Trends in women’s participation in agriculture at Tshiombo irrigation scheme, Limpopo province
Thagwana, Mpfariseni Sylvia
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The study explores trends in women’s participation in agriculture at Tshiombo Irrigation Scheme in Thulamela Municipality, Limpopo Province. The overall objective is to assess the trends in women’s participation in agricultural activities and to find out if this enhances their livelihoods. The study seeks to answer four core questions: 1) To what extent do women at Tshiombo Irrigation Scheme participate in agriculture, and what is the nature of their participation, e.g. in respect of labour provision, decision-making, and determining who benefits? (2) What are the main factors that over time lead men to withdraw from agriculture and women’s role in agriculture to become more prominent? (3) To what extent does women’s increased participation in production activities contribute to a better and more secure livelihood for themselves? (4) What are the main challenges women experiences in agriculture at Tshiombo Irrigation Scheme?Both qualitative and quantitative methods were employed in the collection and analysis of data, and a case study approach was used at three villages under study, namely Mutshenzheni,Matombotswuka and Maraxwe.The main research findings are: 1) over time, women have come to dominate farming at Tshiombo Irrigation Scheme to prevent poverty and therefore their participation improves food security in their households; 2) men’s decline in agriculture is attributed to water shortages, commitment to off-farm jobs and high production costs; 3) women are faced with a number of challenges in agricultural production which include amongst others water shortages, high input costs and lack of skill in marketing their products.The following recommendations were made: 1) government should seek ways of lowering the cost of ploughing services, whether this means encouraging farmers to return to animal traction, or encouraging more providers of tractor services, so that the prices are reduced through competition; 2) extension officers should encourage farmers to make more use of cow dung or other natural fertilizers, because this would assist in lowering input costs as well as benefiting the soil; 3) in terms of water shortages, the government is installing the floppy irrigation systems through Revitalization of Irrigation Schemes; however, in the interim,farmers should try to upgrade and maintain the storage dams which are currently not in use; 4)the re-introduction of water bailiffs could help to supervise and manage water, which in turn could ease water shortages and prevent conflict among farmers; 5) the Department of Agriculture should train women farmers in marketing skills. The study will be of primary benefit to amongst others, policy makers, scholars, and civil society organisations.