Land, Labour and Gendered Livelihoods in a 'Peasant' and a 'Settler' Economy

Citation:

Amanor-Wilks, Dede-Esi. 2009. “Land, Labour and Gendered Livelihoods in a 'Peasant' and a 'Settler' Economy. Feminist Africa 12: 31-50.

Author: Dede-Esi Amanor-Wilks

Annotation:

“Africa historically has been land-abundant and labour-scarce. The situation in Africa contrasts with that in Asia, which has historically been labour-abundant and land-scarce. And it means that until relatively recently, land scarcity was not a major problem for African producers. In spite of this, we can surmise that access to land for women, or more crucially control over land, has been an issue for as long as patriarchy has existed. This is because labour applied to land creates capital; therefore land is a crucial source of power, whereas patriarchy is essentially the monopolisation of power by men. Yet there exists a perception that women in West Africa have more secure land rights than do women in East and Southern Africa. This article seeks explanations for this perception, from a framework of the peasant-settler dichotomy in Africa. While there is a growing literature on women’s land rights in Africa that makes no distinction between the former “peasant” and “settler” colonies, in African historiography generally, a major distinction has been drawn between them. We thus have separate literatures on “peasant” and “settler” economies of Africa that rarely speak to each other, and comparative African studies rarely cross the peasant-settler divide (Amanor-Wilks, 2006 and forthcoming). The main difference between “peasant” (or “peasant export”) and “settler” colonies is that in the former, land remained in the hands of African producers, who dominated local and export agricultural production. In the settler colonies by contrast, prime lands were expropriated to European settlers, who competed directly with Africans in both food and export production. Alongside the question of differential gender access to land across the peasant-settler divide, this article considers two sets of questions on which there is division in the literature on land tenure and gender justice. Is customary law harmful to women’s land rights or should it be codified to protect women’s land rights? Is access to land for women “negotiated”, or are access and control products more of social conflict? The hypothesis of this article is that the assumption that access is negotiated works best in conditions of relative land abundance and that in conditions of scarcity, it is social conflict that produces change.” (Amanor-Wilks 2009, 31-2).

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Land Tenure, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa

Year: 2009

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