Can Water Technologies Address a “Feminisation of Agriculture”?

Authors: Stephanie Leder*,
Topics: Gender, Cultural Geography, Development
Keywords: gender, development, agriculture, water, feminisation of agriculture
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Virginia C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The notion of “Feminization of agriculture” is often used to focus international development research and practice towards gender-sensitive interventions and technologies. However,
the term builds on a dichotomous and essentialist notion of women and men, while social relations of shifting household and community structures in contexts of rural out-migration tend to be over-simplified.
This paper critically examines how the gendered discourse of “Feminisation of Agriculture” is used in an international development program in the Eastern Gangetic Plains to implement intervention approaches such as solar irrigation pumps and drip irrigation technologies as well as institutional innovations such as collective farming.
Taking a feminist political ecology approach, I reflect on the essentialist conceptualisations of ‘feminisation of agriculture’ and “gender-sensitive technologies”, and take an intersectional perspective to explore the diverse effects of technological and institutional water interventions, as they obscure complex and shifting power relations and gender norms in contexts of out-migration. I reflect on my own positionality, being involved as a “gender researcher” in the formation and trainings of 16 farmer collectives in six villages in Saptari, Eastern Terai (Nepal), Madhubani, North Bihar and Cooch Behar, West Bengal, (India) as part of a four-year transdisciplinary research project. Based on findings how gender, intersected by class, age, and caste, affect irrigation technology adoption, I argue that space to discuss critical feminist perspectives at both development initiative and community level supports the integration and implementation of a more reflexive, processual and relational understanding of changing power relations and gender constructions over time and space.

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