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Gender Transformative Impacts from Watershed Interventions: Insights from a Mixed-Methods Study in the Bundelkhand Region of India

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 63(1): 153-163. (doi: 10.13031/trans.13568) @2020
Authors:   R. Padmaja, K. Kavitha, S. Pramanik, V. D. Duche, Y. U. Singh, A. M. Whitbread, R. Singh, K. K. Garg, S. Leder
Keywords:   Bundelkhand region, Gender, Social norms, Transformative, Watershed intervention.


Social and technical interventions related to agriculture, watersheds, and capacity building should enhance women‘s awareness, access, and decision-making role in agrarian communities.

Strict gender norms and relations hinder the empowerment of women in the Bundelkhand region and prevent women from participating in the decision-making process at the household, farm, and community level.

When implementing watershed projects in a highly patriarchal context, as in the Bundelkhand region, advocacy of behavioral change communication must be implemented, addressing the diverse needs of women and men.

Strengthening of systematic and gender-sensitive institution building, social engagement, and capacity development for global water security is needed for sustainable watershed interventions.

ABSTRACT. This study examined gender perspectives on water security by exploring an integrated water management approach for agriculture, livestock, and human consumption. The data were generated in a watershed project to enhance drought resilience of farming through groundwater recharge and agroforestry interventions in the water-scarce Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh in central India. Post-intervention, a quantitative survey and qualitative gender and social analysis tools were applied to understand the benefits of the interventions for women, men, and the community as a whole. Quantitative data were collected from 700 individuals in five villages (three treatment villages and two villages where watershed interventions were not implemented). In addition, 33 semi-structured interviews and eight focus group discussions were conducted to understand local gender norms at the project sites. Data analysis revealed that the community benefits accrued from the watershed interventions included increased crop productivity and diversification of agriculture and livelihoods. However, strict patriarchal norms restricted the visibility, mobility, and communication of women within the household and community during the interventions. Considering gender diversity, this study identifies that women can benefit from participating in watershed interventions and provides a deeper understanding of the constraints and barriers to women‘s participation in such projects, including economic, social, and cultural factors. The construction of check dams reduced women‘s time per day for fetching water by about 29%. Groundwater level increases reduced the effort required of women to draw water from open wells and hand pumps. Female education is a significant factor related to the benefits of watershed interventions, and regression analysis indicated that households with higher levels of education of adult women were significantly more likely to benefit from the interventions than other households. To avoid perpetuation of the exclusion of diverse local knowledge and gender inequality at the community level, mechanisms must be developed and adjusted continuously such that whole communities, including men and women, are empowered to participate in the decision-making process at various levels and for different purposes. When implementing watershed projects in a highly patriarchal context, as in the Bundelkhand region where women are hidden behind the strong presence of men, advocacy of behavioral change communication must be implemented regularly. The community needs to be sensitized toward systematic and gender-sensitive institution building, social engagement, and capacity development for local as well as global water security.

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