Gender and sustainable increase in production through irrigation: The Case of Ntcheu District, Malawi
The need to sustainably intensify agricultural production using irrigation dates as far back as the Egyptian civilization. In modern day Africa, irrigation offers an opportunity to get more crops per drop as a solution to global food security. The discourse on sustainable intensification has often not extended into the gender arena as it is often assumed that intensification of agriculture is gender neutral. This study made use of the Menzein-Dick’s empowerment framework to understand the link between gender, resource access and control and increased food production through irrigation particularly in matrilineal societies. Focus group discussions, key informant interviews, documentary evidence and observations were utilized to investigate the intra-household power relations manifested in production, temporal division of labour, leadership as well as in resource allocation and control and its implications on intensification. The key findings reflects that the link between access to resources in scheme settings and how resources (land, water and inputs) are controlled by men and women determines the extent to which increased food production can be met with minimum environmental impact even in situations where land tenure is rotational between the default summer-land lords and the dry season-tenants (irrigators) such as Ntcheu. This paper concludes that gendered spaces manifested in differentiated crop choices and labour investment in selected tasks by men and women indicates that gender gaps still exist in the agriculture arena particularly in irrigation schemes where cultural checks and balances are compromised.