Well, well, here we are, another post. Months into this pandemic and I am seriously getting the cabin fever. Are you? Let me know in the comments section below.
Here is a story for you! In March 2020, schools in Kenya were closed. It was until recently that the government announced the re-opening would be in 2021. 2021 weuh! When they closed, people in this education sector had to find their daily routine once again.
Around March, this lady, a very personal and close friend of mine gave me a call telling me about her new daily routine. She went on and on. She had a 9-5 in the education sector but now she is out until 20201. Now her farm seems to occupy most of her time.
Nduku (the lady on the phone) told me that she was going to do farm supervision and get her hands dirty. She had to do some weeding for the crops on the farm already. Of course, this was a short-term plan with the anticipation that Miss Corona would be done showing off soon enough to resume normalcy. Nduku decides to start some serious vegetable farming. She also incorporated extensive fruit farming in her routine. Nduku planted about 20 lemon seedlings for grafting later to tangerine and oranges trees. She also added that she was going to seriously engage in her tree-planting project. Previously, she had planted trees to act as windbreakers and prevent soil erosion. However her with her day job she never had sufficient time for proper care.
June, when the education CS was announcing the new school calendar, Nduku, was already enjoying the vegetables and the grafting process set for August 2020. She tells me she is rethinking the whole model for 9-5.
What am I am trying to say? Nduku lost her job and was privileged enough to have land and more importantly secure land rights. She had the opportunity to have a place to pick up from. The pandemic has affected hundreds of thousands of livelihoods. Evictions for city dwellers have become rampant and forced people to move back to the village.Reuters wrote an article highlighting injustices to women in their land and property rights.
The article mentioned that such atrocities are not only in Kenya but also in countries like Brazil and South Africa. Cultural practices like wife inheritance are extremely dangerous especially when we are still combating HIV/AIDS.
Again, we find ourselves in situations where women are being disproportionately affected by circumstances. This is not to mean that men deserve to suffer more. Women and children have more vulnerabilities during pandemics, natural calamities etc. Therefore it is time to situate ourselves as champions and advocates for human rights. It’s time for inclusive empowerment.One remarkable notion about this inclusive empowerment is that empowering the whole society prepares the fertile ground for the empowered women and girls to exist and strive as well as to exercise their full potential.
See Nduku, who if I did not mention, her tenure option is customary tenure, has found a source of income and a place to be occupied and keep sane during this pandemic.
Land rights are fundamental in achieving human rights. Just like Nduku, it is a source of livelihood. What was her side hustle now in these hard times is her source of hope. Economic empowerment for women is one way of liberating them from poverty. It is however unfortunate that women across developing countries in Africa have been selectively denied their rights to land. Most of the farm labour comes from women but these beautiful people. However, they are often excluded from the decision-making process regarding the land they till. Financial empowerment crowns women self-esteem and affords them a position in society and more. It has the power to prevent gender-based violence and other forms of violence.
Nduku’s story is one success story of what can happen if we secure women’s land rights. Currently, low income earning couples in the city are opting to migrate back to the villages. This is with hope they will find something to do ,like farming. In most scenarios, the woman and the children move back to the village and leaving the man behind for obvious reasons (to fetch for opportunities).
When we normalize securing land rights for women, we award them the power to have long-term investments on the land they till, access to financial credits. This widens the scope and encourages the use of technology in land use. Agriculture is not the only viable land. Secure tenure for all can ensure the exploration of other land uses. Nduku was telling me she wants to explore growing some grapes vines on the fence of her farm. Who knows she might switch to a complete vineyard ….? The security of rights in the land continuum determines how we invest in land and its returns.
Purchasing land is one of the ways to own land in Kenya. However, most don’t have the financial capacity to acquire a piece. On the customary and community systems which most rely on, cultural practices and beliefs are still holding these queens down.
For today we celebrate Nduku, who has turned her rights to this resource as her 9-5 routine and a source of economic independence. Who knows, Nduku, my mother, might venture into the wine business and find this her new frontier. I think I should I text her and cement that grapes and vines idea.