Sustainable Livelihoods Approaches for Exploring Smallholder Agricultural Programs Targeted at Women: Examples from South Africa
AbstractSmallholder 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.
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