Women’s empowerment through restoration of salt affected lands: a case study of three districts in Pakistan
About the paper
In this context, this paper studies the role of women with their male partners in the achievements of a community based UNDP Project Biosaline-II [2006-2012] “A Community Development Project for Rehabilitation of Salt Affected and Waterlogged Lands”. The Project is aimed at restoration of salt affected lands in districts Sargodha, Hafizabad and Jhang and creation of income generation activities for farming communities, particularly women. The project draws its pedigree from two pilots conducted in the same area namely: (i) Joint Satiana Pilot Project [JSPP] [1994-1997] and Biosaline-I Project [1998-2002]. A mix of bio-saline and reclamation approach is tried under the project. It has a wide assortment of interventions being used for restoration of salt affected and waterlogged lands. The project repertoire includes soil reclamation with gypsum; re-vegetation through growing salt tolerant crops, trees, grasses and salt bushes; tree nurseries, tube wells, implement pools, fish ponds, kitchen gardens and on the top of it capacity building of target communities, particularly women. The project harnesses traditional knowledge of farmers and scientific innovations in the field. Women are playing directly or indirectly their role in all project activities but more specifically they are involved in tree nurseries and kitchen gardens and earning a reasonable income out of it. The notable feature of the project is that it is being implemented on cost sharing basis with the communities partnering with implementation of project.
The project formally launched its operations during September 2006. And, as of April 2012, degraded land to the size of 71,790 ha has successfully been rehabilitated, besides installation of 350 tubewells, establishment of 357 implement pools, 63 fish farms, 400 demonstration trials on farmers’ land, 4518 kitchen gardens, and 130 nurseries of forest and fruit trees. On community mobilization front, project has formed 493 male and 170 female Community Organizations [COs] with membership exceeding 19664 and 3648 respectively. In order to lend permanence and sustainability to these nascent social institution, 40 of them have been got registered with respective District Governments as Citizen Community Boards [CCBs]. 1595 members of these COs have been trained on Community Management Skills and basic knowledge needed for salinity management techniques. As a result of efforts put in by project team and also having benefitted of project interventions, the target communities have fully adopted the project approach as it has played significant role in reversal of desertification of their lands caused by salinity and water-logging.
Keeping in view the remarkable achievements of project vis-à-vis assigned targets and the fact that project is nearing completion, a rapid assessment of impact of project success on lives of women who remained directly or indirectly involved in project implementation was carried out in project districts. The paper summarizes the results of the survey with a view if restoration of degraded land has any impact on the lives of women in project area.
In order to conduct survey, a questionnaire was developed and a team of female Social Organizers of project was trained to approach respondents and seek their responses. The questionnaire was pretested on actual respondents through trained female Social Organizers under the supervision of Gender and Social Sector Specialist of Project. Detailed debriefing sessions were held and questionnaire was modified in the light of feedback of enumerators. Pretested questionnaire containing battery of open ended, closed ended and multiple choice questions was administered to 120 randomly selected female respondents, 40 drawn from each project district. The data collected through survey was tabulated and analyzed mostly using percentages and averages.
Results on socio-economic profile of respondents show that average age of respondents is 41 years, 81% of them are married, 14% are unmarried and 4% are widows. Average family size of respondents is 6 with an equal number of males and females. Average age at the time of marriage is 22 years. Literacy count of respondents reveals that 35% of them are illiterate, 38% are primary drop outs, 14% are primary graduates, 10% middle, 15% are matriculate and 11% have received education up to higher secondary level. Average monthly income of respondent families is Rs. 16,605. Agriculture is major source of income for 90% respondents whereas livestock and poultry count 37% and 11% respectively. 53% of respondents draw their income from both agriculture and livestock, whereas agriculture, livestock and poultry form source of income for 11% respondents.
Analysis of data collected on landownership pattern shows that 37% of the respondents are landladies. Of 19% ownership of respondents ranges from 1 to 5 acres, 12% between 6 to 12 acres and 4% between 13 to 25 acres; whereas, none of respondents owns more than 25% acres agricultural land. Land ownership statistics exhibits that 51% households owns land between 1-5 acres, 26% between 6 to 12 acres, 19% between 13 to 25% and only 1% respondent household owns land more than 25 acres. Data on size of degraded land reads that affected land of 65% of respondent households ranges from 1 to 5 acres, degraded land of 16% respondents falls between 6 to 12 acres and that of 13% between 13 to 25 acres. None of the respondent household owns more than 25 acres of degraded land. History of degradation of land tells that land of 56% of respondents was out of production for more than 20 years when project started its operations in the area. Similarly, 33% of respondents reported that their land was out of production for 10 to 15 years before arrival of project. 6% respondents reported that their land was contracted menace of salinity for 6 years before start of project. Only 15% of respondents stated that they treated their affected land through chemical [2%] and biological [13%] means. Of this 15%, 60% expressed their satisfaction on efficacy of treatment. On the other hand, data on livestock ownership shows that, respondents own 03 buffaloes, 02 cows and 01 goat. 73% respondents reported that their animals are kept at farm, 12% stated that animals are kept at their courtyards and 2% reported both at farm and courtyard.
Extent of participation of respondents [Women] in different agricultural, livestock and poultry activities is discussed below.
Data collected on women participation in agricultural related activities indicates that involvement of women in agriculture sector is overwhelming at all stages of production cycle. Their involvement is more intensive in transplanting, sowing, weeding, hoeing, seed preparation, harvesting, and picking of vegetables, fruits and storage of grain. Whereas, their role in marketing the farm produce is relatively less prominent.
Livestock is an important sub-sector of agriculture and women play important role in livestock management. Their involvement in livestock management includes fodder cutting and feeding animals, milking, churning milk, grazing animals, collecting spreading farmyard manure and preparing dung cakes to be used as major source of fuel. Since animal raring is directly dependent upon agriculture, therefore any improvement in soil composition bound to impact the growth of livestock sector and thereby providing more employment opportunities for women in rural areas.
Likewise response of survey participants on their participation in poultry related activities shows that 72% respondents are involved in feeding poultry birds, their involvement in collecting and packing eggs is 83%, 72% in feed preparation and 34% in vaccination.
Time use analysis of respondents shows that at average time expenditure on household chores, farm related activities and livestock management comes to 10 hours per day. Of these 10 hours, 5 hours [50%] time goes to household chores, 3 hours [27%] to farm activities, and 2 hours [23%]. Direct and indirect involvement of respondents in project interventions gypsum application, tree plantation, tubewells, implement pools, kitchen gardens, and CMSTs remain 95%, 52%, 34%, 63%, 59%, 100% and 77% respectively. This shows overwhelming participation of women in project activities which again corroborate the fact that agriculture is a women intensive activity in this part of world.
Analysis shows rehabilitation of salt affected land brings about an increase of 10 maunds per acre for both rice and wheat. This means an additional income of PKR 22500 per acre per annum. This means rehabilitation of five acres of land, which is a size of land, rehabilitated on an average, yield an additional dividend of PKR 112500. In other words this results in an additional income of PKR 9375 per month. Expenditure pattern of this additional income shows that 28% of this additional income is spent on health, 27% on education, 12% on social functions like marrying off their young ones, 11% on purchase on new implement pools, 5% on purchasing additional agricultural land and 1% is spent on elsewhere. So far as, expenditure of this additional income on purchase of home appliances is concerned, analysis of respondents’ responses reveals that 20% of them purchased TV, 19% bought mobile phones, 19% purchased fan and 14% iron, 7% refrigerator, 5% each washing machine and sewing machine and 8% donkey pump and 4% elsewhere.
Regarding control of additional income generated through rehabilitation of salt affected lands and its impact on lives of respondents [Women], analyses of survey data makes interesting revelations. 96% participants respondents responded that head household controls this additional income. Only in 4% cases, answer was that women control this additional income.
TABLE-4 Control of income generated through rehabilitation of land
However, another analysis of reads that 26% of respondents has reported that nothing out of additional income of rehabilitated land is placed at their disposal, whereas 35 reported 1 to 5%, 9% reported up to 10%, 5% reported between 11 to 15%, 16% reported between 16 to 20%, 2% reported between 25 to 30%, 5% between 35 to 40% and 2% reported that between 41 to 50% of additional income is placed at their disposal.
While responding to a question on impact of additional income on the lives of women, 88% stated that it resulted in improvement of their family life. Similarly, 88% responded that additional income has resulted in reduction of family related disputes. 85% of the women were of the view that it has increased their personal belongings. On improved role in decision making process, reply of 59% respondents was in affirmative. 77% women responded that increased family income out of rehabilitated lands has increased proportion of their expenditure on health related issues.
While responding to questions related to utility of Community Organizations created under the project as a social institution providing a forum to discuss issues of mutual interest, besides implementation of project interventions, 88% of respondents reported that CO institution help them cultivate new relationships. An overwhelming majority of 99% reported the CO as a useful institution to discuss issues of mutual interest. While responding to question that usually what type of issues are discussed in CO meetings other than project interventions, a mix response was education, health, rising inflation, prevailing political trends, and borrowing and lending of money to meet their domestic needs. As to regularity and frequency of CO meeting, 70% reported that monthly CO meetings are convened regularly and they attend these meetings at their own free will. As to sustainability of CO meetings, 67% reported that they would continue holding monthly meetings during post project period, whereas response of 33% respondents on this count was not in affirmative.
The primary premise of paper has been to see if activities of Biosaline-II Project which are aimed to restore salt affected and waterlogged lands in three rural districts of Punjab, Pakistan on cost sharing bases with partnering interest groups by mobilizing and organizing them in male and female Community Organizations has led to women empowerment. Empowerment means to provide for positive change in status and effective and increased role in decision making process. Measuring women empowerment being an abstract and intangible concept is, however, a difficult task. Measurement indices like Gender Gap Index [GGI], Gender related Development Index [GDI], Human Development Index [HDI] and Gender Empowerment Measures [GEM] are used to measure women empowerment at higher levels of policy making. However, to make this higher order concept understandable, women empowerment has been confined to two determinants; economic empowerment and social empowerment (Women Empowerment in Pakistan ─ A Scoping Study). Economic empowerment entails, inter alia, livelihood, exploiting opportunities for income generation, and labour in formal and informal sector. While social development includes securing equal access to education and health care, right to safe and sufficient food. This also spills over to organizing women into interest groups to give them sense of ownership and enhancing their capabilities to earn better living for themselves and for their families.
Given the socio-cultural background of sub-continent and particularly its patriarchal structure of rural communities and centuries old subjugation of women folk since the dawn of concept of private property, it would be more idealistic than practical to expect dramatic improvement in the status of women as a result of this small intervention like Biosaline-II Project. However, trends of field survey data when interpreted keeping in view the measures of economic and social empowerment as determined above indicate at improvement in socio-economic status of women of target communities. For instance project has rehabilitated 70, 790 ha slat affected and waterlogged lands thus creating employment opportunities for women who constitutes 74.2% of total labour force works in agriculture sector and spends 50% of daily productive time in farm and livestock related activities. This generates additional food and income for farm families 28% and 27% of which is spent on health and education of families. Availability of improved health care and access to education is an important indicator of women empowerment. Significant change in land ownership pattern has also been observed as 37% of respondents [women] own land as oppose to dismally low figure of 2.8% at national level. On the other hand whatever meager income is placed at the disposal of women, major chunk of it is spent on purchase of home appliances most of them purely related women’s domestic roles like iron, washing machine, sewing machine and donkey pump. It may interest the readers that 88% of respondents reported that increase in income as a result of rehabilitation of degraded land has resulted in improving filial ties and in reduction in domestic quarrels on petty issues. 85% of respondents have reported that they use this income to enrich assortment of their personal belongings like clothes, shoes and jewelry. Similarly, 59% of respondents are of the view that prosperity in family has increased their say in family related issues. All these indicate improvement in quality of life of women.
Achievements of project on social empowerment of women are relatively more eloquent. The project has formed 170 Community Organizations of Women Interest Groups [WIGs] with membership exceeding 3648. Activists of these WIGs have been imparted trainings on Community Management Skills, besides providing technical knowhow on handling farm activities and allied sectors thereby improving their capability to turn their green into gold. 70% of the respondents have reported that they regularly hold monthly CO meetings. 88% respondents have mentioned that formation of CO has helped them cultivate new as well as strengthened existing relationship through regular meetings. An overwhelming majority of 99% respondents has termed the CO a useful institution to discuss a wide range of social issues and benefit from each other’s experience. 67% has stated that they will continue holding CO meetings even after project closures. This speaks of sustainability of institution of CO created under the project.
The above discourse clearly suggests that restoration of degraded lands and subsequent increased in per acre yield has significant potential to bring about positive change in socio-economic status of women working in agriculture and its allied sectors and thereby creating positive change in gender division of roles determined by patriarchal mindset since the advent of institution of private property. The result can be better achieved by including women empowerment as one of the goals of such projects and by putting more women specific interventions on project repertoires.
1. Government of Punjab. 2009 Punjab Development Statistics, Bureau of Statistics, Lahore
2. Government of Pakistan. 2008. Agricultural Statistics of Pakistan 2007-2008 Published by Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Division (Economic Wing), Islamabad.
3. Pakistan National Human Development Report 2003, UNDP, Islamabad
4. Planning & Design Division (Water), WAPDA. 2004. Monthly Progress Reports, Water Wing, WAPDA, (June 2004).
5. Qureshi, R.H. and E.G. Barrett-Lennard. 1998. Saline Agriculture for Irrigated Land in Pakistan: A Handbook, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Canberra, Australia.
6. Shah, A.H., Anwar Ul Haq and M.N. Bhutta. 2003. Success of Bio-Saline Approach for Land Rehabilitation: Pakistan Community Development Project for Rehabilitation of Saline and Waterlogged Land. IWASRI Report No.2003/22. pp. 22.
7. Shah, A.H., Khalid H. Gill and N.I. Syed. 2011. Experience of Bio-Saline Approach for Rehabilitation of Salt Affected Lands in Pakistan. Proc. 71st Annual Session 2006-2010, Pakistan Engineering Congress. Volume -71 (Part-2).pp.415-425.
8. Water Resources Planning Organization (WRPO) and International Waterlogging & Salinity Research Institute of Land Reclamation, Punjab Lahore (IWASRI). 2005. Drainage Master Plan of Pakistan. Volume II Main Report.
9. Government of Punjab, Pakistan. Tehsil Based Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) Punjab 2007-2008
10. Rural Poverty in Pakistan – Some Related Concepts, Issues and Empirical Analysis. Pakistan Economic and Social Review Vol-44 No.2 (Winter 2006) pp. 259-276
11. Compendium on Gender Statistics 2004. Statistics Division, Government of Pakistan 2006.
12. Berry L., Olson J., and Campbell D. 2003. Assessing the Extent, Cost and Impact of Land Degradation At the National Level: Findings and Lessons Learned From Seven Pilot Case Studies.
13. Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook 2008. A Publication of World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, and International Fund for Agriculture Development.
14. Human Development Report 2011 – UNDP
15. Pakistan Labour Force Survey 2011. Government of Pakistan, Statistics Division, Bureau of Statistics.
16. Pakistan Employment Trends 2011. Government of Pakistan, Statistics Division, Bureau of Statistics.
17. Satyavathi Tara C., Bharadwaj Ch., and Brahmanand P.S. 2010. Role of Farm Women in Agriculture: Lessons Learned. Gender Technology and Development 14:441.
18. Bhutto Abdul Waheed and Ahmed Aqeel 2007. Sustainable Agriculture and Eradication of Rural Poverty in Pakistan. Natural Resource Forum 31(2007) pp. 253-262.
19. Rubina Saigol 2011. Women Empowerment in Pakistan – A Scoping Study. A Publication of Aurat Foundation under Gender Equity Programme.
20. Shah Naeem, Haq Ikramul, and Khan Naushad 2010. Women Empowerment and Livelihood