Farmlands, or agricultural landscapes, captures the interest of a number of researchers based at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University. On this blog we share information about research findings, activities, events and comments related to our work.

Our interest in farmlands has three roots: farming, landscape and society.
Farming as a practice, including farmers knowledge and labour investments
Landscape as society-nature relations, congealed history, and as space and place
Society as a short form for institutions, gender relations, political economy and scientific relevance

Most Welcome to FarmLandS!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The gender dimension of land grabbing in Africa

Prompted by previous posts and by the recent report by Oxfam "Promises, Power, and Poverty. Corporate land deals and rural women in Africa" I would like to focus on the consequences that land deals have on women farmers, who are the backbone of small holder farming in Africa. Private land corporations are mostly interested in the production of soya, jatropha and eucalyptus wiping out small plots used for the production of food crops, mostly in the hands of women farmers.

Women in most of the continent have no property rights and decision making is left in the hands of their husbands who could be potential beneficiaries of monetary compensations or agricultural jobs linked with these deals. Moreover, women´s ecological knowledge is denied. Nevertheless, they are still in charge of food production which means that they have to scramble for resources and eat less, compromising their health. The practice of reducing their own portions or giving up eating during times of hardships is a common practice which women reported also to me during my  fieldwork in Kenya and Tanzania. Obviously women prioritize feeding their children because they do not want to jeopardize their survival of their children. Additionally, in dire times they give more food to their husband  because of patriarcal societal norms endowing men with the role of head of family, even though he is not the main food provider. In relation to this phenomenon Kabeer (1989)  talks of "seasonality of beating" as violence against women is much more frequent during times of food scarcity.

Engaruka in Tanzania, where I carry out fieldwork for my PhD research, is a good example of how small holder agriculture can co-exist with low intensity biofuel production. There in fact, jatropha is used as a hedge bush and planted along irrigation furrows and channels. Picking seeds represent an extra cash income for farmers and a provider of fuel for local provision of electricity, as mentioned by Karin Edberg in her 2010 MA thesis and by a 2009 IIED report.

Against this backdrop women farmers in Tanzania want their sustainable agricultural practices to be acknowledged, facilitated and promoted by the government. Reading different sources one priority emerges in the context of the ongoing constitutional reform: equal property rights for men and women. Among various initiatives promoting this reform with a special focus on the rights of women farmers, my attention was drawn particularly by the Oxfam Female Food Hero Awards (check out the video!) and the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme which in 2011 organized a forum with 4000 women calling for the recognition of women´s food sovereignity in the context of an increasing number of private land acquisitions.

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