Women at the Helm of Irrigated Agriculture in Mexico: The Other Side of Male Migration


Buechler, Stephanie. 2005. “Women at the Helm of Irrigated Agriculture in Mexico: The Other Side of Male Migration.” In Opposing Currents: The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America, edited by Vivienne Bennett, Sonia Dávila-Poblete, and María Nieves Rico, 170-189. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author: Stephanie Buechler


This chapter explores the impact that mass male migration has on women’s role as water managers, specifically as pertains to groundwater-sourced irrigation. From interviews with women in rural Mexican communities, Buechler finds that with the absence of a male in the household, timing of irrigation services became a crucial factor; nighttime irrigation excludes women because of safety concerns, limited child care access, and societal notions of impropriety (women who go into the fields at night are suspected of carrying out sexual liaisons). Other challenges facing women include perceptions of irrigation as a male activity, stigma against women drivers, and minimal participation in water management bodies (most often as a function of land ownership requirements). The initial step to addressing any of these, Buechler concludes, is to make the rapidly growing numbers of women irrigators visible to their communities and, more importantly, to decision-making water management bodies.


“When women take charge of the land, they often irrigate or supervise others themselves, which runs counter to prevailing views on gender divisions of labor that irrigation is men’s work and that it is physically taxing.” (171)

“They [women] irrigate by themselves or supervise male irrigators despite attitudes in and outside of their communities that this is not women’s work. They know how to manage water due to their vast experience with agricultural work. Even though they often manage water alone, women continue to be viewed as mere helpers to a male farmer.” (187)

Topics: Agriculture, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Infrastructure, Water & Sanitation Regions: Americas, North America Countries: Mexico

Year: 2005

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