Identifying Gender Aspects of New Irrigation Management Policies


Zwarteveen, Margreet. 1998. “Identifying Gender Aspects of New Irrigation Management Policies.” Agriculture and Human Values 15: 301–12.

Author: Margreet Zwarteveen


Instead of technological policy prescriptions, the search for solutions to management problems in irrigation systems is increasingly sought in organizational and institutional reforms. There seems to be an emerging consensus that water and money savings can be brought about by (1) treating water as an economic good; and (2) decentralizing the management of irrigation water. Policies based on this consensus are being implemented in a large number of countries. On the basis of insights derived from feminist economics, the paper identifies and discusses gender biases of new irrigation management policies.The paper shows that policies do not explicitly consider the possibility that women are water users,and are implicitly based on a belief that all users are equally able to pay for water. Calculations about expected increases in efficiency may be wrong, because they do not take women‘s unpaid contributions to the economy into account. Existing evidence about the impacts of irrigation programs shows that these have provoked changes in the costs of irrigation or users,in water use practices, and in the accountability between users and providers of water. No empirical information exists to ascertain whether these changes are gender specific. Impact studies do not address gender concerns, and methods employed in impact studies do not allow a critical re-assessment of the theories underlying new irrigation policies. This reinforces the idea that gender or women do not matter and seriously limits the understanding of the determinants of irrigation management performance.

Topics: Economies, Gender, Women, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation

Year: 1998

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