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Women's local knowledge of water resources and adaptation to landscape change in the mountains of Veracruz, Mexico

Maria Kernecker, Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) e.V.
Christian R. Vogl, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Araceli Aguilar Meléndez, Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales, Universidad Veracruzana


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Rural development shaped by global pressures aims to improve livelihoods and market access in remote communities. However, rural development measures can alter landscapes, and change the embedded natural resources and access to them. In Mexico, rural women and their livelihoods are frequently most affected by changes in water resources. This study focused on women in Coatitilán, a small community (population 255) in the mountains of Veracruz, Mexico. A road construction project blocked the main pipe that distributes water throughout the community. Also, river water was unusable for women living downstream of a trout cultivation project. Participant observation and interviews were used to determine how women in Coatitilán dealt with limited water access and reduced quality. Women’s local knowledge of the landscape highlighted the location of water springs that had previously been used infrequently, and underlined the importance of vegetation in controlling water resources. Women’s local knowledge of climate demonstrated local expressions for weather, and highlighted the importance of prayer for dealing with unforeseen events. Kinship provided several women with access to water from privately owned springs. This study shows that women in Coatitilán adapted their water management by relying on their local knowledge of landscape and climate, and on social networks. These results suggest that women’s local knowledge could play an important role in planning development projects, and it helps women adapt to abrupt changes.

Key words

Mexico; resilience; rural development; water use and management

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087