Women working in agriculture across India are being squeezed by a combination of worsening climate change impacts that threaten crops and economic struggles due to the growing cost-of-living crisis and post-pandemic slowdown.

While three-quarters of working women in rural India rely on agriculture to make a living, government data shows, very few are recognised as farmers themselves or own farmland, which means they struggle to secure credit or access government subsidies and aid programmes.

Women played a big role in a major protest by Indian farmers against agricultural reforms last year, calling for more recognition for their role, as well as land rights, credit and subsidies.

As extreme weather events such as drought, floods and heatwaves increase, the country’s poorest farm families are under growing pressure, with female farm workers often suffering the most, according to academics and activists.

While men who lose work on farms can move to cities to find new jobs to provide for their families, women are often restricted by household responsibilities, said Kedar Kulkarni, an assistant professor of economics at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru.

“Women are the most vulnerable to climate change, economic recession, or failure of government policies,” said Kulkarni, who has written on the impact of extreme weather on agriculture.

“Any adaptation policy to climate change should focus on women, who are at the forefront.”

Farming accounts for nearly 15 per cent of India’s almost $3 trillion economy and sustains half of its population.

Yet as its rural agricultural workforce becomes more female-dominated due to male migration to urban areas, erratic weather often leaves women having to deal with the fallout alone.

India was the seventh most affected country by climate change in 2019, according to the latest Global Climate Risk Index, an annual ranking from research group Germanwatch.

Uneven monsoon rains and rising temperatures are fuelling fears about food production and farming livelihoods nationwide.

Read the full article about climate change and India's female farmers from Thomson Reuters Foundation at Eco-Business.