1.Time for women to thrive (Live Mint)

2.Permaculture potential in India (Down to Earth)


1.Time for women to thrive (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of how empowering women can lead to economic empowerment. (GS paper II)


  • In public debates around the world, women’s empowerment is increasingly being recognized as a top priority. The question of how to provide more economic opportunities for women is firmly on the agenda at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos this year.

Benefits of increasing women participation

  • Affording women and girls the opportunity to succeed is not just the right thing to do; it can also transform societies and economies for the good of all. For example, bringing women’s labour force participation up to the same level as that of men would boost GDP by as much as 9% in Japan and 27% in India.
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has documented many other macroeconomic benefits associated with women’s empowerment. Reducing gender gaps in employment and education has been shown to help economies diversify their exports.
  • Appointing more women to banking-supervision boards can prevent cozy groupthink, thereby ensuring greater stability and resilience in the financial sector. And reducing gender inequalities also reduces income inequality, allowing for more sustainable growth.
  • Closing the gender gap may seem like a tall order, but it is essential for long-term economic development and prosperity. The challenge for every country, then, is to make the most of all of its people’s talents.

Obstacles in women work participation

  • Realizing women’s potential is a universal mission. But some of the barriers holding women back are also universal. Astonishingly, almost 90% of countries have one or more gender-based legal restrictions on the books. In some countries, women still have limited property rights compared to men; in others, husbands have the right to forbid their wives from working.
  • Beyond legal barriers, women also face social and cultural obstacles that limit their access to education, work, and finance. This is especially true in countries with fragile political systems.

Empowering women

  • Now that public awareness of is growing, it is time to press ahead with concrete measures to help women remain in the workforce while raising a family. For a glimpse of what that might look like, consider Norway, where affordable childcare and parental-leave schemes have proven successful in enabling both mothers and fathers to work. Yes, these programs are costly. But they are well worth the investment, given employed women’s enormous contribution to economic growth.
  • Moreover, programs that help women keep working also change the role of fathers. In Norway and other countries with similar policies, fathers now share equally in parental leave and child-rearing. As a result, more women can pursue leadership roles in work and public life.
  • Of course, countries that are not yet at Norway’s level of economic development typically face other gender-related challenges, including limited access to water and education. Unfortunately, while many countries have made progress in reducing gender gaps in primary-school enrollment, there is still much more work to be done at the secondary and tertiary levels. As long as these gaps persist, women will not be able to aspire to political and economic power on an equal footing with men. Accordingly, Norway has made girls’ education a top priority in its international-development programs.
  • Beyond education, ensuring that women in developing countries have access to finance is critical, because it enables them to participate fully in the economy, including as entrepreneurs. When women are empowered to start their own businesses, they can drive innovation and help their countries prosper.
  • Because women’s labour-force participation is so important for growth, organizations such as the IMF are committed to working with governments around the world to empower women economically. IMF-supported programs in Egypt and Jordan, for example, include measures to boost investment in public nurseries and safe public transportation.

Way ahead

  • In addition to specific policies, today’s conversation has increasingly focused on the need for wider social change. And now that movements such as #Equalpay and #MeToo have gained so much momentum, it looks like that change could be coming. It has been inspiring to see so many women, girls, and – yes – men speaking out against retrograde attitudes toward women, which have been holding all of us back.
  • With the global economy recovering, governments must now lay the foundation for long-term growth, by creating the conditions for women everywhere to realize their full potential. Discrimination and abuse against women can no longer stand. It is time for women to thrive.

Question: Bringing women’s labour force participation up to the same level as that of men would boost GDP by as much as 9% in Japan and 27% in India. How India can achieve the economic empowerment in India?


2.Permaculture potential in India (Down to Earth) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the importance of permaculture in India. (GS paper II)

What is permaculture

  • Permaculture (the word, coined by Bill Mollison, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order.
  • The philosophy behind permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.

Where does India fit in into the global situation when it comes to permaculture?

  • India is in a unique position. It has a huge population, but does not have a vast land like the US. The country still has many of its traditions intact. A lot of places are using pre-industrial techniques to build houses, do agriculture and fishing.
  • In a global perspective, India has great potential for inventing, implementing and innovating sustainable systems. It can be a forerunner in the development of sustainable and resilient systems in agriculture, construction, economics and social sciences.
  • Also, India is heavily dependent on external resources for sustainability. While we poison our lands with pesticides for growing sugarcane, cotton and tobacco and export these to other countries. Unless this situation is solved, India will increasingly be a problem than a solution.
  • However, if we turn this around, we have the chance for bringing about a positive change within the least amount of time.

How permaculture blends the modern and the traditional farming?

  • Permaculture considers traditional methods and includes them in design. In terms of farming, the opportunities are endless when merging the ancient and the modern. Using modern technologies, we can reshape the landscape, so that it harvests a lot more resources like water and arrests erosion. We also have the huge opportunity of worldwide knowledge where we can adopt and also adapt to traditional systems practised in one geographical area.
  • Consider the fish-rice cultivation in Southeast Asia. It is a traditional system that has not yet been adapted to Indian conditions fully. However, it has a huge potential of increasing the productivity of land by up to 40 per cent. Similar is the case with the duck-rice system developed by Takao Furuno. Thanks to modern resources, we can research, experiment and adapt these systems to our scenarios. The possibilities are endless. We have made great leaps in science where we have technologies like compost tea, which can rapidly bring back fertility to the lands.
  • Now, permaculture is not limited to farming alone. Every aspect of human habitation from production, distribution, consumption and waste management to construction, transportation, storage and economics can be redesigned using permaculture principles.

Will permaculture be able to feed the world?

  • There is no doubt about it. The food crisis of the world is largely artificial. It is an issue of distribution and not of production. We reportedly lose about Rs 58,000 crores worth of food in wastage in India per year before it even reaches the plate. That’s about 40 per cent of all food produced.
  • With good design, we can make every bio-region abundant. An intensive permaculture garden produces up to 35 times the amount of food per square metre when compared to a conventional farm, with less than 20 per cent of the resources used.
  • There is also the issue of quality of food, nutrition and availability. Using permaculture design, we can create all the nutrition requirements of the world on just 4 to 6 per cent of land in comparison to how much land is being used right now.
  • Currently, about 1.4 acres of land is required to sustain one person per year using current systems in India (Source: FAO). Using permaculture, this can be vastly reduced, and in many cases, an entire family of four can be sustained on just 1.5 acres(0.607 hectares).

How does permaculture address climate change, water shortage?

  • One of the core issues that permaculture tackles is the issue of resources. Using design, we focus on conservation and proliferation of a given resource, be it sunlight, water and soil. That is the fundamental basis for abundance using permaculture.
  • Climate change is producing scenarios of wild temperature swings, unseasonal rains and protracted droughts. Permaculture produces systems that are diverse, and thus, increases stability.
  • Consider a farm which grows only cotton. Any amount of unseasonal rains, or even a cloud cover in the case of a crop like mustard, can ruin the entire production. The monoculture landscape cannot handle variables in conditions, and quickly collapses into a problem rather than being a solution.
  • On the contrary, a permaculturally-designed farm has enough diverse elements that produce very well in general and exceptionally well under variations.
  • In designing a semi-arid landscape, a good designer selects local species, but also selects those species that thrive under dry conditions. In cases of heavy rainfall, the water is harvested, soaked and stored.
  • Thus, a permaculture farm is more sustainable in the face of climate change. Even in the case of a calamity where even a permaculture farm gets destroyed, it usually bounces back quickly.

Question: How permaculture in India can lead to sustainable agriculture in India?