations among different communities, primarily Non-timber Forest Products (NTFP) are collected by women and timber by men (Sarin,1998). In several parts of India, large proportions of the population depend on NTFP as their main source of livelihood. Apart from fodder and fuel, women collect food, medicinal plants, building materials, material for household items and farm implements. Sal and Tendu leaves areprimarily collected by women. As women are the ones who have traditionally been collecting forest products, they posses the knowledgeof properties and potential uses of these products.

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