The gendered division of labor is prevalent among many drylands communities. In their daily chores, men focus on market-oriented activities such as crop or livestock production. Women carry out household and farm chores that include nurturing the land, growing food crops, collecting firewood and fetching water.
With an increase in migration, these traditional roles are breaking down. Although women make up half the number of international migrants, men constitute a majority of the rural-to-urban seasonal and permanent environmental migrants. This migration often is necessary because of drought in the drylands. These developments have a profound impact on families, with unequal consequences for men and women.
When men migrate, women take on the additional roles of cash crop and livestock production and marketing, and become providers of security for the young and aged. This increases women’s workload and responsibilities, even as it enables them to become key decision-makers at the household level. By contrast, the men left behind do not necessarily become caregivers or take on new domestic roles. Where the migration is seasonal, crises of leadership develop when men return.