Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Rural Women and Land, the Inseparable Twins: A Case of South Africa

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Rural Women and Land, the Inseparable Twins: A Case of South Africa

Article excerpt

Land is a socio-economic resource that is critical in the livelihoods of rural people. Despite this reality, rural women in South Africa continue to be marginalised in policy formulation, implementation and other land related processes owing to patriarchal dictates, cultural norms and values that seem to preserve the status quo. The current article argues that since women constitute the bulk of the labour force in the farming sector, are heavily involved in subsistence farming, reside mostly in the rural areas and are the country's poorest makes their participation in land processes more compelling. Failure to incorporate women in such processes impacts negatively on their development. Firstly, the article briefly discusses the land question in relation to women in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. Further, the importance of land to the livelihoods of rural women is addressed. The article further discusses the land related challenges that rural women in post-apartheid South Africa still face. The paper concludes by proposing ways that are likely to strengthen women's position in land processes.

Key words: land, poverty alleviation, rural women, South Africa

For centuries, women particularly those in rural areas, have been connected to land in various ways and to vaiying degrees. They have used the land for both social and agricultural purposes. Rural women have utilised the land to build their houses, hold their social gatherings, perform cultural ceremonies, draw their water, for poultiy farming, for their vegetable gardens and to grow crops for both domestic and export purposes (Himonga and Munachonga, 1991; Food and Agriculture Organization: FAO, 2003; International Fund for Agricultural Development: IFAD, 2011, Sibanda, 2012). Basically, land has been rural women's source of livelihood. In both the agricultural and the rural economy, rural women have provided the bulk of the labour force in the production, processing and marketing of food (FAO, 2003). Statistics provided by SOFA Team and Doss (2011) indicate that women comprise almost 43 percent of the labour force globally and in developing countries. They also constitute 50 percent of sub- Saharan Africa's labour force (Sofa Team and Doss, 2011). Further, information obtained from the June survey by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA, 1997) showed that there were 210 women for eveiy 100 men employed on farms in the 'former homelands', which constitute democratic South Africa's rural areas. Data from the survey showed that a substantial proportion of these women were engaged in subsistence agriculture. Despite women's laudable contribution in both the agricultural economy and societal growth, 70 percent of world's poor are women (United Nations, 1997; FAO, 2008). They face numerous impediments of which lack of participation in land related processes, access and control of land, credit, agricultural inputs and assets and greater time burdens than men are some of them (Mokgope, 2000; Blom, 2006; FAO, 2008; Moagi, 2008; IFAD, 2011). This viewpoint is reiterated by Sibanda (2012) who posits that although women farmers are the guardians of food security, they still encounter numerous land related challenges such as lack of access to land, credit, technology, improved seeds and fertiliser. In the same vein, Cross (1999) asserts that women's control of land is insignificant as they cannot make important decisions without the consent of a male figure of that household. Added to women's predicament is the fact that they have no voice in the development of agricultural policies designed to improve their productivity (Sibanda, 2012).

Arguments such as those stated above and the relationship that exists between women and their land present a strong case for their inclusion in land related processes. Gladwin and Macmillan (1989) cited in Tshatsinde (1993) share similar sentiments and allude to the fact that if rural development is to take a firm root, rural women have to be involved in the development process, not as observers but in policy making and its implementation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.