Women’s participation in irrigation governance as a trend in land systems change

Authors: Corrie Hannah*, University of Arizona, Tom Evans, University of Arizona
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Women, Africa
Keywords: Kenya, gender, socio-ecological resilience, irrigation, natural resource management
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Millennium Development Goals emphasized women’s empowerment and equity as a catalyst for a sustainable world. The new Sustainable Development Goals continue to encourage women’s empowerment through participation in leadership at “all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life”.

Our research examines the drivers of women’s participation in Community Water Projects (CWPs) in Laikipia District, located in central Kenya. CWPs are formal institutions that allocate irrigated water resources to small-scale farmers for food production. The governance of irrigation systems constitute a major driver of land systems change through agricultural production expansion in areas with limited or unpredictable rainfall.

To encourage women’s equitable access to leadership, Article 27 of the Constitution of Kenya (2010), known as the 'two-thirds gender rule', requires one-third representation of women in elected public service roles, such as on CWP management committees. In response to the narrative that women’s empowerment in public service can promote sustainability, we examine how women’s participation in CWP committees influence irrigation governance in broader context of land systems change.

We address the following research questions using statistical and qualitative analyses with data from a survey of 45 CWP managers in Laikipia District (2018-19), 27 focus group discussions and 210 individual-level surveys with CWP managers (2019):

1. What constitutes women's participation in Kenya's irrigation sector since the 2010 two-thirds gender rule was passed?
2. What are perceived contributions of women’s participation in CWP management to irrigation governance and, more broadly, land systems change?

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