Friday, 15 September 2017

Where does gender fit in the agriculture-water nexus?

Regional experts from research and development met in New Delhi last week to explore links between agriculture, water and gender. These themes are not often considered in a connected way.

“While there are many studies on various aspects on water, gender and agriculture, these are not consolidated, and most are conducted at small scales,” said Dr Fay Rola-Rubzen of Curtin University.

“There does not seem to be a synthesis, which makes it difficult to translate findings for policy makers. There is a need for a systematic review of existing studies to see whether the same findings apply at wider scales, to better inform policy design.”

The meeting was an excellent opportunity to understand the ways in which gender is perceived in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, how this changes with time and place, and the pathways by which complex gender relations have emerged.

The experts, for example, identified the impacts of male out-migration from agricultural areas and discussed it as a major challenge in the region. The responses to this are not universal across the region.

In some places, this results in high levels of ‘feminisation’ of agriculture – where females become responsible for farm household decision making and operations, often without the same access to experience, information and finance. In other areas like West Bengal, women are opting out of agriculture altogether. Gender inclusion and empowerment will differ between locations, and there is no “one size fits all” approach.

These understandings will contribute to the out-scaling efforts undertaken within the Australian government-funded Sustainable and Resilient Farming Systems Intensification project that CIMMYT manages under the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP).

The workshop laid the foundation for a platform that would support work on the three interconnected themes of agriculture, water and gender - an important beginning to promote synergy. It will also develop a common language between development practitioners and academicians, especially to reach policy makers.

The platform will take the form of a website, which SaciWATERs, a policy research organization based in Hyderabad, India, will manage and host. This website will host relevant work, connect to other relevant groups, and communicate stories through blogs, photo stories, case studies, etc. More importantly, it will build a pool of easily accessible experts and resources on the themes.

Participants included representatives from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the International Rice Research Institute. The meeting was co-facilitated by SaciWATERs and supported by ACIAR through SDIP.

For more information, please contact Dr Kuhu Chatterjee (

ACIAR CEO Andrew Campbell with participants at a workshop on agriculture, gender and water in New Delhi, September 8th 2017.

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