Women from poor, rural communities in the Northeast have been historically described in songs and movies as strong enough to carry a metal barrel full of water for miles. They are now leaving the heavy weight behind them and better using their time for activities that improve their livelihoods.
For these women, this is the best outcome from investments into water and local agricultural sectors, according to a new World Bank report.
Fetching water for everyday use is still the daily task which takes up the largest amount of women’s time in the Northeast. But things have changed in Rio Grande do Norte, where 2,700 initiatives supported by the Bank have benefited 90,000 families over eight years.
According to the study, carried out in 20 communities, women reduced the time spent on this task and on other household activities. They were then able to dedicate this time to farming activities, increasing agricultural income and food security.
They also had more time to work away from their farms, leading to a 30% rise in their families’ income.
“I used to struggle to do the washing up. Now I can do it more quickly. I have more time for other things,” explains Rita de Cassia, from Jatoba, a community descended from former slaves.
“We harvest, we sell. Every Saturday I take the produce to the local market, where I can make BRL 70, 90 or even 100,” comments Geralda da Silva, from 8 de Março Settlement.
“Water brought immediate benefits to all the families surveyed. It allowed them to have more time to do other activities, rest or simply play with their families,” says Fatima Amazonas, who coordinated the case study and managed the World Bank’s Rio Grande do Norte Rural Poverty Reduction Project.