Exploring the role of women in subsistence and smallholder farming : implications for horticultural crop value chain development in Swayimane and Sweetwaters.
This study is aimed at exploring and analysing the role of women in vegetable production value chain, related constraints encountered and exploring possible solutions thereof. The influence of gender in the value chain is explored given the known production role women play in subsistence and smallholder agriculture in order to understand the role of gender in production and marketing activities in the two chosen study areas: Swayimane and Sweetwaters. The study adopted both qualitative and quantitative methods to data collection. Survey questionnaires and focus group discussions were used for collecting data on the role played by women in subsistence and smallholder vegetable farming, the value chain, the nature and type of constraints faced and applicable solutions. Results from the survey questionnaire and focus group discussions indicated that women in both study areas play an important role in providing food for their families compared to their male counterparts but are faced with various gender based constraints such as access to assets crucial for production. They lack access to land, water, credit, infrastructure, strong extension service and other institutional support. Access to and provision of seeds, fertilizer and irrigation systems for increased production was another area identified as a constraint. However, in Swayimane, an indication on the involvement of both men and women was evident from the focus group discussion results. As indicated in the survey questionnaire results, various laws, both common and customary laws shaped the gendered differences associated with men’s and women’s roles in food production and access to assets, however, customary laws and practices were predominant in both the study areas. From both Swayimane and Sweetwaters, customary laws also influenced access to and ‘ownership’ of land. Land was either ‘owned’ and accessed more by men whilst women had access to or ‘ownership’ following certain parameters. Evident from focus group discussions and survey questionnaire results, participation in the market was gender driven. In Swayimane, more men participated in the market compared to women. However, in Sweetwaters participation from both parties was reported. With women found in the market, their role was to observe or sell and hand the money over to their husbands. Furthermore, with more men participating in marketing, results from the survey questionnaire indicated that ensuring household food security was difficult considering that men would use most of the money for their personal needs. In an attempt to address the constraints faced by women in subsistence and smallholder farming and thus improved access to markets, it is crucial that policy initiatives take into account gender inequality, its influence and the basis of these thereof. This implies that policy measures be directed at ensuring that men and women have equal access to production assets, more particularly land. However, achieving such, further requires scrutiny of the statutory and customary laws influencing gendered access to these assets and thus ensuring that these laws are gender sensitive. Furthermore, improving equal access to and participation in markets by both men and women implies that policy and programme planning focus on eliminating gender inequality and markets based constraints including high transaction costs, unequal access to proper infrastructure and transportation affecting women in particular. Policy initiatives should however be directed at ensuring that women have access to reduced transaction costs, proper infrastructure and transportation systems.