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Abstract

The Fast Track Land Reform Programme in Zimbabwe led to the emergence of new communities on formerly white-owned land. The Zimbabwean government initiated two schemes: A1 (smallholder farming units of an average six hectares, each geared mainly toward household consumption) and A2 (large land sizes, at times over 400 hectares, geared toward commercial agriculture). This paper focuses on communities on A1 farms in Mazowe. These communities were born out of a chaotic and often violent process that precipitated economic and political crises. The new farmers found themselves faced with a myriad of social and service problems on the farms with a government that did not have the capacity to meet their needs. The farmers used various forms of social organization and farm-level grassroots organization to meet these challenges. This paper provides a gendered analysis of these organizational formations. It highlights that whilst social capital is important in building new farming communities, it can also lead to exclusion along gender lines. The paper thus focuses on the inclusion and exclusion of women from key productive institutions at the farm level. Findings also show that women act as active agents by forming their own groups (which, however, are not necessarily involved in governance on the farms). Through the use of qualitative methodologies on six purposively-sampled farming schemes in Mazowe, the paper argues that male domination of organizations affects women’s (particularly female heads of households) livelihoods. Women are largely excluded from decision-making in key productive institutions, which in most cases affects their access to communal productive assets. The paper concludes that romanticizing social capital hides how it can lead to gender-based exclusion.

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