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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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