Women in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape are making inroads in the male-dominated farming sector. But the issue of access to land is a huge obstacle they face. Women who want to farm believe the struggle to access land deprives them of their human rights.

A recent Farmers’ Day in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape just proved how good women can be at food production. They showcased their produce, ranging from livestock and poultry to crops and vegetables.

Rural communities believe their way out of poverty is working the land, growing food, and creating jobs.

Small-scale farmers also believe that a helping hand from government can contribute immensely in developing rural areas through agriculture.

Nolita Botomani-Sizani and Thandokazi Sizani, who farm pigs and vegetables, respectively, say despite the land issue, women and young people from rural areas must also work hard to fight poverty and unemployment.

“Farming is so important. It’s life. Each and every woman must practice farming. The department is looking for women. The funding is based on women. What I would say, if you are a woman, you have time, just go back to your roots because we were raised by parents that were busy with farming. Not a single day did we sleep without having food because they were planting in our back yards,” said Botomani-Sizani.

“I want to show the young people who always complain that government does not employ them that it’s not the government’s responsibility to employ them. They must just use the land and revive the fields that have been lying idle for years,” said Thandokazi.

Farmers encouraged to continue with their work 

The DICLA Training Project was also on board with Farmer’s Day. Through the organisation, farmers have access to training and are given access to markets.

Managing Director at DICLA, Lizo Mandlendoda, says farming will not only fight poverty in rural areas but also play a huge role in boosting the economy.

“Food security is the key. It’s the weapon to fight this poverty we are faced with.  It is the reality that we need to work the land for us to improve the economy of the country. So, it is important for all of us to work the land, to work as a team, as co-operatives and so on. Today, we are here to motivate the farmers that let’s work the land. Most of the time they lose hope because they don’t know where to sell their produce. We are here as DICLA to say we are here for you. We are here to buy whatever produce you have as long as you follow the correct steps to plant that produce.”

The MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Nonkqubela Pieters, concedes that without land, rural communities will struggle to improve their situation. She believes land distribution will go a long way in developing rural areas through agriculture.

“This month is Human Rights Month and by giving back land to people, we are restoring their dignity and by doing that we are also securing food and food is a human rights issue. We must have food, we must have shelter, we must have water, that is a human rights issue.”

The local farmers also hope that through government’s intervention, they might one day have access to international markets.