The Right to Food Sovereignty for Small Scale Farmers: Case Study of Farming Cooperatives in Limpopo Province, South Africa

Sharon Groenmeyer


This paper on small scale farmers focuses on the right to food sovereignty in South Africa. Food sovereignty is defined as the fundamental democratic right to shape agricultural and food policy from the bottom up. Africa is the hardest hit by climate change because it depends on natural resources where small-scale agriculture is the dominant method of food production, except in South Africa where commercial agriculture dominates. This has direct links to climate change discourse reveals that rapid climate change including more frequent and intense weather systems with greater climate variability and the effects of increases in the average global temperature lead to changes in average rainfall patterns (Babagura 2011). In Sub-Saharan Africa, men make up approximately 85% of landholders and women 15% (UN Africa HDR 2012). Cultural practices and the dominance of patriarchal norms influence equal ownership and inheritance rights for men and women. Consequently landownership amongst women is lower in sub-Saharan Africa than in any other region in the world. In contrast, women make up approximately 50% of the agriculture workforce on male owned African small scale farms. Therefore, women in sub-Saharan Africa have less control than men do over productive resources such as assets of land and credit. Women’s time is often devoted to the domestic sphere in activities that are non-marketed and undervalued and their access to key institutions such as markets is curtailed (Annecke 2010).

Climate change discourse demonstrates that the poor are disproportionately affected especially women who become shock absorbers during a food crisis, skipping meals to ensure family members have adequate nutrition. Household food security is part of a complex matrix of inequality which includes high levels of unemployment and increasing impoverishment because of the rising cost of basic services of electricity and water. Consequently, the increasing prices of basic foods like maize and wheat as the staple foods of most rural and urban poor poses a problem, because impoverished households are not buyers of food. Coupled with the stressors of poverty, poor health (HIV and AIDS) and societal inequalities (race and gender) small scale farmers have less flexibility to protect themselves or avoid risks.

This case study based on group interviews with small scale farmers who are members of cooperatives located in the Mopani District in the Limpopo Province in South Africa investigates how these small scale farmers have addressed food insecurity.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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