Putting land in the hands of women

ipaisheGUTU - The Ruti irrigation scheme in Gutu, Zimbabwe, aims to empower women by addressing issues of access to and control of land. Ipaishe Masvingise is visibly excited by the thought of growing her own crops. I have always longed to own a piece of land where I can satisfy my desire for farming, she enthuses as she surveys her allotment

Oxfam established the scheme in 2009 in wards 13 and 14 of Gutu district, Masvingo Province, and recently opened a pipeline that will carry water from Ruti Dam to a 20ha piece of land three kilometres away. The area is predominantly dry and the pipeline will literally inject life into the parched landscape and the people living there, benefiting up to 25,000 households.

The scheme aims to put 60ha of land under irrigation and teach 240 farmers about farming as a business, market linkages and agronomy practices. The overall goal is to increase food security for 50,000 people in the district by the end of the project in 2012.

For Ipaishe, the scheme is a turning point in her life. It aims to empower women by addressing issues of access to and control of resources. It is a dream come true, she says. I cannot wait for the actual farming to start so I can prove my worth.

Ipaishe enjoyed a simple life until 1997 when her husband died. Widowed and without a source of income, her in-laws sent her and her daughter back to her parents home with nothing but their clothes, blankets and the bed she had shared with her late husband.

Going back home would present new challenges for Ipaishe. Being a widow is hard enough to deal with, without the stigma that comes with the fact that you have returned home after having been married, she says. What hurt the most is that everyone would refer to her as mvana yekwaMasvingise (Masvingises daughter who returned to her parents home).

While trying to adjust to her new situation, the need for a regular income became an ever-growing reality. Ipaishe knew she wanted to grow crops for a living, something she had always enjoyed doing. I have always had a passion for farming, she says, but the biggest challenge I faced at the time was that I always had to wait for my father to decide which part of the field I would till each season. As a widow she could only till the land allocated to her by her father and had no major decision-making powers over the land.

Tradition dictates that a woman cannot own land and because she is considered to be under the care of either her husband or her father at any given time, she is only able to access land under their direction. In the event that the husband is deceased, the male child will inherit the land when he comes of age, and the woman will have to consult the child or her husbands male relatives if the child is too young.

Consequently, Ipaishes livelihood has always been in the hands of others. But with the Ruti irrigation scheme this will be a thing of the past. The opportunity presented by the project could not have come at a better time. I want to show all women in this ward that losing a husband is not the end of the world, Ipaishe says with certainty. With a little help, her strength of conviction and passion for farming her land is likely to give in abundance. – Oxfam

Post published in: World News

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