AQUASTAT - FAO's Global Information System on Water and Agriculture

    Water and gender

    Water and gender

    Promoting gender equality and women's empowerment is fundamental in ensuring sustainable agricultural development. Closing the gender gap is essentially important through policies, programmes and projects in the field of agricultural water management, in order to improve sustainable management of water resources for agricultural purposes, which would in return boost agricultural productivity, improve food security and contribute to reduce poverty.

    It is generally known and acknowledged that in places where houses are not connected to the public water supply, it is in general the task of women and girls to collect water from a water point that may be located far from the house and they can spend hours every day to go and fetch the minimum amount of water needed for the family. This draws women and girls behind, as they are put at risk and their access to education and income-generating activities is constrained.

    While certainly both men and women play an important role in agricultural water management, be it formally or informally, gender dynamics in the field of agricultural water management are neither effectively nor systematically documented.

    Increased access to irrigation by women can bring increased productivity and important nutritional improvements through enhanced food availability and dietary diversification. Unfortunately, still, policies, programmes and projects on agricultural water management often tend to consider women as primarily housewives and caregivers instead of farmers and irrigators, which challenges the participation of women in training programmes as well as in policy- and decision-making processes.

    As a matter of fact, policies, programmes and projects integrating a gender and socio-economic perspective in their design and implementation turn out to be far more effective and sustainable.

    Therefore, there is a clear need to understand the roles of men and women in agricultural water management, include them both in decision-making processes, allow them to share their experiences and exchange their knowledge, express their interests and identify their needs equally. The first step in improving the understanding of the roles is collecting and analyzing sex-disaggregated data related the water in general and agricultural water in particular to be able to make a significant gender analysis.

    Gender analysis is needed to mainstream gender issues in water programmes. It is a methodology that requires the collection and dispensation of relevant information on gender issues. A gender analysis therefore calls for a variety of sex- and age-disaggregated data and an understanding of socio-economic and cultural dynamics.

    And so, there is a necessity to produce, analyze and make use of sex- and age-disaggregated data in water statistics. Gender-sensitive indicators relative to water management practices in general and agricultural water management practices in particular, are needed for thorough planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of coherent, effective and sustainable policies, programmes and projects.

    Gender-sensitive indicators are essential means to understand the roles, the needs and the responsibilities of men and women and they would be useful to form targeted actions in water programmes and to avoid negative consequences of these interventions.

    AQUASTAT and sex-disaggregated data and information

    The FAO Policy on Gender Equality states as the first Minimum Standard that "All major FAO statistical databases incorporate sex-disaggregated data where relevant and available. In the short-term, this will involve mining data from existing sources, particularly household surveys, for sex-disaggregated statistics; in the longer term, efforts will be made to collect and disseminate additional sex-disaggregated data".

    AQUASTAT, as one of the main FAO statistical databases, therefore wishes to improve the availability of sex- and age- disaggregated data relative to agricultural water management at country-level.

    Since 2015 AQUASTAT consistently adds a section on "Women and irrigation" when updating country profiles. Even though the information provided is still mainly qualitative, consistently adding such section in the country profiles might improve the understanding of and raise awareness about the importance of sex-disaggregated data. While unfortunately so far, sex-disaggregated data related to agricultural water management is rare and in general not available at national level, AQUASTAT aims to build upon the information that already exists in its documentation to further develop some gender-related key variables to be included in its database.

    This AQUASTAT "Water and gender" page contains different sections that also can be accessed from the here below:

    • The Case Study section provides the results of the AQUASTAT case study conducted in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco on the role of women in agricultural water management.
    • The Census section displays agricultural census reports and explains how the census data could be used for sex-disaggregated data in water statistics.
    • The National data section displays the result of gender-disaggregation of national-level data in a number of European countries.
    • The Documents section presents a selection of documents, case studies, policies, guidelines and tools that are all in some way significant for gender issues in agricultural water management and data.

    These pages intend to gather all sorts of information relative to gender and agricultural water and data. Any recommendations for their improvement are welcome.