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Wageningen University (2010)

Single women, land and livelihood vulnerability in an communal area in Zimbabwe

Makura-Paradza, Gaynor Gamuchirai

Titre : Single women, land and livelihood vulnerability in an communal area in Zimbabwe

Auteur : Makura-Paradza, Gaynor Gamuchirai

Université de soutenance : Wageningen University

Grade : PhD thesis 2010

Résumé partiel
This thesis focused on the ways in which single women take decisions to cope with risk and gain access to resources in communal areas of Zimbabwe. A study into the experiences of single women hearth-holds was necessary because there was a dearth of systematic research on how these women accessed resources in a patriarchal and legal space. Communal areas have been undergoing significant changes as a result of government policies, HIV/AIDS, erratic weather, ambiguous governance, the collapse of the agricultural economy, hyperinflation and the general deterioration of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade. This has resulted in changing rural-urban connections, increasing poverty, depleted resource base, a high death rate, loss of traditional sources of cash income, a decline in the capacity to produce or procure subsistence food and an uncertain decision-making environment. This study has established that, although resource governance systems in communal farming area are male biased, within those systems, there are more diverse opportunities of access than previously thought and single women have more room to manoeuvre than previously thought. The norms used to determine single women’s access to resources are flexible and negotiable. However, the flexibility of the communal area resource governance has increased both the opportunities and the vulnerabilities of single women’s residence access in the communal areas. This paradox has arisen because of the peculiar dynamic of different processes that influence resource access in these areas and the specific circumstances of single women at any one time. This research was initially designed to document the ways in which gender inequality in relation to control of land made single women particularly vulnerable to impoverishment and the impact of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe. The research context – Zimbabwean communal areas – has been undergoing rapid changes in the past two decades, which increased the vulnerability of communal area livelihoods by undermining the communal area economy. The people’s reactions to the increasing risks induced changes in relationships governing resource access in the communal areas. There is a large body of literature on gendered land rights of rural women in Southern Africa which suggests that the secondary land rights of these women leave single women vulnerable to poverty and destitution, particularly in a time of HIV/AIDS. This thesis suggests that the reality is more complex in rural Zimbabwe : firstly because gendered land rights are not well captured by the distinction between primary and secondary rights, and secondly because rural livelihoods are no longer just dependent on land.

Mots clés : development studies / women / rural women / woman’s status / marriage / families / family structure / coownership / common lands / ownership / common property resources / farming / rural areas / land ownership / access / right of access / zimbabwe / africa south of sahara / livelihoods / livelihood strategies / single persons / civil status


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Page publiée le 14 novembre 2011, mise à jour le 2 janvier 2018