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Assessment of communal land rights for smallholder farmers access to markets in South Africa : implications on gender.

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Most African countries have embarked on improving agriculture, food security and reducing hunger through the support and involvement of smallholder farmers in the food production. Smallholder farmers have been key custodians of most African nations food and nutrition security, yet they are challenged by several factors including lack of access to land, access to credit and access to formal markets. Women smallholder farmers are the most affected due to the patrilineal nature of communal land allocation in most rural societies. Smallholder agriculture can provide a route out of poverty only if it is productive, commercially oriented and well linked to formal markets. Women have over the years relied on land based activities for their livelihoods and survival and food security however, they have always been marginalised in the allocation, control and command over land as a property. Several studies indicate that women perform most of the agricultural activities mainly for their households’ food security and may produce a meagre surplus for sale in the informal markets. Market access for rural smallholder farmers has been actively promoted to catalyse sustainable rural livelihood development. However, without addressing the land access and gender specific issues that rural smallholder women farmers face in accessing markets, most initiatives aimed at improving smallholder farmer livelihoods and their food security may fail to achieve their sole purpose. Culturally stipulated roles of women’s in the household and in smallholder agriculture have adverse effects on household food security due to the resultant workload burden and reduced market participation by smallholder farmers. Smallholder women farmers have to travel long distances with their meagre produce to access markets. This study assessed the relationship between gender and communal land access and how they collectively impact smallholder farmers’ access to markets. The specific objectives of the study were to determine relationships between gender and communal land access, to identify the factors affecting smallholder farmers to access agriculture markets and to determine how land access enhances smallholder farmers’ access to markets. A purposive sample of 135 households was selected in Appelsbosch, KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. The mixed methods approach of research made up of structured questionnaires, together with focus group discussions and observation was employed. Qualitative data from the focus group discussions and open-ended questions was analysed for common themes using content analysis. The data was then subjected to descriptive statistical analysis using SPSS. Statistically significant differences were observed between gender and access to land, access of land and the owner of the land (p<0.05). The results further indicated that women land rights were mostly secondary and land access was closely linked to the existence of a relationship with male relatives, largely through marital ties. The study concluded that smallholder farmers faced numerous challenges in terms of accessing land and markets. From these results, the study recommends more equitable measures for secure land rights for women farmers as individuals based on need, improvement in extension services and creation of stable markets and market access support for smallholder farmers to ensure sustainable livelihoods and food security.


Master of Agriculture in Food Security. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2017.