Ensuring women’s access to technology

Small scale irrigation technologies and practices at the household level is growing rapidly in Africa and Asia. Such small scale irrigation—like the use of small pumps—can increase incomes, improve livelihoods and strengthen resilience.

After a technology gets to a household however, men often become its de facto “owners”, even if the pump was awarded to the woman for example. Moreover, women often miss out on the benefits, as they are generally unable to control produce sales and the use of that income, except under limited conditions.

So how can we increase women’s participation and empowerment in small scale irrigation where there are no common water governance bodies, and no place for quotas, since the technologies do not fall under public schemes or irrigation projects of management institutions?

Projects that promote irrigation for women should first of all be aware that targeting women with irrigation technology alone is unlikely to give them full rights over the technology, since the rules of the household often override any project-level rules and expectations. Likewise, projects should be aware that attempts to empower women may fail if they do not also secure support from the men within households.

[International Food Policy Research Institute]

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