New Paper in Water

24 09 2019

In 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting Raj GC at a Multiple-Use Water Services (MUS) retreat at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. Raj is located on the top right of the picture below that was taken during the retreat. Four years later, Raj left his home in Nepal to join our PhD program in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) at Virginia Tech, to study the impacts of MUS in Nepal. On Monday, the first paper of his dissertation was published that explores whether the design of rural water systems in the mid-hills of Nepal impacts how households use water. The paper is open access (thanks to Virginia Tech’s Open Access Subvention Fund) and can be accessed by selecting the title of the paper below.

Abstract

In Nepal, rural water systems (RWS) are classified by practitioners as single-use domestic water systems (SUS) or multiple-use water systems (MUS). In the rural hills of Nepal, subsistence farming communities typically use RWS to support income-generating productive activities that can enhance rural livelihoods. However, there is limited research on the extent of existing productive activity and the factors enabling these activities. This paper examines the extent of water-related productive activities and the factors driving these activities based on a study, undertaken between October 2017 to June 2018, of 202 households served from five single-use domestic water systems and five multiple use water systems in the mid-hills of Nepal. The research found that a majority (94%) of these households engaged in two or more productive activities including growing vegetables and horticulture crops, raising livestock, and producing biogas and Rakshi (locally-produced alcohol), regardless of the system design, i.e., SUS vs. MUS. Around 90% of the households were engaged in productive activities that contributed to over 10% of their mean annual household income ($4,375). Since the SUS vs. MUS classification was not found to be a significant determinant of the extent of productive activity, the households were reclassified as having high or low levels of productive activity based on the quantity of water used for these activities and the associated earned income. A multinomial logistic regression model was developed to measure the relative significance of various predictors of high productive activity households. Five dominant predictors were identified: households that farm as a primary occupation, use productive technologies, are motivated to pursue productive activities, have received water-related productive activity training, and have received external support related to productive activities. Whereas MUS are designed for productive activity, nearly every household in SUS communities was involved in productive activities making them ‘de-facto’ MUS. These results challenge the current approach to rural water provision that views SUS and MUS as functionally different services.





Congratulations Kaitlyn Spangler!

24 04 2018

Congratulations to Kaitlyn Spangler for successfully defending her thesis entitled “When he comes home, then he can decide”: Male out-migration, the feminization of agriculture, and integrated pest management in the Nepali mid-hills.

Kaitlyn Spangler and Dr. Maria Elisa Christie

Kaitlyn’s research focused on gendered processes of male out-migration and their relation to IPM practices. See her abstract below for more information on her main findings.

I served as a member of Kaitlyn’s thesis committee, along with Dr. Maria Elisa Christie (committee chair), and Dr. Luke Juran (committee member).

Abstract:

As part of a USAID-funded integrated pest management (IPM) project, this thesis presents research conducted in the Midwestern mid-hills of Nepal across four communities. We used mixed methodologies to conduct semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observation with local farmers and NGOs. Through a feminist political ecology (FPE) lens, the goal was to better understand how the feminization of agriculture affects and is affected by IPM practices and decision-making. This research responds to a growing interest within development in the feminization of agriculture as a potentially empowering or disempowering global process of change, conceptualized through the ways that male out-migration affects the labor and decision-making roles of women and other household members left behind on the farm. We find that contextual factors change the implications of the feminization of agriculture narrative. Co-residence with in-laws and different migration patterns affect the dynamic and varied nature of household structure and headship. Furthermore, migration patterns have pushed women to take on new agricultural duties and manage increasing household labor responsibilities. Yet, IPM vegetable cultivation is changing how farmers use and value their land through increasing crop diversification. These agricultural decision-making processes extend beyond the household, and participation in community spaces through the IPM project may contest traditional gender norms. We contend that the heterogeneity of household power dynamics muddies the potentially empowering or disempowering effects of the feminization of agriculture, and we emphasize the importance of community spaces as a locus of decision-making in the sustainability of new agricultural technologies.