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www.iwmi.org A water-secure world Feminisation of agriculture, out-migration and new gender roles: an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users Fraser Sugden – IWMI Nepal Research team: Fraser Sugden, Floriane Clement, Niki Maskey, Anil Philip, Vidya Ramesh, Ashok Rai, Naryan Prasad Sah, Yaman Sardar, Gajendra Sah, Lalita Sah Photo: Saaliya Thilakarathna/IWMI

Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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Page 1: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

Feminisation of agriculture, out-migration and new gender roles: an imperative to change conventional engagements

with women water users

Fraser Sugden – IWMI NepalResearch team: Fraser Sugden, Floriane Clement, Niki Maskey, Anil Philip, Vidya Ramesh, Ashok Rai, Naryan Prasad Sah, Yaman Sardar, Gajendra Sah, Lalita Sah

Phot

o: S

aaliy

a Th

ilaka

rath

na/I

WM

I

Page 2: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

Introduction• Political-economic and climate induced agrarian stress is causing

increase vulnerability for communities across the Eastern Gangetic plains

• This is driving male out-migration and a transfer of new agricultural labour responsibilities to females

• New patterns of vulnerability • New adaptation needs for women who are left behind• This calls for a new approach to gender mainstreaming in

Agricultural Water Management

Page 3: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

Kathmandu

Tibetan Autonomous Region

Nepal

Survey sites

Darbhanga

Madhubani

MITHILANCHAL

Bihar Biratnagar

Janakpur

FORMER FOREST BELT

Page 4: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

Contemporary agrarian structure• Mithilanchal: large cultural region in North Bihar (India) and the

Terai-Madhesh (Nepal).• Tenants and marginal farmers

– Tenants, marginal farmers (less than 0.5ha), and landless labourers, form at least 75% of the rural population, and constitute base of agrarian structure.

– Tenants and marginal farmers mostly Dalit and Mahadalit in caste heartland, and adivasi in the former forest belt

• Large farmers and landlords– At the apex of the agrarian structure, is a local landlord class in the

Maithili caste heartland. Mostly ‘large farmers’ rather than zamindars of the past.

– Absentee landlord class in the former forest belt (predominantly in Nepal), with mostly adivasi tenants.

Page 5: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

Adhratadhi, Madhubani Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 6: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

Sitpur, Morang

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 7: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

Part 1 - New drivers of change

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 8: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

1. Climate change

• Significant changes observed in climate patterns over last two decades– More unpredictability – Greater chilling during winter– Extended dry spells, particularly further west– More extreme precipitation events

• Dry season agriculture becoming increasingly risky.

Page 9: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

2. Broader pattern of agrarian stress

• Unequal terms of trade for agriculture, driving up price of inputs, particularly in Nepal. – High fuel prices on both sides of the border (affects fertiliser and

fuel costs)– Limited subsidies for farmers in Nepal

• Rising cost of living– Linked in part to rising fuel prices– Increased monetisation of the economy, rising demand for cash.

• Political instability, state weakness– Limited investment in key infrastructural works, including power

generation– Rampant local level corruption

Page 10: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

3. Agricultural adaptation?• Limited spread of low tech climate smart

technologies• Limited investment in surface canal networks • On farm adaptation options?

– investment in tube wells and pumping equipment to offset delayed harvests

– investment in labour saving technologies (threshers, tractors).

Page 11: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 12: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

Thalaha, Morang

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 13: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

3. Agricultural adaptation?

• Adaptation not scale neutral• Many technologies are out of reach for

poorer farmers • E.g. Less than 6% of marginal/tenant

farmers own pumps sets or wells

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 14: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

4. Non agricultural adaptation: out-migration

• Diversification of livelihoods through non-farm labour – Can address both climatic and non-climatic stress on

livelihoods for marginal and tenant farmer majority– Particularly as cost of ‘adapting’ within agriculture is high

• Significant rise in out-migration on a seasonal and long term. – Migration across all wealth groups– but marginal

cultivators are more dependent upon this income– High waged versus low waged migrants

Page 15: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

Table 5: % of migrants from different wealth groups D

hanu

sha

Mor

ang

Mad

huba

ni

Dha

nush

a

Mor

ang

Mad

huba

ni

Dha

nush

a

Mor

ang

Mad

huba

ni

Dha

nush

a

Mor

ang

Mad

huba

ni

Dha

nush

a

Mor

ang*

Mad

huba

ni

tenants or part tenants

landless labourers small owner cul-tivators <0.5ha

medium owner cultivators 0.5-

2ha

large owner cul-tivators >2ha

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Seasonal migrants

Permanent migrants

Page 16: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

5. Feminisation of agriculture• Women are playing an increased role in agriculture

following the out–migration of male family members• Significant rise in women headed households• New tasks such as managing irrigation and on farm

technology and marketing are becoming part of the female domain

• Agriculture remains crucial for family members left behind, particularly for the poorest cultivators. – Migrant remittances can not support whole family.– 50-67% of women headed households are still engaged in

agriculture– Women led agriculture subsidises migrant economy

Page 17: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

Part II – Feminisation of agriculture: new patterns of vulnerability

Jaleshwor, Mahottari Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 18: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

1. Vulnerability due to increased workload

• Significant increase in work responsibilities for those ‘left behind’.

• Affects wellbeing, while also reduces time to engage in other livelihood activities

• Affects poorest cultivators– 66% to 83% of women headed households from marginal/tenant

farmer class – Larger land owners employ labourers to compensate for loss of

male labour– Greater vulnerability amongst marginal/tenant farmers

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 19: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

2. Vulnerability due to loss of resources

• Loss of regular cash income in women headed households from marginal/tenant farmer class

• Greater vulnerability to climatic stresses such as droughts or late monsoons– Sporadic income from migrant husbands/sons– 2012: Estimated 75% loss of paddy due to late rains, and 65%

loss of wheat due to Spring thunderstorms– Depletion of family grain stocks, yet no income to purchase grain

Page 20: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

Bhuptatti, Madhubani Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 21: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

PART III - Agrarian stress and equitable adaptation in the context of out-migration

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 22: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

1. Challenges to investment in irrigation at a household level

• Access to low cost, efficient irrigation becomes even more important for those left behind in villages.

• Yet significant challenges remain– Greater responsibilities does not always translate into greater

control over finances– Challenges accessing institutional finance– Tube well installation schemes biased against women headed

households (lack of land ownership certificates, citizenship)

• Capacity for females in women headed households to adapt is dependent upon one’s position in agrarian structure and migrant hierarchy

Page 23: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

2. Decaying communal irrigation resources

• Irrigation canal management long the male domain

• Limited effective efforts for meaningful women’s participation aside from tokenistic ‘quotas’

• Significant challenge for women headed households who need to negotiate for water, and ensure their needs are met

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 24: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

www.iwmi.org

A water-secure world

3. Positive lessons in women’s leadership in water management

• Sakhi foundation in Bihar successfully created women run fishing collectives in Madhubani district

• Reserved fishing rights for women run cooperative to half the village ponds.

• Combined with fisheries training and gender empowerment activities

• All costs and profits shared equally• Can this model be applied to irrigation resources?

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I

Page 25: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

Lessons and policy response

• The structure of the agrarian workforce has changed significantly,

• High out-migration – yet agriculture remains critical for women and family members remaining at home.

• Need to actively engage with women cultivators– Too much focus by practitioners on ‘traditional’ female domain

such as sanitation, household water use– Women are now taking critical role in supplying irrigation for

arable crops and are leading on farm management– Need to engage with women directly, address issues of property

rights, and ownership of resources

Page 26: Feminisation of agriculture out migration and new gender roles an imperative to change conventional engagements with women water users

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A water-secure world

Thank you

Nayabazaar, Morang

Phot

o: F

rase

r Sug

den/

IWM

I