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Rural women in land rights breakthrough

Monday, October 15, 2018 - 13:34

A Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) group formed in 2015 has led by example in Nyanga District Manicaland Province that women can own productive land and have successful farming ventures.  Named Shingai in Shona which means persevere, the group, comprises of 15 members, all women with nine of them being above 35 years while six are below 35. They are from Manyau Village in Ward 13 Samanyika, Nyamaropa in Nyanga.

The RWA is an initiative supported by the Diocese of Mutare Community Care Programme (DOMCCP), in partnership with ActionAid, which has seen women forming groups to speak with one voice on issues affecting them. This provides safe spaces for women to come together for socio-economic support, advocate for their rights and engage in livelihood activities.

Manyau Village has fertile soils and situated near a river called Murozi which provides water for the community farming projects. Potato farming is the main source of livelihood in the area. Men over the years have been more active in the growing of potatoes than women in this community.

In line with the Shona culture in Nyanga, land is owned by men. Women only access the land when they marry but they do not have control over it. This includes controlling the proceeds from the land although most women provide the labour on farm activities. Village heads are the custodians of natural resources such as land and issuing of land for residential and farming purposes only benefit a woman when she marries, excluding the women who are not married. The married women are however not guaranteed of the control of the land as they are usually driven off the when the husband dies.

 The limited ownership and control of land by women   has acted as a social barrier to women for them to be economically and socially active in their communities.

The 2016 Nyanga Land Rights Campaign supported by ActionAid Zimbabwe and its partners has helped RWA groups such as Shingai to attain their right to control and ownership of land. The land campaign in Nyanga was part of a Kilimanjaro rural women’s mobilization in 2016 which gave rise to a collective voice of rural women in their demands for justice and equal rights to land, agricultural services, mineral resources and decision-making spaces among others.  

In Nyanga relevant government ministries such as the resident minister for Manicaland province, Minister of Women Affairs Gender and Community development and chiefs have appended their signatures as a commitment to ensuring women have access to productive land in Nyanga as part of the Kilimanjaro land rights campaign led by ActionAid in Africa. The Kilimanjaro campaign opened platforms for women such as Shingai Group to start advocating for land for economic activities from their traditional leaders. Six members of the Shingai Group namely Catherine Mugode, Joylene Nhanhanga, Venna Chimbiya, Anne Nyemba, Abigail Mudange and Abigail Muguti were privileged to be part of the Kilimanjaro initiative. They have also been trained at community on land rights with DOMCCP supporting them.

Following intensive DOMCCP trainings and dialogues at community level with the local leaders and RWA groups in 2017, the Shingai RWA group took the bold step in 2018 to push for a piece of land from their village head. The village head a. Mr. Nyagomo responded to their plea and gave them one acre of land to start their farming project. In April 2018 the group ploughed beans, another source of livelihood in Nyanga. The women’s husbands helped them in tilling the land and inputs provision.

Now our husbands appreciate our contributions in the household. We have since formed our income and savings group and we aim to buy each member ox drawn ploughs which we will own, said Joylene Nhanhanga, a member of the Shingai Group. Most of productive assets such as ploughs are owned by men in this community.

We intend to purchase irrigation pipes to access water from the nearby Murozi Dam to increase the production of our farming ventures. We also want to start potato farming, said Venna Chimbiya, chairperson for Shingai Group.

Part of the proceeds from the women’s beans project will be used to pay school fees for three orphans the group has been assisting.

According to the Agroecology:Scaling-up, scaling out,  more than 500 million family farms produce 80% of the world’s food. About half of these farmers (43%) are women. Women living in rural areas work, unpaid, up to 10 hours a day caring for family and community members, cooking and cleaning, fetching water, fodder and fuel says the Agroecology:Scaling-up, scaling out.  Small scale farmers, half of whom are women, produce most (80%) of the food consumed locally and globally according to the Agroecology:Scaling-up, scaling out.