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122 women uplifted in land reform venture in Hazyview

The beneficiaries of the Giba Communal Property Association's land reform programme have been given opportunities in the agriculture sector.

The commemoration of Women’s Month has once again shone the spotlight on the challenges that impede the development of women in the agricultural sector. Despite these challenges, a community of female farmers who are beneficiaries of the land reform programme from the Giba Communal Property Association (CPA) in Hazyview, have overcome these obstacles and have already created 122 jobs for women in the agriculture sector.

These female farmers have bucked the trend of the obstacles outlined in the 2022 Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) Quarter 1, which found that black African women are the most vulnerable, with an unemployment rate of 40.6%.

According to the association’s secretary, Zelda Maseko, the capitalised agricultural zone comprising of bananas, avocados, macadamias and other high value orchards, employs 256 people who come from the communities adjacent to the farm.

“The majority of the workers here are women. This is our intervention to directly empower women from the area. We also produce ginger, and for that part of the produce, 100 part-time workers have been employed. Our view is that women can play a significant role in farming, and as land reform beneficiaries we have been able to establish partnerships that have enabled us to make this land profitable. Similar initiatives can significantly narrow the unemployment gaps in communities, and improve employment opportunities and skills for more women,” Maseko said.

The CPA owes part of its success to the interventions spearheaded by the Vumelana Advisory Fund, a non-profit organisation that assists beneficiaries of the land reform programme to develop their land in an effective and sustainable way.

Commenting on the reported widespread failure of many land reform programmes, Maseko, who has been with the Giba CPA for three years, said, “It is a futile exercise to award people land, particularly agricultural land, without complementing that with training on how to use it productively. Land allocation should be preceded by training first and financial support is equally important. The communities should be encouraged to form co-operatives as well as assisted with funding to start up. Then more women should be roped in and assisted in setting up markets for their produce.”

Despite the success they have achieved in retaining the productivity of the claimant land, Maseko said the CPA still faces structural and cultural challenges.

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“For as long as stereotypes persist that women cannot perform certain functions, equal representation will remain a dream. To address this, the reform process should become more inclusive and provide full and equal opportunities for both men and women. Women should be afforded an opportunity to become farm managers and human resource personnel, as opposed to being relegated to the periphery or confined only to administrative roles.”

“Our communities still do not have a commitment to embrace the potential of women in agriculture in management roles. There is still a bias towards men. There needs to be a proper sharing of skills with women, and this could be done through interventions such as intensive training and regular workshops.”

The agricultural sector has an important role to play to eradicate unemployment and upskill women. However, the industry is constrained by patriarchal practices that constrain it from reaching its full potential.

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“Our land reform process could play a meaningful role to eradicate poverty and unemployment, particularly for women from the previously disadvantaged communities. In our committees and associations, we need to ensure that we strike a balance with regard to equal representation. Admittedly, a lot has been achieved in the sector but more still needs to be done to uplift women. We would like to see land reform creating more opportunities for our community, particularly for our women,” Maseko said.

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