|Most developing country policies promote export-oriented agriculture and cultivation of high- yielding varieties that require extensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which further require excessive water to enable better absorption of the fertilizer nutrients. Such water is often brought from outside the watershed, through the construction of mega-dams, or obtained through tubewells.
This kind of water extraction negatively affects the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers, potters, weavers, fishers, and herders who depend on local water sources as well as on local weeds and reeds for meeting their livelihood needs. This kind of over-use of water also lead to reduced flows in rivers and lakes and decreased water availability for other water users, including the maintenance of aquatic ecosystems.
While the rampant commercialization of agriculture and shift in the cropping pattern in favour of cash crops in most of the agro-based economies of Africa and Asia have aggravated the existing global water crisis, it also has an adverse impact on the quality of life of the women in these regions.
Even as intensive-irrigation agriculture increases the workload of women and girls who have the primary responsibility for collecting water for domestic use, it has also increased the problems of women engaged in agriculture. Lack of adequate access to water has led to decreased food production by women, who have been mostly excluded from the production of cash crops. It has increased the workload of women manifold as the time spent in collecting water from distant points have incapacitated women’s efforts to engage in relevant productive and reproductive activities.
Across the globe, women have been historically acknowledged to be the natural conservers of water. It is therefore important to attribute sufficient centrality to the gender-related concerns while developing the water supply infrastructure, not only by recognizing women as important water users but also by consulting local women about their concerns. It is also important to raise awareness about the role of women in such issues amidst the relevant policy makers in order to effectively deal with the problems. It would further be interesting to share the experiences of researchers, NGOs, policy makers and others related to this area through active and useful comments made in the discussion forum.