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‘Land acquisition still a pipe dream for women’

BY VENERANDA LANGA WHEN her husband died in 2009, Emma Moyo says she had no other source of income, except the measly pension that she inherited during the hyperinflation period. The pension was quickly wiped out. Her only hope to adequately feed and support her three children of school going age was to embark on farming in her rural home in Wedza, in Mashonaland East. But she had a new hurdle, she did not possess land of her own. “I didn't even have information on how I can access land, but I was resolute that the only way I will be able to feed my children was to embark on farming and to sell some of the produce for cash. I had to look for land at resettlement areas,” narrated Moyo. “It was difficult for me to get the land. So my only option was to ask other villagers if they could lend me some piece of land which was unutilised. I was lucky to be lent one hectare of land by a man who was unable to utilise it as he was working in Harare where he lived with his family,” she said. Moyo said she successfully tilled the land producing good yields of maize for three consecutive years, which was enough to feed the family and sell some for cash. “Unfortunately, when the owner of the land realised that I had good yields, he demanded his land back. There was no guarantee anyway that I would continue using his land,” Moyo said. After failing to acquire her own piece of land, Moyo ended up relocating to Harare in 2015 where she looked for a menial job. Like Moyo, several other women in Zimbabwe, widowed or divorced, are struggling to get land for lack of knowledge on the processes and legal issues pertaining to their customary land rights. Women and Land Zimbabwe (WLZ) director Thandiwe Chidavarume said women constituted about 80% of the rural population, and depended on land for their survival and family nutrition. She said about 70% of agricultural labour in Zimbabwe was provided by women. Yet ownership of land in the country was still political and gendered. Another woman, Sarah Dube said her former husband paid lobola for her, but they were not married under community of property. She was later ditched for a younger woman in 2018 and as a result, lost the land where she farmed with the husband in Nyamandlovu in Matabeleland North. “We farmed together, but I was forced to move out with nothing but my clothes,” Dube said. Her story too is not strange as several other women in Zimbabwe are reportedly thrown out of their unregistered marriages, losing their land and livelihoods. Chidavarume said WLZ was seized with such issues and were in the process of educating women on their land rights. “During the fast track land resettlement programme when people were being registered for farms, husbands would not allow their wives who wanted land to stay in the bush with strange men during the land allocations,” Chidavarume said. “As a result, many women were left out as beneficiaries. As ZWL we lobbied the Local Government minister to set aside a 20% land quota for women and this was granted. But we live in a patriarchal society. “On

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