The need for a participatory approach to water management and development interventions that also includes women.


Photo credit: CGIAR

A woman participating to an irrigation project in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

Publication Review: Gender Dynamics in Water Governance Institutions in Zimbabwe

Submitted by Martina Antonucci

In Zimbabwe, the decentralization of water management in irrigation schemes may be an opportunity for rural communities to actively participate in and contribute to the management of their development process. In this context, the GCIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems emphasises the need for a participatory approach to water management and development interventions that also includes women. The recent study “Gender Dynamics in Water Governance Institutions: The Case of Gwanda’s Guyu-Chelesa Irrigation Scheme in Zimbabwe” gives an example of the challenges encountered by women who are involved in irrigation schemes management.

Through documentary research, interviews, questionnaires and non-obtrusive observation the authors of the article investigated women’s involvement in the water governance intervention of the Guyu-Chelesa Irrigation Scheme in Zimbabwe. Guyu-Chelesa is a farmer-managed irrigation scheme located in the Mzingwane Catchment, which is part of the Limpopo River Basin in Matabeleland South Province. The majority of farmers in this area are women, representing approximately 75% of the labourers. Women are the major users of water, as they not only irrigate the fields, but also perform the maintenance of irrigation infrastructures, investing significant time and efforts into it.

This important participation of women in irrigation farming is reflected in their high involvement in the Water Users Associations. Despite this, gender inequality still strongly exists at the committee level of the institutions where the percentage of women, although high, is still not proportional to the number of women conducting irrigation farming, and their decision-making power is significantly limited.

The authors report that although women participate in meetings more consistently than men, their voice is generally not heard or barely accepted. For example, women’s ideas about management and rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructures are recognized only when the complexity of the issue is minimal. For the rest of the discussions, only men have the power to make binding decisions, while women are only given the possibility to reinforce them.

Read the full article: CGIAR

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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