Accounting for Nile waters: connecting investments in large scale irrigation to gendered reallocations of water and labor in the Eastern Nile basin

  • Research & Development
  • 525.500 project budget
  • Jan 2015 - Dec 2017
  • Partners: IWMI, Forum For Social Studies (Ethiopia), Univ of Khartoum, Research Institute for Sustainable Environment (Cairo), HRC (Sudan), ENTRO, NBCBN, Min of Agriculture (Ethiopia)
  • Donor: CGIAR
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt all have ambitious investment plans to increase irrigated agriculture in the Eastern Nile Basin (MoA Sudan 2008, MoFED Ethiopia 2010, MWRI Egypt 2005). New irrigation projects imply re-distributions of Nile flows that affect livelihood opportunities, productive possibilities, and ecosystems services for different groups of people, situated at different scales. The project aims to understand how these re-allocations, which often entail shifts from subsistence agriculture and pastoralist activities to commercial agriculture, re-configure gendered labor and tenure relations, and what this means for equity and sustainability. As the Nile basin is rapidly closing, such redistributions will have trade-offs and be contested, with some being favored more than others. Improving the ability of public decision makers, investors and communities to make informed decisions about the social and ecological benefits and costs of new investments, and about how these are (to be) divided is therefore of crucial importance. This project sets out to develop an innovative methodology for better understanding the (gendered distribution of the) benefits and tradeoffs of large investments in irrigated agriculture in the Eastern Nile Basin It does so, by linking advanced tools for assessing how large infrastructural projects alter water flows with ethnographic methods to understand how these changing flows re-distribute livelihood opportunities, productive possibilities, incomes and ecosystem services between different user groups at different scales. The methodology will specifically trace how the identified changes are shaped by, or in turn shape, existing axes of social differentiation (class, gender, age) to allow assessing their impacts on social equity and gender relations. To ensure ownership and impact, the project engages water users, policy makers and investors in the knowledge-creation process, and uses participatory and joint data and information collection exercises to build capacity of policy makers and young professionals. The development of a platform on Nile Basin Water Stewardship managed by ENTRO and NBCBN will be at the center of this. New tools, insights and information will engage different stakeholders in wider discussions about how to organize (institutions for) water distribution in ways that combine economic growth, social (and gender) equity and the integrity of ecosystems.


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