The WLE 2018 Annual Report > Equality of opportunity

Madeline Dahm/IWMI

Influencing water investments to support women in Tajikistan

Abdullaeva Uguloi is the head of the water user association of Obchakoron District, Halivad Jamoat, Tatjikistan.

Community water management investments in Tajikistan are now better targeted to women, with an aim to increase food production and stabilize farming systems.

The changes came after an evaluation by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) found that not addressing the needs of women can harm a project’s prospects. As more and more men migrate from farms, women have been thrust into farm management roles in Tajikistan and around the developing world.

With support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Tajikistan introduced water user associations (WUAs) in 2012 and trained thousands of farm managers to take charge of their own water management decisions. IWMI evaluated these WUAs over a four-year period, to better understand impacts and areas for improvement.

IWMI found that providing repeated agronomic training of farm managers and WUAs significantly improved WUA financial performance, farmer participation and fee recovery. In addition, water delivery services, cultivated area and crop diversity also showed remarkable improvements.

But there was an unexpected finding: While untrained male farmers also benefited from these trainings, untrained female farmers were not accessing these benefits.

The program targeted those named as manager in the farm title – 98% of whom were men. But male migration often left untrained women in charge of farms – excluded from training under this system. And as these shifts occurred, knowledge on how to take part in WUA activities was mostly being transferred to other male shareholders, but not to women.

Despite being at a disadvantage, women like Abdullaeva Uguloi, one of the few women to head a WUA, feel that they could be making important contributions: “All water user associations should be headed by women. There is so much work, especially at the beginning, but you have to balance so many tasks, and you cannot give up. Women are more likely to overcome all the barriers. You have to be happy to always be working. Women are much better at this than men.”

The evaluation also found that training programs were also seldom tailored to the timing, location and educational needs of women. This left them ill-equipped to step in and run the farms, secure water for irrigation, or even cultivate their home gardens.

Based on these findings, IWMI recommended targeting women farmers. With more knowledge and skills, women could then better contribute to WUA decisions and secure water for their farms and kitchen gardens. IWMI also recommended redesigning training materials, using women trainers, organizing childcare support and holding trainings in locations that are easily accessible for women.

WLE partners reported that these recommendations have been incorporated into USAID’s Feed the Future’s Global Learning Agenda, and contributed to a re-targeting of programs in Tajikistan. Chemonics, the implementing agency, re-focused the program on building the capacities of female irrigators.

As gendered migration trends look set to continue, making sure women have the skills and knowledge to participate in water management will help ensure the success of farms – and of farming systems. In this way, women can more fully participate in the decisions that so profoundly affect their lives.

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Planetary boundaries

Food systems are a major driver of the unsustainable use of the planet’s increasingly fragile ecosystems. Water, land, forests and the biodiversity are precious, yet finite, natural resources. Current trends show that we are pushing the limits of what Earth can handle. How can we transform agriculture so that it's no longer part of this problem, but part of the solution?

Ann Tutwiler (CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE))Board Chair

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Population growth, demographic shifts, dietary change, climate change and environmental decline challenge everything we know about how to grow and share food. Yet, food production must increase – some estimates say by 50 percent globally, and by almost 100 percent in Africa and Southeast Asia by 2050. But it’s not only about increased production. Better, healthier and more nutritious food is needed too.

Diego Senoner (Indo-German Energy Program)Technical expert

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This data platform for improving water management demonstrates the potential that alliances between research centers and development agencies have to generate products that provide concrete solutions to real problems in agriculture. Likewise, these partnerships allow technical and scientific products to reach end users faster.

Equality of opportunity

In this era of planetary degradation, the world’s poorest and most marginalized often bear the brunt of the burden, losing livelihoods and opportunities. This can drive conflict and migration. With men increasingly leaving rural areas, women are playing a greater role in agriculture, but are still often marginalized and lack access to decision making and resources. At the same time, the sector offers fewer viable jobs to youth. Solutions are only sustainable if they are also equitable.

Abdullaeva Uguloi (Water user association of Obchakoron District, Halivad Jamoat, Tatjikistan)Head of WUA

All water user associations should be headed by women. There is so much work, especially at the beginning, but you have to balance so many tasks, and you cannot give up. Women are more likely to overcome barriers. You have to be happy to always be working. Women are much better at this than men.

Miriam Otoo (International Water Management Institute (IWMI))Research group leader for resource recovery and reuse

The business of safe recovery of water, nutrients and energy from domestic and agro-industrial waste offers significant opportunities to generate economic and social benefits to women and unemployed youth, especially in developing countries. These entrepreneurs, however, face high market entry barriers due to a lack of social networks, specialist skills and capital. It is therefore important to identify appropriate business training for youth or women entrepreneurs, tailored to their specific needs and capacity gaps under each unique geographical context.

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