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Investigating water access constraints and land-based livelihoods for empowerment of rural farming women and implication for household food security : the case study of three irrigation schemes in Limpopo.

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Agriculture plays an important role in rural livelihoods. However, poverty and food insecurity still persist in rural communities of South Africa where women are central to ensuring household food security through several livelihood activities including agriculture. Women engage in land-based livelihood such as irrigated agriculture to increase household food security and reduce reliance on cash to feed their households. However, poor access to water and insecure access to productive resources such as land threatens rural livelihoods and are a major constraint to poverty reduction in rural areas. According to IFPRI (2012)’s Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), access to production resources is an important domain for empowerment of women farmers. The aim of the study was to investigate dynamics under which rural women operate when accessing water to improve the land-based livelihoods that they engage in for improving livelihoods and household food security and to investigate the knowledge rural women possess or lack in empowering themselves for improved land-based livelihoods and improving household food security. Three small scale irrigation schemes from three district municipalities in Limpopo province, South Africa, were investigated using mixed methods approach, involving quantitative and qualitative approaches, was employed. Sampling of the participants in each irrigation scheme was done through purposive sampling. Structured questionnaires, administered to women farmers through face-to-face interviews, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and observations were used for data triangulation. The study revealed that women faced various challenges when accessing water which ranged from distant sources, unreliable and inadequate supply of water and poor irrigation infrastructure to insecure land rights. Women engaged in irrigated agriculture and livestock farming. They possessed adequate knowledge on soil preparation, weeding and harvesting. However, lack of knowledge on water management and conservation, pest management and markets was observed as an impediment to women empowerment. Ensuring secure access to adequate land and water to rural women and providing skills and knowledge for agriculture and production while ensuring access to markets may contribute to empowerment of rural women and improved land-based livelihoods that rural women engage in to improve household food security which leads to poverty reduction.


M. Agric. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2013.


Food security--Limpopo., Rural women--Limpopo., Women in agriculture--Limpopo., Water-supply--Limpopo., Irrigation farming--Limpopo., Theses--Food security.