The role of women in irrigation: a case study of the Ahero Irrigation Scheme in Kenya.
Okumu, Mary Nyona.
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This thesis explores the role of women in irrigated agriculture in the Ahero Irrigation Scheme in Kisumu County in the Western region of Kenya. Irrigated agriculture is seen as one of the major means through which food security may be improved in Kenya. Women face various challenges when it comes to taking up agricultural activities: from insecure access to land, credit, agricultural inputs and lack of proper agricultural training. The aims of this study were to: examine women’s roles in irrigated agriculture in the Ahero Irrigation Scheme, ascertain the nature of the contribution that women have made in irrigated agriculture in Ahero Irrigation Scheme, identify and document the challenges that women face in irrigated agriculture in Ahero Irrigation Scheme. The theoretical framework used in the study is ‘eco-feminism’. Eco-feminism is derived from understanding women’s encounters with nature and their impact on the social system, economy, politics, culture and way of life generally. With this in mind, the study focused on six key themes: women and agriculture, women and land tenure systems, water and irrigation, financial resources and assets, technology education and agricultural politics. A qualitative research approach was used, involving sixty-six participants (both men and women) who were selected through purposive sampling from the Ahero Irrigation scheme. The study collected data through the use of questionnaires and interviews which were distributed within the twelve farming blocks located within the scheme. Sixty-one participants answered questionnaires and five participants took part in interviews. Data analysis (via Microsoft Excel) was conducted using theme-based groupings. The findings of this study acknowledge the important role that women play in irrigated agriculture with regards to rice farming, the challenges that women faced in irrigated agriculture with regards to land ownership, inheritance, financial assistance and agricultural training in Ahero Irrigation Scheme. The study concludes with the need to develop agricultural policies that have bottom-up approaches that meet the needs of farmers, regardless of gender. The development of better access to financial services, training and farm inputs can assist farmers within the scheme to improve the production of their crops. Lastly, there is the need to change social and cultural aspects that hinder women from inheriting land from their husbands due to land policies that have heavy cultural influences.