A study of rural women farmers’ access to markets in Chirumanzu

Date: February 27, 2014
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This thesis investigated the issues that rural smallholder women face in accessing markets in developing countries. Market access for rural smallholder farmers is increasingly being promoted as a means towards catalysing sustainable rural development. However, without addressing the gender specific issues that rural smallholder women farmers face in accessing markets, market access as a strategy towards sustainable rural development may fail to achieve its ends. This thesis gathered evidence from a group of smallholder women farmers in Chirumanzu, Zimbabwe, who are part of a market access project run by Oxfam, in order to highlight the issues that they face in accessing markets for their produce. Primary and secondary data were used in the study. First, a literature review was conducted to assess the issues that smallholder rural women farmers in developing countries face in accessing markets and how the issues differ to those faced by male smallholder farmers. A thematic assessment of the issues was conducted, beginning with the production for market through to the actual market engagement. Secondly, primary data was collected in Chirumanzu, from rural smallholder women farmers who are participating in a market access project being facilitated by Oxfam. Data was collected through focus group discussions, key informant interviews and document review. Five focus group discussions were held with a total of 40 participants in August 2011. Some of the key findings were that rural smallholder women farmers face challenges in terms of meeting the labour demanded for market production, accessing market information and having to contend with high transport costs. The data was then compared with the points raised in the literature review. The comparison showed that most of the key issues raised in the Chirumanzu case study were similar to those identified in the literature review. The study came to the conclusion that rural smallholder women farmers face different issues and more challenges in accessing markets compared to male farmers. Market access initiatives that do not recognise and address the gender specific challenges that women smallholder farmers face may therefore not be catalysts for sustainable rural development. Therefore recommendations are that market access initiatives should go beyond facilitating access to markets to address the structural social, economic and cultural issues that present special challenges and constraints to women smallholder farmers.

Edition: University of Stellenbosch
Year of Publication: 2013

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