On January 13, 2021, ReWater MENA project organized the 3rd National Learning Alliance (NLA) meeting on “Enhancing the Role of Women’s Engagement in the Agricultural Sector in Jordan Valley: Challenges and Solutions”. The meeting was held at Al Yarmouk Protectorate of Bani Kinanah District in the Northern Valley. The participants included a number of women working in the agricultural sector at Northern Jordan Valley, the Regional Project Manager of ReWater MENA project; Dr. Nisreen Lahham, the representative of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Mr. Hamza Bani Yassin, and the representative ReWater’s partner in Jordan, Dr. Al Moayied Assayed, Head of the Water Studies Department at the Royal Scientific Society of Jordon.
ReWater MENA project is a regional project funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) through its regional office headed by Dr. Amgad El-Mahdi. The project is running in three countries in the MENA region; Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, in partnership with many entities and organizations at the local, regional and international levels including: the Arab Countries Water Utilities Association (ACWUA), the Arab Water Council (AWC), the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, The Royal Scientific Society of Jordan (RSS), the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI), and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Egypt.
The project aims to expand the safe reuse of the treated waste water in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by addressing barriers to reuse and identifying validated reuse models through inclusive and participatory engagement with stakeholders, to support the reuse of treated waste water (TWW). In this regard, the project equip key stakeholders in the three countries, by forming high level Steering Committees, to provide scientific knowledge for the project in the countries concerned, in addition to the National Learning Alliances in each country to identify the stakeholders’ opinions on water reuse, starting from policy makers to the farmer.
Among the project objectives, is gender mainstreaming as an approach to promote gender equity, due to the differences in responsibilities, activities and concerns between women and men in the agricultural sector. The gender dimension also entails the need to assess the impact of agricultural and water policies, programs and projects on both women and men at all levels before making any decision to support the most affected category. Hence, Jordon’s Third National Steering Committee meeting amps up on the role of women’s engagement in agriculture and the challenges they face in all stages of the Food Value Chain, from attaining the agricultural inputs to agricultural production, harvesting and marketing, including irrigation and the reuse of treated waste water in particular.
The NLA meeting began with a presentation to display the project’s goals in Jordan, presented by Dr. Al Moayied Assayed and Nancy Al-ziq from the Royal Scientific Society (RSS), in which they discussed Jordan’s pioneering role in reusing treated waste water. As mentioned by Dr. Assayed, the treatment takes place in Jordan in 33 stations, where the percentage of treated water reaches about 15% of the total available water resources. Dr. Assayed highlighted the important role of women in the agricultural sector as women’s engagement in this sector reaches 62%. Other project’s activities implemented by RSS were presented, including field experiments on the long term impact of the treated waste water on agricultural soils.
Dr. Nisreen Lahham, the representative of IWMI, presented the project’s goals and activities, highlighting the gender dimension of the project, focusing on promoting the role of women in the agricultural sector and irrigation water management. She also presented some results of the field studies conducted in Egypt, regarding the challenges faced by women in the agricultural sector in Egypt, comparing them with the challenges faced by employed women in the agricultural sector in Jordan.
Mr. Hamza Bani Yassin, from the Swedish Embassy, indicated the main areas the Swedish Embassy works on; democracy, human rights and sustainable environmental development at the regional level. He referred to ReWater MENA project and pointed the differences in the project’s objectives in the three countries according to the local context of these countries and the extent of their progress in water reuse.
Israa Al-Youssef, from Tamkeen Center, presented the results of a study on women’s role in the agricultural sector, followed by another presentation by Faeda Al Awarmeh, from the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development / Sheikh Hussein Center in Northern Jordan Valley, who displayed the most prominent agricultural projects of the center and the role of employed women in the agricultural sector. From the academic field, Dr. Sanaa Al-Sayed, University of Philadelphia presented the results of her study on the psychological impact of water scarcity and climate change on employed women in agriculture in Jordan Valley. From Agricultural Cooperative Associations, some local women experiments in agriculture and irrigation water management were presented too.
The meeting ended up with a brainstorming session on the role of women in the Food Value Chain in Jordan Valley along with the most distinguished challenges and the proposed solutions, mainly for water reuse. Among the challenges that were mentioned, are the low income and the increased working hours for women, regardless their other responsibilities related to childcare, nutrition, cooking and cleaning. On the other hand, some pioneering experiences of women’s work in agriculture in Jordan Valley were mentioned, especially in the field of date palm plantations.
Finally, the meeting emphasized on the importance of women development in order to create real change in the agricultural and irrigation sector due to the great influence of women. Women participants expressed their interest in using treated waste water in case they are assured of its quality standards with no health risks associated with this usage and long-term negative impacts on crops and trees. The Royal Scientific Society representatives mentioned that the findings of their field trials were transferred to the main stakeholders; the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and the Ministry of Agriculture. The women participants proposed a number of incentive policies for wastewater reuse such as increasing the water quota for users of the treated waste water.
It is planned to share the results of this meeting with the Arab countries through a regional meeting in collaboration with the Arab Water Council (AWC) and the League of Arab States in a side event at the Arab Water Forum organized by the AWC in September 2021 in Abu Dhabi, to in a policy-science dialogue, aiming to define solutions and informed policies that to mainstream the use of treated wastewater in the Arab region.