Improving groundwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihoods: Participatory rural appraisal: Gender, groundwater and livelihoods

Rizwana Waraich, Shabana Siyal, Siara Akhtar, Tehmina Mangan, Catherine Allan

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (public)


LWR-036 is a project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) that is focused on improving groundwater management to enhance agriculture and farming livelihoods in Pakistan. The underlying logic of working to involve more women is that inclusion of women is not only more equitable, but also that the project is it is likely to be more effective. The voices of Pakistan’s rural women have been essentially silent in relation to water management generally, and groundwater management in particular.
Individuals and groups need to have capacity to have a voice, and to act, and capacity ‘building’ is an ongoing part of enabling participation. Because the current groundwater management ‘system’ is dominated by men, a systemic approach to understanding the capacity needs of women in relation to the ACIAR project is needed. Focusing on systemic co-inquiry with leading women academics and NGO staff in Pakistan also provides immediate increased capacity in country, providing women (and men) with new tools and skills to explore wicked, messy and complex issue.
The gender co-inquiry in this project aims to bring women together to explore gender aspects of groundwater management. Two sessions to build capacity in using systemic co-inquiry were undertaken in Pakistan in November 2017, at MUET, Sindh, on November 10, and UAF, Punjab, on November 6. Following the training the two consultants and lead authors of this report were employed in September/ October 2018 to undertake six gender focused co-inquires, one in each of the project case study sites.
The facilitators overall approach of the facilitators was to talk with, and listen to, women and men of the villages in relation to women’s lives and work. In all cases diagramming/ mapping was used to facilitate storytelling. These stories were told in a variety of languages, and in some depth. The ‘results’ in the report are the distilled stories synthesised and translated to English by the lead authors.
Drawn and verbal stories across the six workshops highlight the important roles that women have in terms of domestic management and supporting livelihoods in rural Pakistan. Women have a significant role at the village level, not only doing the household chores but they are equally involved in the economic activities that can be vary place to place but one thing is clear that women have great contribution in this regard. The education, freedom and relative power of women varied across the case study area, their social position and even age, but it was clear that the burden of increasing water scarcity in rural areas is falling disproportionally on women. Many of the women in the workshops considered reductions in water quality and quantity were having direct, and indirect negative impacts on the health and livelihoods of theirfamilies. In all the workshops women showed they are well aware of the decreasing availability of groundwater and they worry about how to overcome these issues. Most, however, see no clear way forward, nor clear pathways by which they can contribute to finding solutions.
This small exercise draws attention to the almost silent voice of women in the planning and management of agricultural water in rural Pakistan, and the enthusiasm with which they embrace the opportunity to be included, or at least heard. The exercise also highlights the complexities and difficulties of understanding the overall situation regarding diversity of women activities in details. More research is needed to understand the needs of women to empower them without increasing workload and security burdens. Participatory co- inquiry, and co design is one research pathway that builds capacity as well as understanding.
It is evident norms of thinking and practice are highly influential, but also that even very strong social and religious norms can be addressed and changed. As the economic studies and stakeholder forums develop in this project it is important to seek ways to include women, their perspectives and their skills.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAlbury, NSW
PublisherInstitute for Land, Water and Society
Commissioning bodyAustralian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
Number of pages69
ISBN (Electronic)9781864673876
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Publication series


Grant Number

  • 101862


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