A gender analysis of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) Programme : a case study in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.

Songelwa, Nomvuselelo Cynthia
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After 1994, the South African government prioritized land reform as a strategy for development in order to redress the legacy of apartheid, while contributing to national reconciliation, growth and development. The government with endless persuasion from gender activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and interested individuals acknowledged the crucial role that women could play in transforming its society. As a commitment to gender equity, it ratified various international conventions and national declarations, including in 1995, the United Nations on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Subsequently, a variety of institutions and gender divisions (units) in the country were established to advise, monitor and implement gender mainstreaming programs within government departments, NGOs and parliamentary structures. These include amongst othersthe Office of the Status on Women (OSW), The Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and gender focal points. In 1995, a delegation of South African women led by politicians participated in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. In response to this report, the Department of Land Affairs (DLA), together with other government departments, committed itself “to take legislative and administrative measures to give men and women equal rights to economic resources, including access to ownership and control over land and other properties, credit facilities, natural resources and appropriate supporting technology” (DLA, 1997:18). Despite these commitments, the South African government in general and the land sector in particular was criticised for contradicting its intentions. These were evident in policy development processes. An example widely documented was the controversies and compromises which were made by the ANC led government during the development of the Communal Land Rights Act of 2004 (Walker, 2005; Hassim, 2005; Claassens 2003). In addition, the land policies, including the DLA Gender Policy, have been widely criticised by several researchers (Hall, 1996; Mann, 1999; Walker, 2002; Claassens, 2005). The common trend was the scepticism of whether these policies would achieve their intended gender equity goals. Amongst others, weaknesses of these polices were the poor conceptualisation of gender and the lack of clarity on the government’s 2 gender equity intentions and outcomes. These would make it difficult to translate policies into practice. This study investigates whether these assertions are valid. The focus of the research is the analysis of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) Programme which was established in 2001. Using a project located in Mpumalanga Province, called the Mathebula Communal Property Association, the study evaluates the implementation of this programme. The project is located near Rock’s Drift in the Mbombela Municipality about 6 kilometers from White River on the White River- Nelspruit road (R40). It is amongst the first projects to be administered by the provincial DLA, under the new LRAD programme. This property was used for chicken and smallscale pig farming. The location of the project is of significance because the Mpumalanga province is amongst the most rural poverty stricken provinces in South Africa with a population of approximately 3 million. According to May (2000: 22), about 45% of the individuals in this province are living in poverty. The study was undertaken during the presettlement stages. The main goal was to investigate the DLA commitment to its gender policy through a case study. In addition, it explores the relationship between the primary beneficiary, a rural woman named Aida and the DLA officials during the research period. This is a means to assess whether Aida was empowered through these processes, as per the LRAD policy statements. The study draws its theoretical basis from a Gender Analysis Approach. This analysis recognises in every context that it is relevant to determine the gender-based division of labour and to understand the forces that constrain this division or act to change it. This framework was useful in collecting data tool for this study. The study uses a case study methodology. This research strategy has been chosen because of its ability to offer an “in-depth analysis of a case so as to interpret its unique features and to solicit an understanding of the social arrangements and their existence” (Ragin, 2000:24). The case study approach has shown that without investigating the processes which occur within these projects, the real impact of land reform on the beneficiaries’ lives is far from being realised. The major findings of this research revealed that whilst South Africa has put in place several national legislative frameworks to address gender equity in general, women still struggle to access resources through government systems. Aida, the main driver of this 3 project, experienced 4 years of insurmountable problems whilst trying to acquire a farm she had identified from a willing seller. The research revealed that Aida’s determination to acquire the farm is attributable to her intellectual capabilities, negotiation skills and manipulative tactics, which is contrary to the dominant argument that factors affecting rural women's access to land are dependent on “educational level, age, social status of the family and marital status” (Moser, 1993; Bob, 1994)). In addition, the dynamics within projects often not reflected in policies are very crucial in successful implementation of projects. For instance, in this project, the ‘inactive’ strategy of registered members reduced conflict within the project such that Aida became the sole owner of the project and was able to successfully acquire the farm without any interference from the other members. Overall, a significant contribution of this case study to the SA women’s empowerment theoretical framework is the identification of the external and internal factors, some of which were specific to gender empowerment failures. These include the challenges of targeting women, access to information, lack of accountability on gender as well as the absence of strong social movements. Lastly, the study also revealed unintended outcomes as a result of the lengthy period of the pre-land transfer stage, issues which are normally ignored and undocumented. Studies of land reform (and development) projects in Mpumalanga province and throughout SA have revealed similar findings as outlined through this document. These findings raise key questions that have broader implications for LRAD, and land reform program in general. The study acknowledges that there are examples of women in Mpumalanga province and maybe in other parts of the country who may have had positive experiences through the same program. However, it also confirms findings by earlier studies done by different researchers and thus raises critical questions with regards to the implementation and sustainability of the LRAD projects in South Africa, specifically in the Mpumalanga Province.
Gender analysis, Land redistribution, Rural women, Land reform, Mpumalanga Province