Championing land justice to fight poverty, inequalities

The pilot intervention in Chimanimani, under the Women and Land Governance Project, provides a spring board for marginalized women in rural communities to seek land justice. This quest for justice is not an end, it is a means to end poverty by fighting inequalities. The Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZT) women empowerment project promotes recovery for vulnerable women affected by the Cyclone Idai disaster. This project fosters sustainable social development, builds local capacity of communities to promote climate justice and environment peace by addressing land governance. As a pilot intervention this project can be upscaled and mainstreamed to bridge emergent gendered land access gaps so far identified.

Access to land for agricultural and livelihood purposes remains a key ingredient to promote development for marginalized rural communities. Located in the remote outskirts of Manicaland province, Chimanimani district epitomizes rural Zimbabwe, where infrastructure is virtually none existent, impassable roads also pose a greater challenge to the mountainous rugged terrain, further worsened by the Cyclone Idai. It is a marginalized area, with little development. Women participation is limited and lack of resources to mitigate women participation in land governance issues, further widens inequality gaps. As already established, generally, more men than women own land in Zimbabwe. This is a trans-generational injustice from pre-colonial times to post independence. In fact, even under a government public leasing program, the majority of beneficiaries are males, accounting for 76 % of all transactions, while females, as sole owners are less than 6 %.

Statistically there have been more land leases, for example in the period from 1986 to 2001 beneficiaries have mainly males. Yet this is not peculiar, natural resource governance across all sectors, including access to land, is shrouded in controversy and mystery. This apparent lack of transparency and accountability in land deals, is mainly a result of lack of probity and abuse of power by those with decision making power in granting land ownership and access rights. Most of these women have been denied access to land and their gendered land based livelihoods has exposed women of different social standing suffer to various forms of abuse and violation.

A study conducted by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) brings tothe fore how land corruption and dispossession surrounding the land the land deals, exposes women to sexual and physical abuse.The study, which assessed the Chisumbanje ethanol land deal, highlighted land deals as ‘an example of political land corruption supported by state policies and institutions with little regard to its gendered impact.’ This case represents how government places business corporate interests ahead of the community.

An audit report by the Office of the Auditor General (AG) reveals how the even a state parastatals fail to fully utilise arable land by Agriculture Development Authority (ARDA). ‘This institutional failure, shows the authority is failing ‘to effectively monitor contract farming, poor livestock management practices, failure to recruit and retain skilled staff, shortage of workshop tools and farming implements and irregular payments of wages resulting in de-motivated staff.’ AG Mildred Chiri, stated in her findings of an audit of government. ‘The authority failed to meet its targeted cropping programme for the three planting seasons 2007/08, 2008/9 and 2009/10, by substantial margins, as well utilizing arable land across its estates.’

The marginalized community lacks knowledge and awareness on land rights and the role of traditional chiefs in allocating land, while customary laws remain a key barrier towards achieving universal access to land by women. Such classic cases vindicates empowerment interventions as women are always lagging behind in developmental matters, despite their overall contribution to development in society, and fail to access to resources.

Source: Green Governance Trust

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