Gender needs to integrated into the irrigation sector
22 May 2018

The fact that climate change is taking place is a well-established by now. However, sectors that stand to be the most at risk from climate change impacts, continue to function under a business-as-usual scenario. For irrigation, the dominant trend includes promotion of flood irrigation systems either through river or spring diversion. Irrigation investment is guided by areas identified as potentially irrigable area (PIA). PIA is identified based on slope, soil type and other physical parameters that often excludes the marginal farmer living in difficult terrain of mountains. Further the investment is guided by cost benefit analysis and internal rate of return that excludes area that has low population density and located away from market.

A study in the Gandaki basin in Nepal shows that there is a need for area specific irrigation. This is due to changing climatic patterns which affect marginal farming communities the most, among which women are the most vulnerable. Decline in snowfall and snow coverage in the upstream regions; delay of winter rain in uphill and flood in foothill in midstream; and flood during rainy season and drought in winter in downstream are critical issues. These changes have affected farming adversely. Due to farm failure, there is a trend among small, marginal landholders and landless to migrate outside village in search of alternative labor work. Because of which, there is also a growing trend of feminization of demography and responsibilities. The changes in gender role and responsibilities is reflected with increased involvement of women in enterprise and market, and even in foreign labour migration. Based on the number of FGDs (about 100) carried out with homogenous groups of male and female community members along the stretches of the basin, the study concludes that there is limited change in gender roles related to participation in irrigation water users’ committee.

A case study, in two irrigation systems in midhills and plains showed that the role of the users association on crafting water distribution rule is still in the hands of influential men. Tail end users hardly receive water. The study concludes that there is a need to promote small and nonconventional irrigation systems. These systems need to be handy for women and the elderly that are left behind in high altitude farming. Findings from this study were recently presented at the 8th Asian Regional Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal by Dr. Pranita Udas. For more, follow the link to the .