Sharing the Last Drop: Water scarcity, irrigation and gendered poverty eradication.
In a climate of growing water scarcity, the irrigation sector will have a substantial role to play in implementing water savings. Under growing water scarcity there is a risk that well-off farmers and those with stronger water rights will impose the needed water savings on poor irrigators with weaker water rights. Moreover, poor female and male cultivators who have never had access to irrigation in the past risk being excluded forever. Both would aggravate rural poverty. If the aim of water agencies and rural development agencies is to contribute to poverty eradication by improving poor women's and men's access to water, three areas need to be pursued: ~1.Reducing water consumption by the better-off by redefining and reducing their vested rights. ~2. Protecting current water rights of poor women and men. ~3. Developing new infrastructure targeted to poor women and men. Managing water scarcity should not be confined to those who already have access to irrigation. The paper summarises some important lessons from the past decades of irrigation development. Several governmental and non-governmental agencies succeeded in vesting rights to irrigated land and water primarily in poor men, and sometimes in poor women as well. These lessons are still valid, especially in this era of water scarcity.