Gender Differences in Water Access and Household Welfare among Smallholder Irrigators in Msinga Local Municipality, South Africa
This study investigates the gender differences in water access and its welfare effects using a sample of 291 irrigators from two irrigation schemes in the Msinga Local Municipality, South Africa. The data were analysed using the Blinder-Oaxaca (BO) decomposition method and the instrumental variable (IV) regression approach. The study findings highlight unequal access to irrigation water between male and female farmers, with women accessing irrigation water more frequently than women. The results also indicate a positive and significant effect of water access on incomes per capita, and that men had higher welfare than women. The results suggest that women would achieve higher welfare than men with the same level of water access. This implies that a deliberate policy to attain equity in access to water and other productive resources could be more effective in combating poverty compared to the status quo. The BO decomposition results reveal that 94% of the gender-based water access differential is attributable to differences in observable characteristics, while only 6% is attributable to differences in coefficients. This implies minimal inherent gender discrimination in water access. The study findings suggest that policies targeting observable characteristics (such as organising farmers into groups, registering them as water users and involving women in scheme management) would diminish the gender gap in water access in the rural areas of South Africa, and enhance the welfare of women.
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