An assessment of women’s participation in agricultural production: a case study of Marange Irrigation Scheme in Zimbabwe
Agriculture is the chief economic activity in many rural communities and women who make up the majority of the rural dwellers play a focal role in this sector. Despite efforts aimed at promoting women’s rights and ensuring gender equality in development, researchers have shown that women are still marginalised and have less access to productive resources needed for effective agricultural production. Using quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, the research investigated the nature and the extent of women’s participation in agricultural production at Marange Irrigation Scheme in Marange Communal Land, Zimbabwe. The participatory development theory was employed to guide the research. Data collection tools utilised in this study were a well structured questionnaire, semi-structured individual interviews and observation. Analysis of quantitative and qualitative data was done using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis respectively. The results of this study showed high level of women’s participation in most farm activities but low participation in extension programmes. The socio-economic variables considered for Pearson’s correlation tests – age, household income, education, land size and number of dependents – showed no significant relationship with the level to which women participate in agricultural activities. The findings of this study revealed that the key factors constraining women’s participation in agricultural activities were lack of capital, limited agricultural inputs, market constraints and water shortages. In addition, the research showed that farmers were not fully involved in every step of the irrigation development project. Consequently, women’s agricultural productivity was low and the sustainability of the project was uncertain. Despite these challenges, the results of this study revealed that participating in farming can instil a sense of ownership, enhance capacities and improve livelihoods. The level of women’s participation in farm decision-making was found to be high. This study advances that addressing women’s agricultural needs and improving their access to agricultural productive resources could result in effective participation of women in agriculture and meaningful agricultural productivity. In line with the participatory development theory, the study further contends that the full participation of women, as well as other intended beneficiaries, in the development process could be the key to sustainable rural development initiatives. This could help bring the much needed transformation in rural areas.