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Title: Acquisition of agricultural knowledge and negotiation of gender power relations by women commercial farmers in Zimbabwe : implications for adult education training and development
Authors: Kaziboni, Tabeth 
Issue Date: 2018
Abstract: This study examined how women commercial farmers who got land during the Zimbabwe
Fast Track Land Reform Programme (ZFTLRP) accessed new farming knowledge, applied
and integrated it with their traditional knowledge. The study also analysed how these women
farmers managed traditional gender power dynamics in the process of accessing knowledge
and utilising their farm land.
Kolb’s experiential learning theory was used to illuminate this study in terms of how the
women acquired new farming knowledge and how indigenous knowledge and modern
farming knowledge could illustrate farmer learning as experiential and/or self-directed.
Foucault’s post-structuralist theory was used as a lens to explore how the women managed
issues of gender and power relations during the process of owning and managing land.
The study was qualitative and employed a life history research design. It relied on focus
group discussions, individual interviews and observation for data collection from ten women
farmers who were purposively sampled. Data were collected during an eight-month
agricultural season from January 2016 to August 2016.
The study revealed that the women went through Kolb’s experiential learning cycle in the
process of acquiring knowledge. The women’s learning cycle, however, included a fifth stage
of social interaction at some point, which Kolb did not emphasize. Social interaction is often
referred to as a core feature of learning in African contexts (Ntseane, 2011) and it reflects the
way in which Indigenous Knowledge (IK) had traditionally been learned. Women
experienced non-formal and informal learning, with most of the latter being self-directed in
nature. The range of learning sources included friends, neighbours, experts and media.
Women complemented indigenous knowledge with modern farming methods and adopted
more modern methods and fewer indigenous methods as soon as they had knowledge and
resources. Occasionally they used indigenous knowledge when it was affordable, readily
available and sustainable.
Women farmers were happy to own land, but their husbands and males in the community did
not support them and resisted the new discourse of women empowerment. The clash between the traditional discourse that women are not expected to be autonomous and the new
discourse created gender power tensions. Women employed a variety of power techniques to
enable them to farm. Initially they used the strategy of ‘reverse discourse,’ negotiating and
manipulating people into accepting their new status. The women also used accepted power
differentials to accommodate their own subjugated status through using a third party to
resolve conflicts. Women also exhibited different forms of agency and self-determination to
get accepted. This included employing ‘resistant discourse’ whereby the women demanded
what was theirs and asserted their authority, especially with their workers. The use of
economic rationales was another discursive strategy used by women, whereby they used their
farm income to support other community members, and demonstrated financial outcomes that
acted as a persuasive force for acceptance of their new status and role. A third form of agency
was exhibited by working hard to achieve good yields and profits from their farms. Women
demonstrated success stories which in turn helped them to improve the life styles of their
families and re-invest into their farming business. They thus managed to create an
autonomous identity for themselves. Women showed that they had progressed from the initial
‘disciplinary power’ behaviours in which they were passive and submissive, moving to a
process of ‘reverse discourse’ where they achieved what they wanted through manipulation.
But the women then showed agency and determination. Some did this through resistant
discourse and others through demonstrating they could work hard. The success stories have
seen them creating a new ‘regime of truth’ that women are capable people, although this
achievement took several years. These findings demonstrated that making land available to
these women was a positive act, but in order to help them succeed more effectively and
quickly they needed gender-sensitive training.
The study’s training recommendations include the need for both access to agricultural and
business knowledge, and also the management of gender power relations.
Description: Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements of the Degree of Doctor of Education, Durban University of Technology, 2018.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Arts and Design)

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