Sustainable livelihood approaches for exploring smallholder agricultural programmes targeted at women - examples from South Africa

Stefanie Lemke, Farideh Yousefi, Ana Cristina Eisermann, Anne Camilla Bellows

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    Smallholder farming can play a crucial role in contributing to food supplies and autonomy at the household and community level in rural areas, yet this has been challenging to evaluate. In South Africa, smallholder agriculture faces multiple
    challenges due to historical injustices regarding access to land and resources and to post-apartheid policies that failed to promote rural development. Drawing on the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework and employing a mixed methods approach, we explore through participant observation and interviews the prospects of smallholder agricultural programs for establishing sustainable livelihoods, facilitated by civil society organizations and targeted at rural black and colored South African women. Participation in these programs enabled women access to various livelihoods assets: education and capacity-building (human assets); land (natural assets); tools and
    infrastructure (physical assets); stipends and income from selling their produce (financial assets); and networking (social assets). Operational challenges included divergent expectations on the side of project facilitators and participants; lack of
    communication; participant dependency on the organizations; lack of access to markets; and programs’ lack of financial sustainability. Our findings suggest that, while these programs are not yet sustainable, they stimulate an awareness of
    possibilities, visions, ownership, and rights that can have a long-term effect on the livelihoods of these women. In evaluating program success, especially in the initiation phases, it must be remembered that structural barriers to the improvement of rural
    women’s livelihoods are formidable, and few South African models or alternatives are presently available to help civil society organizations formulate new opportunities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)25-41
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2012


    • civil society organizations
    • land reform
    • mixed methods approach
    • smallholder agricultural programs
    • South Africa
    • sustainable livelihoods framework
    • women


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