A Qualitative Assessment of Gender and Irrigation Technology in Kenya and Tanzania


Njuki, Jemimah et al. 2014. “A Qualitative Assessment of Gender and Irrigation Technology in Kenya and Tanzania.” Gender, Technology and Development 18 (3): 303–40. 

Authors: Jemimah Njuki, Elizabeth Waithanji, Beatrice Sakwa, Juliet Kariuki, Elizabeth Mukewa, John Ngige


Rural household economies dependent on rain-fed agriculture are turning to irrigation technology solutions to counter weather variability, and guard against low crop yields. Organizations are using market-based approaches to disseminate technologies to smallholder farmers, and although women are among their target group, little is known of the extent to which these approaches are reaching and benefiting them. There is also scant evidence about the implications for crop choice and income management if these new irrigation technologies are used and controlled by women. This article reports the findings of a qualitative study undertaken in Tanzania and Kenya to examine women’s access to and ownership of irrigation pumps, and the implications on their ability to make major decisions on crop choices and use of income from irrigated crops. Results from sales monitoring data showed that less than 10 percent of the pumps are being purchased by women, and most of the major decisions on crop choices and income use continue to be made by men. These findings vary from type of crop, with men making major decisions concerning high-income crops such as tomatoes, and women commanding relatively more autonomy over crops such as leafy vegetables. The study recommends further research to find out whether market-based approaches on their own can guarantee women access to and ownership of technologies, and the specific measures that need to be taken by businesses to achieve the goal of reaching and benefiting women.


Keywords: gender, irrigation, technology, household decision making, income management, market approaches


The article discuses the various rural household irrigation technologies available for communities to gain access to water for household and agricultural consumption. It speaks heavily of the KickStart program implemented in Kenya and Tanzania, with particular attention paid to women and pump management. The differentiated roles of men and women are discussed with themes such as decision-making, intra-household crop choices, and income usage. The study demonstrates that women’s ownership of pumps is not the main determinant of whether she makes decisions regarding crop irrigation and income distribution. Increasing technological innovations in rural villages brings both positive and negative effects to gender relations and women’s empowerment. Training field experts on gender, ensuring a gendered balance in the program’s team, and forming a greater understanding of the constraints facing women are important recommendations argued by the author. Further research should also be conducted to determine ownership of the pumps and resource allocation, as the study determined that women and men have joint decision-making abilities


Topics: Agriculture, Development, Economies, Environment, Feminisms, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Gender Analysis, Femininity/ies, Gendered Discourses, Households Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Kenya, Tanzania

Year: 2014

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