"Water users must be efficient producers". Women's access to and use of land in Chókwè irrigation scheme, Mozambique

Pellizzoli, Roberta (2009) "Water users must be efficient producers". Women's access to and use of land in Chókwè irrigation scheme, Mozambique, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Cooperazione internazionale e politiche per lo sviluppo sostenibile, 21 Ciclo.
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The irrigation scheme Eduardo Mondlane, situated in Chókwè District - in the Southern part of the Gaza province and within the Limpopo River Basin - is the largest in the country, covering approximately 30,000 hectares of land. Built by the Portuguese colonial administration in the 1950s to exploit the agricultural potential of the area through cash-cropping, after Independence it became one of Frelimo’s flagship projects aiming at the “socialization of the countryside” and at agricultural economic development through the creation of a state farm and of several cooperatives. The failure of Frelimo’s economic reforms, several infrastructural constraints and local farmers resistance to collective forms of production led to scheme to a state of severe degradation aggravated by the floods of the year 2000. A project of technical rehabilitation initiated after the floods is currently accompanied by a strong “efficiency” discourse from the managing institution that strongly opposes the use of irrigated land for subsistence agriculture, historically a major livelihood strategy for smallfarmers, particularly for women. In fact, the area has been characterized, since the end of the XIX century, by a stable pattern of male migration towards South African mines, that has resulted in an a steady increase of women-headed households (both de jure and de facto). The relationship between land reform, agricultural development, poverty alleviation and gender equality in Southern Africa is long debated in academic literature. Within this debate, the role of agricultural activities in irrigation schemes is particularly interesting considering that, in a drought-prone area, having access to water for irrigation means increased possibilities of improving food and livelihood security, and income levels. In the case of Chókwè, local governments institutions are endorsing the development of commercial agriculture through initiatives such as partnerships with international cooperation agencies or joint-ventures with private investors. While these business models can sometimes lead to positive outcomes in terms of poverty alleviation, it is important to recognize that decentralization and neoliberal reforms occur in the context of financial and political crisis of the State that lacks the resources to efficiently manage infrastructures such as irrigation systems. This kind of institutional and economic reforms risk accelerating processes of social and economic marginalisation, including landlessness, in particular for poor rural women that mainly use irrigated land for subsistence production. The study combines an analysis of the historical and geographical context with the study of relevant literature and original fieldwork. Fieldwork was conducted between February and June 2007 (where I mainly collected secondary data, maps and statistics and conducted preliminary visit to Chókwè) and from October 2007 to March 2008. Fieldwork methodology was qualitative and used semi-structured interviews with central and local Government officials, technical experts of the irrigation scheme, civil society organisations, international NGOs, rural extensionists, and water users from the irrigation scheme, in particular those women smallfarmers members of local farmers’ associations. Thanks to the collaboration with the Union of Farmers’ Associations of Chókwè, she has been able to participate to members’ meeting, to education and training activities addressed to women farmers members of the Union and to organize a group discussion. In Chókwè irrigation scheme, women account for the 32% of water users of the familiar sector (comprising plot-holders with less than 5 hectares of land) and for just 5% of the private sector. If one considers farmers’ associations of the familiar sector (a legacy of Frelimo’s cooperatives), women are 84% of total members. However, the security given to them by the land title that they have acquired through occupation is severely endangered by the use that they make of land, that is considered as “non efficient” by the irrigation scheme authority. Due to a reduced access to marketing possibilities and to inputs, training, information and credit women, in actual fact, risk to see their right to access land and water revoked because they are not able to sustain the increasing cost of the water fee. The myth of the “efficient producer” does not take into consideration the characteristics of inequality and gender discrimination of the neo-liberal market. Expecting small-farmers, and in particular women, to be able to compete in the globalized agricultural market seems unrealistic, and can perpetuate unequal gendered access to resources such as land and water.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Pellizzoli, Roberta
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze politiche e sociali
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Irrigation schemes women's access to land water users associations commercial agriculture Mozambique
Data di discussione
12 Giugno 2009

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