Gender and Irrigation
Julius Nyerere International
Dar es Salaam.
Small scale irrigation, Gender and
Challenges of uptake
Tatu Mnimbo and Henry Mahoo
Sokoine University of Agriculture,
Outline of the presentation
• Introduction on small scale
irrigation in Tanzania
• Why consider gender in water and
• Methodology used to collect gender
• Challenges of uptake
• Conclusion and recommendations.
• Many high-level policy forums in sub-Saharan
Africa, including the African Ministers’ Council
on Water (AMCOW), have adopted gender
equality as their main goal (AMCOW 2011).
• National constitutions, African gender
protocols and United Nations agreements,
such as the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms ofDiscrimination against Women
• Although international policymakers are increasingly recognizing
women’s roles in irrigated agriculture,many women farmers remain
poor, vulnerable to food insecurity and marginalized.
• reasons for this ranges from lack of understanding of gender issues
by policy makers, lack of will and commitment at the project design
and implementation phases, lack of use of relevant tools,
unavailability of gender- disaggregated data, and prevailing cultural
norms in the societies.
Why include gender in water/irrigation Issues
• There are significant gender differences in use, access and
management of water.
• It helps to explain why some cultures, societies or
communities are more successful than others to manage
• gender discrimination limits the women’s and men’s chances
to access vital water resources, by placing restriction in their
autonomy. Attitudes such as, “Women should – or should not
– do this and that”.
Methodology used to collect gender data
• Sex-dissegrated information/data collection
• Activities performed should be
measured/analysed through individual
• Collection of intra-household dynamics)
• Use of gendered tools and theories.
Classification of irrigation schemes
• In Tanzania, there is no formal
classification of irrigation schemes,
• But the informal and accepted
categorization that is currently used
divides schemes into 3 categories:
(i) small-scale irrigation (0–200 ha),
(ii) medium-scale irrigation (200–500 ha),
(iii) large-scale irrigation (>500 ha).
Gender challenges in irrigation uptake
Access and ownership of resources
i) Women may not benefit from irrigation
technologies due to their poor access to ownership
of land and finance.
ii) Land ownership-Farmers who own their land
may benefit more from these technologies than
those who do not.
iii) Intra-household dynamics
Bargaining power - Due to this factor, Irrigation
technologies may be used to irrigate men’s plots and
crops at the expense of women’s plots
Decision Making – who decides in the household?
iv) The development and dissemination of irrigation
Some irrigation technologies are not gender sensitive-
e.g. Pumps for irrigation that are too heavy for women
to lift/transport from home to the fields
Addressing the challenges: possible
• Direct targeting technologies that are user friendly
• Kitchen-garden, as a participatory technology
development for women farmers.
• Address land ownership and empower the less
advantaged to own land
• Provide subsidies to the less advantaged
• Recognition that development policies impact
female and male differently there is need to ensure
that the needs of all groups in the society are taken
on board during policy development,
Possible solutions cont…
• Sensitization at village level(community) on
gender issues through farmer seminars, village
meetings,film shows and dramas(main
messages being on women social-economic
• Involving women in new irrigation
technologies(from design to implementation).
» Gender-based farming systems where men and women cultivate separate fields
are common in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
» (This reality has often been ignored in irrigation development projects and led to
gender inequity in access to productive resources. It has also resulted in the
partial or total failure of irrigation schemes).
» While men prefer to use water to irrigate cash crops or livestock, most
women prefer to use water to grow staple crops, food crops, vegetables,
and kitchen gardens or for domestic use (drinking, washing).
» If irrigation projects are to address the concerns of both women and
men, there is a need to play an active role in local water management in
recognizing the multiple uses of water in and around households.
• Women, like men, have clear opinions about how an
irrigation system should be operated.
• women may have different preferences for irrigation
operations and the scheduling of water deliveries.