07 May 2024
 | 07 May 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Through a Different Lens: Unravelling Perspectives on Women's Roles in Farming and Drought Resilience

Anna Kosovac and Madeline Grupper

Abstract. A gender difference exists in the access to resources and inclusion in decision-making in issues of drought and women are overwhelmingly denied a ‘voice’ in such a landscape (Clarke 2014). This is particularly prevalent in irrigation and farming communities which carry on a legacy of patriarchal stewardship over farming and agricultural matters. This study considers the role of women in farming practice in the Mallee Region and how they view their position as decision-makers in drought and water management. This study presents three key findings from interviews of women within the region: women are increasingly adopting the label ‘farmer’ so that they can be ‘counted’ and given decision-making power regarding drought and water. Interviewees also stated a distinct difference in gender relations within horticultural dryland farming, compared to irrigation farming. Namely, many found that that gender dynamics were more progressive and equal within dryland. Some stated that this was due to many irrigation farmers being recent migrants and more likely to have traditional gender roles in their own family units, resulting in a perceived subordination of women. The dynamic between white settler farming women and those who had recently settled in the area (migrants) was wholly unexpected and highlights a potential ‘us-and-them’ distinction in farming. Despite the psychological distance of drought during the time of the interviews (many had recently experienced flooding), there was nevertheless a strong sense of the danger of drought, and the foreboding sense that it was coming. Interviewees stated that women were pivotal during times of drought as they were the ones to draw on community networks for help, to apply for grants, and also to supplement family income from off-farm work.

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Anna Kosovac and Madeline Grupper

Status: open (until 02 Jul 2024)

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Anna Kosovac and Madeline Grupper
Anna Kosovac and Madeline Grupper


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Short summary
The paper explores how women in farming communities face exclusion from drought decision-making. They're adopting the farmer label for influence. Gender dynamics differ in dryland versus irrigation farming, shaped by tradition and migration. Women are vital during drought, tapping into community help and seeking off-farm income. Recent floods don't lessen awareness of drought risk.