The Lived Experience of Food Sovereignty: Gender, Indigenous Crops and Small-Scale Farming in Mtubatuba, South Africa


Ngcoya, Mvuselelo, and Narendran Kumarakulasingam. 2017. “The Lived Experience of Food Sovereignty: Gender, Indigenous Crops and Small-Scale Farming in Mtubatuba, South Africa.” Journal of Agrarian Change 17 (3): 480–96.

Authors: Mvuselelo Ngcoya, Narendran Kumarakulasingam


Food sovereignty has become a powerful concept to critique the dominant global food regime. Although it has not taken root in South Africa as fiercely as elsewhere, we use this concept to explore how one small-scale farmer seeks to wean herself from the dominant food system in the small town of Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal. Using ethnographic methods and in-depth interviews about this single intense and extreme case, we explore this farmer’s commitment and argue that it constitutes what we call the ‘lived experience of food sovereignty’. If food sovereignty is concerned with small-farmer control over decisions about food cultivation, distribution and consumption, we examine this farmer’s praxis and explore the obstacles she faces. These include gendered and racialized agrarian questions, land struggles, social reproduction and perceptions of her indigenous crops. We also examine the networks, knowledge, systems and methods that have allowed her to cultivate her self-reliance.

Keywords: indigenous crops, food sovereignty, gender, race, South Africa, small-scale farming


Topics: Agriculture, Gender, Women, Race, Security, Food Security Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2017

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