Water Gender Indicators in Agriculture: A Study of Horticultural Farmer Organizations in Senegal

Francesca Centrone, Angela Mosso, Patrizia Busato, Angela Calvo
2017 Water  
The definitive version is available at: La versione definitiva è disponibile alla URL: [inserire URL sito editoriale] Abstract: This paper intends to contribute to the debate on gender equality and water within the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs 5 and 6. Farmers organizations are often considered key stakeholders whose participation should be fostered to achieve a good water governance in agriculture and irrigation programs. Nonetheless, many water management interventions tackle
more » ... s tackle participation as an instrumental and formal process. A common assumption is that granting sufficient space for women in water management will automatically ensure a greater gender empowerment. Nevertheless, often low importance is given to assessing who really actively participates and benefits from water development projects, favoring the technical aspects. This paper addresses the articulation between gender, water management and indicators, using male, female and mixed farmer organizations as touchstones in three regions of Senegal. The authors defines a system of water gender indicators grouped into five sections. The first results show more similarities between mixed and female organizations, while the main gender inequalities are visible in the water technique and economic domains. Thanks to this study, we can see how a gender-based analysis may allow to more deeply understand some more or less "hidden" water governance mechanisms and their related implications in terms of project management and policy making. Women are generally the main beneficiaries of many food security projects aimed to improve the households' nutrition levels. However, despite this preference, women have difficulty being recognized as actual farmers [5] . Gender mainstreaming is feeble and low importance is given to assessing who really benefits from the projects [6] because the different gender knowledge, education, ability and potential are often not considered, favoring the technical aspects. In particular, horticulture, more than other food crops, requires technical expertise, first concerning water management issues, considering the large amount of needed water, which is not always easily accessible. In this framework, drip irrigation systems (largely fostered by international donors) are frequently applied to irrigate home gardens aimed to providing vegetables and a most balanced diet, both for self-consumption and for additional selling purposes [7, 8] . Drip irrigation (low cost, reliable, laborsaving, and easy to be technologically accepted) uses networks of pipes and tubes to direct water to the soil surface, in order to reduce the water consumption and the losses due to evaporation [9] . It was shown by researchers that drip irrigation can help farmers with saving time, improving health, food security, income, employment and control over resources [10, 11] . Despite the advantages, the widespread application of drip irrigation systems presents some constraints [12] [13] [14] . Such drawbacks may be technical (e.g., the occlusion of pipes and drip trays in case of high mineralization of water), related to the management and the maintenance (high purchase, installation and repair costs) or socio-cultural. In some cases [9], the adoption of drip irrigation systems may increase the existent social and economic inequalities, to the detriment of the smaller and disadvantaged actors. In fact, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) [15] indicated that improved irrigation benefited the bigger and better organized farmers more, especially thanks to their greater capacity to count on additional capital and public support. Other researchers [16] specifically described how women and men appeared to have different incentives for investing time, labor, and capital in irrigation-related activities. In particular, especially in the Latin American context, women are generally associated with sanitation aspects, while the most "productive" uses of water (as the water for irrigation purposes) should be a peculiarity of men [17] . Similar unequal effects for women farmers could be observed even in relation to the implementation of other development interventions as hydropower projects, often translating into an increased workload for the local women, with regard to the collection of water, fodder and fuel wood (due mainly to the raising male migration), but also in a decreased access to the means of production (land, irrigation, water, etc.) [18] . In Sub-Saharan Africa, other constraints prevent a greater implementation of drip irrigation systems, such as the lack of basic infrastructure, the absence of developed markets and the cultural biases towards the active and recognized role of women in agriculture [19, 20] . Especially in sub-Saharan Africa, women are often excluded by improved horticulture projects, and they continue to suffer from insecure livelihoods and lack of income-generating activities [21] . Inadequate water access for productive purposes is one of the factors that increases the social, economic and environmental vulnerability and poverty of women and their households [22, 23] . In the 1990s, some studies focusing on water access [24, 25] shared the "unverified premise that women's uses of water mainly occur in the domestic or nonmarket sphere, in implicit opposition to men's uses of water, which are believed to be mainly productive and market oriented" [26] . Despite this assumption, some most recent analyses [27] [28] [29] have started to contest this dichotomy, highlighting the necessity to make more visible the link between women, irrigation and water innovation processes in agriculture. At the same time, other studies related to the specific field of drip irrigation underlined a general gender blindness in such projects, mainly oriented towards technical issues [6, 30] . As underlined also by Van Houweling et al. [31] , technical water questions may not be separated from the issues related to the land property and the resources and inputs access. Some researchers [21, 32, 33] highlighted the same level of productivity between women and men active in agriculture, despite the different input access levels [34] . In practice, there would be no
doi:10.3390/w9120972 fatcat:yahedoc4ybhsld3pf7u6goi2h4