Examining Agency in Agriculture: The Feminization Debate in Nepal


Hritika Rana


PhD Researcher

Kathmandu University

With a decade of professional experience in development sector and academia, I am interested in transdisciplinary action research where theoretical understanding of diverse world problems and challenges are associated with practical implementation of solutions for social change.

Key Findings

    How to apply research

    • Further exploration of the feminisation of livestock in particular and its relation to gendered mobility. It suggests that there are more factors shaping farm women’s choices within household labour arrangements.     

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    About this research

      This Journal Article was part of a collaborative effort

      This research was funded by an external organisation, but detail has not been provided.

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      About this research

        This research was funded by an external organisation, but detail has not been provided.

        This paper was co-authored

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        What findings means

        Women’s mobility is restricted due to responsibility for livestock care.

        Men are able to re-enter agriculture, but their activities tend to be limited to market-orientated crops, while women focus on domestic work e.g. livestock care. This is becoming solely a task for wives/daughter-in-laws, whereas it used to be a shared task.

        As men leave, women tend to take care of all household responsibilities, including livestock management, which was previously looked after by both husbands and wives. But when women leave, women’s work is unattended to by their male counterparts, or is not up to the satisfaction of women, forcing women to take over their responsibilities once again.

        Women’s lived experiences underscore concerns surrounding evolving gender norms, attitudes and practices around agriculture from an agency perspective.

        Women have to choose agricultural tasks based on their adaptive preferences under limited circumstances. Which raises the question of how different women’s lives would be if they did not need to take up livestock rearing.


        Narrative cases backed by ethnographic study comprised of informal interviews and participant observation. Participant observation, and a biographical narrative interview method (BNIM) were used for data collection and analysis. From 140 individuals interviewed during household screening, three cases have been selected for this paper.

        Typical purposive case sampling has been used to show the relevance of the phenomenon. Researchers tend to also question this type of sampling as there might be a tendency of researcher bias.


        Agency (used as an analytical lens)Not only includes pro-active decision-making on the part of women, but also incorporates adaptive preferences in light of decision-making which is influenced by social norms as much as it is shaped by the structures of existing arrangements.
        Feminization of agriculture  While women continue doing work previously done by women of earlier generations, men have left behind traditional agricultural work that was conducted by an earlier generation of men. 
        Social NormsGovern the division of roles, responsibilities and resources between household members along the lines of age, gender and marital status.  

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        Want to read the full paper? It is available open access

        Rana, Hritika; Banskota, Mahesh; and Sharma, Sagar Raj (2018). Examining Agency in Agriculture: The Feminization Debate in Nepal. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 19(3), 32-48.