Masters Degrees (Office of the Dean: The Humanities)

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  • ItemOpen Access
    The role of rural women in mitigating water scarcity
    (University of the Free State, 2006-11) Sigenu, Kholisa; Pelser, A. J.
    English: Due to water scarcity in the world and its effect on rural women, the aim of the study was to document the strategies of rural women in Ndonga and their role in mitigating water scarcity with an aim of providing a set of recommendations. As the result of the relatively unexplored nature of women’s strategies, the study was exploratory. Firstly, the researcher confirmed that there was water scarcity in Ndonga. Through a literature search, interviews with key informants and focus group sessions with local women, the researcher discovered that women in Ndonga are vulnerable to water scarcity. What makes them susceptible to water scarcity is their status in the community. The women are left in the rural areas while men seek for work elsewhere. They also do not have proper access to water and therefore depend on natural resources. Secondly, their economic status (mostly unemployed) also makes it difficult for them to deal with stock and crop loss. Vulnerability is also due to their lack of participation in decision making. The South African government’s strategies to combat water scarcity include giving free basic water to poor households (This process is slow in rural areas like Ndonga) and to include all water users in the management of water resources. Women’s local wisdom and knowledge gained through experience, cultural and ethical values should help them to create their own future. Women’s strategies to cope with water scarcity are currently largely undocumented and therefore unrecognized. These strategies could, however, be a potential solution to water scarcity problems. Strategies used by women in Ndonga have confirmed that rural women are not just victims of water scarcity but that they are able to minimize the impact of this phenomenon. The strategy of Ubuntu ensures that women are able to share the minimum that they have with others in order to access equipment and secure food for the family during hard times. The women have also managed to conserve water as they use micro-irrigation schemes through working together. To further ensure that there is food, the women plant and store crops. A crop such as sorghum is used to make different dishes that sustain energy. Through communal vegetable gardens the women are able to secure some form of income for their families. However, this is still not enough money as they still struggle to afford water for nondomestic purposes. The women are also using drought resistant plants that grow naturally in the area to deal with water scarcity. Lastly, rituals, such as ukungqungqa, in rural Ndonga, are seen as pivotal strategies to ensure that there is water but, as a result of deteriorating human values, such rituals might fail. It is proposed that the authorities in Ndonga should create awareness of the looming water scarcity facing communities, to prepare them so that they are pro-active in dealing with water scarcity. Furthermore, women’s participation in decision making should be strengthened by increasing the current 30 percent to 50 percent representation as women in rural areas are usually proportionally more than men. Human induced water scarcity problems, such as desiccation as a result of overstocking/overgrazing, should also be monitored and minimized. Women’s income generating projects should be financially supported to ensure sustainability and empowerment. Women should also be capacitated with technical skills through their involvement in the implementation phase of community water projects, such as the installation of communal taps. Lastly, women’s needs, experiences and knowledge should be documented and used in the formulation of relevant strategies in order to reduce women’s vulnerability to water scarcity and to decrease its impact. This, in turn, will prevent further water degradation and environmental degradation.