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Does gender affect land-access, water-access and food security among smallholder farmers? : A case of Msinga local municipality, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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While South Africa may be food secure as a country, large numbers of households within the country, particularly female-headed households, are food insecure. Unequal distribution of agricultural production resources between men and women has been identified as one of the main causes of household food insecurity in developing countries. However, information on how the social, economic, cultural and institutional factors affect access to production resources across household head’s gender is limited. Therefore, this study set out to understand the disparities in women’s access to land and water resources and, how these differences impact the food security status of different households. A random sample of 159 households was selected in Msinga local municipality, KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. Data were analysed using both descriptive statistics and econometric analysis (OLS, Tobit, binary and ordered logit models). The study results indicated that gender of the household head determines access to land, perceived water and land security, and household food security. The results indicated that female-headed households always have smaller sizes of land and their frequency of access to irrigation water is less than that of male-headed households. This implies that there is gender discrimination against women with regards to access to production resources, which leads to their worsened food insecurity. Marital status was also found to be an important determinant of households’ access to both land and water, implying that women gain or improve their access to resources through marriage. The Tobit model results indicated that land access was also influenced by factors such as the source of land and livestock head size. Water access was also determined by age of the household head, membership to farmer associations, irrigation type and extension services. Results indicate that level of education, water security and access to irrigation improved household food security. Therefore, there is need for a multifaceted approach, where some interventions will improve access to water security while others will improve land security. Improved water security improves food security via its impact on irrigation. Moreover, women should be empowered through farming education, opening formal job opportunities and access to support services such as extension, credit and farming inputs to close the gender gap.


M. Agric. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2014.


Farms, Small--KwaZulu-Natal., Farms, Small--Msinga., Farmers--KwaZulu-Natal., Farmers--Msinga., Food security--KwaZulu-Natal., Food security--Msinga., Women farmers--KwaZulu-Natal., Women farmers--Msinga., Theses--Food security.