Poverty squares and gender circles: unravelling agriculture gaps, challenges and opportunities in the Eastern Gangetic Basin
The Eastern Gangetic Plains, which encompasses the Nepal Terai, Eastern India and Bangladesh is known as South Asia’s poverty square - home to around 600 million of the world's poorest people, it is characterised by fragmented landholdings, widespread landlessness, poor investments and infrastructure, out-migration and inequalities based on class, caste, ethnicity and gender. Not surprisingly, multiple poverty mitigating projects operate here, some with a gender lens. Nonetheless, an enduring poverty persists. Recent studies indicate new agrarian crises, in particular a 'feminization of agriculture': with the outmigration of a young generation of men from these poorly performing agrarian economies leaving behind women with restricted access to services, infrastructure, institutions and markets to manage productive [as well as reproductive] responsibilities. Research in the region also indicates that agricultural interventions have neither served the purpose of agricultural development nor positively changed the lives of poor women and men. Interventions often fail to grasp the complexity of gender relations and the socio-economic and ecological changes underway in the region. In this context, the research addresses the following questions 1 How do the material dimensions of inequality (i.e. land ownership and access to complementary resources, such as irrigation) shape gendered access to resources and opportunities for women and men? How do these social-material dimensions overlay in determining ability or agency of diverse groups of poor women and men to negotiate with key actors and stakeholders access to infrastructure and services? 2 To what extent does ecosystem change and sustainability impact agricultural productivity or more generally livelihood security for the poorest who rely both on farming systems as well as other natural resources and assets? 3 How do changes in agrarian economies such as out-migration, and changing policies and practices re-arrange land, labour and consumption relations between women and men in different local situations? How do these changes in turn impact women and men’s agricultural and domestic roles, responsibilities, opportunities and challenges?