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Gender, Water, and Climate Change in Sonora, Mexico: implications for policies and programmes on agricultural income-generation

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S. Buechler
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This study seeks to understand the threat of climate change for female farmers in two Mexican communities (Terrenate, population 343, and San Ignacio, population 720) in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Using feminist research methodologies to interview subjects, and mapping different points in the production cycle from sowing to canning and marketing, it reflects the centrality of women in food production and in enabling social cohesion and support.The paper outlines climate-related impacts in Sonora in the last decade, including the decline of traditional crops such as plums and apricots, which are ill-suited to the higher average temperatures and erratic rainfall. Water scarcity is already a major issue in the region, contributing to volatile food prices – for example, wheat prices rose 130 per cent between September 2007 and 2008. Growing demand for water from urban areas and for non-agricultural uses has resulted in a 40 per cent drop in cropped area in the state between 1996 and 2004.The author emphasises the role that agriculture plays beyond that of food production. She notes that canned goods form part of an important gift economy, which fosters social networks and provides safety nets, extending beyond the state to incorporate the many relatives and friends who have migrated over the border into the USA. The study suggests policy and programmatic measures which include providing access to skills training for women and planting drought-resistant trees to improve soil and provide fuel. The study concludes that the lack of opportunities for women in other sectors (low-income, insecure factory jobs) means that climate change and water scarcity could result in a breakdown of social cohesion.

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