Rural Women and Rainwater Harvesting and Conservation Practices: Anecdotal Evidence from the Free State and Eastern Cape Provinces

Agenda, 22:78, 163-171

Access to water for domestic and agricultural use is a common constraint in most arid to semi-arid areas. Rainwater harvesting and conservation (RWH&C) practices provide an opportunity for improved access and/or availability of water for both domestic and agricultural production. Since the majority of the techniques are labour-intensive, they may prove an extra burden on available household labour, specifically for women who in the main are responsible for agricultural production. Based on preliminary cross-sectional survey data of 257 households from four rural villages in Free State and Eastern Cape, this article profiles the users/adopters of rainwater harvesting and conservation practices, and specifically determine the role women play in the adoption and use of the techniques. The majority (70%) of the users are women of whom 40% are single parents, mostly unemployed thus depending largely on social grants. The RWH&C practices used include rooftop rainwater harvesting, infield rainwater harvesting, collection of road runoff and collection of upper slope runoff. From the results, it is concluded that the major users of RWH&C practices are women; however, it is still questionable whether the development and adoption of these practices ensures that they do not overburden the women as they are significantly labour intensive. The article recommends that further research should account clearly for gender roles in the development, adoption and adaptation of rainwater harvesting and conservation technologies