The policy legislative framework for Zimbabwe's fast track land reform and its Implications on women's rights to agricultural land
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This study explores the rights of Zimbabwean women to access agricultural land on the basis of equality with men and in their own right under the country’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). The focus is on the policy and legal framework that governed the land reform process between the years 2000 and 2015 and how the legal framework interfaced with different women’s lived realities in their efforts to access agricultural land and effectively utilise it. To understand the lived realities of the different women during the process, field research was undertaken in three resettlement sites in Masvingo province namely, the Hippo Valley Sugar Estates, Chidza and Lothian Farms and Ward 16 in Masimbiti, Nuanetsi Ranch. Three communal land sites in Chivi District namely Sese, Shindi and Gororo and one site in Masvingo District, namely Musvovi were identified for purposes of comparing the situation of women who went to the new resettlement areas with that of women who remained behind in the communal areas. My argument in this study is that failure to address factors that affect women as women led to their discrimination and ultimately failure for women in different social and marital status categories to be treated on the basis of equality with men during the country’s FTLRP. These factors included the failure to create a conducive policy and legal environment for the participation and recognition of women in the land reform programme. The absence of such a framework in turn led to the emergence of a number of challenges that worked against women’s opportunities to engage with the FTLRP. Such challenges included the violence that accompanied the first stages of the FTLRP, the emergence of a state of legal pluralism, failure to recognise the value of women’s unpaid work and contribution to the FTLRP and the emergence of power dynamics that stifled women’s participation in the process. The result was that women got only about 12% of the land that was available under the A2 resettlement scheme and 18% of the land that was available under the A1 resettlement scheme. Those that managed to get land continued to suffer discrimination as women after their settlement on the farms. The discrimination included limited access to agricultural resources by women when compared to men and failure to include women in the farm level governance structures, yet such structures played a key role in determining access to farming resources after settlement, which in turn determined the level of success in one’s farming endeavours. In order to address these challenges, I argue that new laws and programmes must address the shortcomings that were inherent in the FTLRP. I identified the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe and Statutory Instrument 53/2014 as important instruments that seek to address the rights of women to agricultural land. The 2013 Constitution has important and progressive provisions, which if fully implemented can address the issue of discrimination against women and the need for women to be treated on the basis of equality with men generally but also in relation to access to land. I also argue that S.I 53/2014 is progressive in that it acknowledges the rights of women to fast track land. It however protects existing entitlements to land acquired under the FTLRP. The result is the entrenchment of men’s rights over the land since the bulk of the land went to men under the FTLRP. The mere recognition of women’s rights to land without the provision of an attendant framework to ensure access to land by women therefore fails to address the inherent inequality and discrimination faced by women in accessing land. The land audit, if and when it is implemented is an opportunity to identify available land and make sure that most if not all of that land is given to the women of Zimbabwe as an attempt to even out the gender skewed access patterns post fast track. The research generally contributes towards the growing literature on the Zimbabwean FTLRP but specifically contributes towards an understanding of the role of policy and law in addressing gender disparities in land reform, acquisition and allocation in post-independence Zimbabwe A limitation in the research was that the fieldwork was undertaken in a small and limited geographical site and in one province of Zimbabwe. As a result, the findings, conclusions and recommendations may not necessarily reflect the reality in every part of the country.