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.

Author Biography

Ms. Sithembile Amanda Sinyolo is an Agricultural Production Manager at a non-profit social enterprise called Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA). FTFA emphasizes education and skills training among smallholders, mentoring and supporting them, to address the issues of food security and environmental sustainability. Ms. Sinyolo completed her Master of Agriculture (Food Security) degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2015. Her research focuses on gender, food security and smallholder irrigation. Food and Trees for Africa, PO Box 2035, Gallo Manor, Johannesburg, 2052, South Africa.

Dr. Sikhulumile Sinyolo is a Research Specialist in the Economic Performance and Development (EPD) research programme. He holds an MSc and PhD in Agricultural Economics, both from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His research interests include the rural development, smallholder irrigation, gender, food security and the economics of grassroots innovations and rural entrepreneurship. Dr. Sinyolo has authored several peer-reviewed journal articles on these subject areas that have been published in local and international peer-reviewed journals. Economic Performance and Development, Human Sciences Research Council, Private Bag X41, Pretoria, 0001, South Africa.

Dr. Maxwell Mudhara is an Agricultural Economist with more than 20 years of experience. He lectures at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and is the director of the Farmer Support Group (FSG). FSG is a community development, outreach and research centre. He holds a PhD degree in Food and Resource Economics from the University of Florida, Gainesville, USA. His experience is in farming systems research and extension, participatory approaches, and economics of smallholder farming systems and impact assessment and food security analysis. Dr. Mudhara has published many peer-reviewed papers in international journals and book chapters. In 2016 he co-authored a book titled “Community innovations in Sustainable land management: Lessons from the field in Africa”. Discipline of Agricultural Economics, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Dr. Catherine Ndinda is a Chief Research Specialist in Economic Performance and Development unit of the Human Science Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa. She is an affiliate of Development Studies, University of South Africa (UNISA). She holds PhD in Social Science and MSc in Urban and Regional Planning (Development) both from Natal University. She has been a principal investigator in national and provincial studies on monitoring and evaluation in South Africa. In 2014 she was the principal investigator in the national study Baseline assessment for the future impact evaluation of informal settlements targeted for upgrading, which was also presented the UN Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador. She has collaborated in multi-country studies covering at least six African countries (Kenya, Malawi, Cameroun, Togo, Nigeria and South Africa). Her research focus is on policy analysis, monitoring and evaluation (design assessment, baseline assessments and impact evaluations), human settlements, gender studies. Her current research focus is on post-apartheid housing policy and practice. She is currently the principal investigator in a synthesis evaluation: An evaluation of interventions by the Department of Human Settlements in facilitating access to the city for poor households. She has published widely in the field of gender studies.