Women in farmer-led irrigation development: the case of Infulene Valley, Maputo – Mozambique

Natalia Reyes


PhD Researcher

IHE Delft Institute for Water Education

Feminist water scientist & urban farmer from Bolivia. Research Assistant at the Global Alliance for the Future of Food


Key Takeaways

    How To Apply Insights

    • Policymakers, planners and development agencies must not try to plan out farmer-led irrigation systems under the view that they are unproductive, informal and unsanitary as so many people rely on urban agriculture for their livelihoods
    • These experts should also avoid dichotomising formal and informal work as this marginalises many livelihood activities and individuals
    • Development agencies should be very aware of how they are conceptualising gender dynamics, and to be sensitive and aware that they are not reproducing stereotypes or creating inequalities
    • Academics should try to criticise their assumptions with local viewpoints to better understand the context and avoid misconeptions and false expectations

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    About this research

        This research received external funding from:

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          Findings & Research Conclusions

          Academia and development were not looking at women’s roles in irrigation in the right way. The literature review proposes a more fluid relationship between the household, and farming.

          It is important to view relationship dynamics within the home, including divisions in control of land, water access, and products of the labour to understand irrigation practices more fully

          development agencies involved in farmer led-irrigation are not necessarily aware of the subtleties of the context, and reproduce biases. The bias of the practitioners understanding of gender dynamics, for example may not reflect the dynamics on the field. This bias has observable effects on the implementation of development projects, and can perpetuate biases rather than work around them.
          As an example, some older western literature proposes a clear-cut dichotomy of men’s vs women’s domains in work and life, which in reality are much more diffused and nuanced.

          It is essential for foreign academics and and development agencies to be aware of their biases in understanding to avoid imposing potentially harmful views and ideas. Theoretical research is especially vulnerable to this, as there is noone talking back to you to highlight biases or created expectations.

          Research's methodology

          Literature review, and a reflection from work in the field.


          Literature review that was not field tested. In retrospect, the relationship between farming and the household was not as fluid as described in this paper.

          Farmer-led irrigationIrrigation systems built, managed and used by farmers without intervention from public agencies. Considered informal/extra-legal by the city government
          Feminist understandingNot presuming or naturalizing gender identities or structures, but remembering that gender is a social construct and that social relations cannot be explained by sexual differences, but by the meanings attributed to them
          MachambasFamily-held agricultural holdings that comprise the majority of Mozambiques agriultural land/output

          Reference this research

          Reyes Tejada, N. (2018). Women in farmer-led irrigation development: the case of Infulene Valley, Maputo – Mozambique. Crítica Y Resistencias. Revista De Conflictos Sociales Latinoamericanos, (7), 31-43

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