The Effects of El Nino on land reform farmers –Polokwane, Limpopo ?

By Tanaka Nazare (Research and Programmes Assistant)

An estimated 40 million people have been affected by El Nino in Southern Africa. This number has increased from 28 million since the beginning of the year. Oxfam South Africa conducted research into the effects of the latest El Nino in South Africa. El Nino is a change in weather patterns caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator, off the coast of South America. El Nino usually means less rainfall in most countries, but high rainfall in some countries. The current El Nino phenomenon is the strongest and longest in 35 years. The El Nino that hit Southern Africa has affected predominantly the food security of people in this region. The research team interviewed several communities in South Africa to understand the impact of El Nino on social and economic development. This article highlights three Community Property Associations (CPAs): Mavungeni, Ximange and Munzhedzi, which are based in Polokwane, Limpopo.

CPAs were created post 1994 and there is a CPA Act (1996) that provides for registration of CPAs, guidelines and minimum oversight procedures required of the government in respect to CPAs. CPAs were created to help restore land and land rights which under apartheid were taken from millions of black people. CPAs are legal entities through which land reform beneficiaries can acquire, hold and manage property. CPAs were created to aid in the equity of access to resources as well as transformative change and development in South Africa. Yet, the CPA model does not have a gender lens, while research consistently shows that natural disasters such as El Nino affect women, men, girls and boys in Southern Africa differently. The current CPA model does not address the range in vulnerabilities that the different sexes face.

Oxfam South Africa looked into the issues that the women within the CPAs were facing due to the drought caused by El Nino. The major finding is that women’s land rights are often particularly vulnerable and insecure within CPAs. For the women in South Africa, they have felt the effects of El Nino as the primary care-givers within their households They have to ration food and worry about the daily meals, and access to drinking water; “I used to cook twice a day, once in the morning and then again at night, but now we are only cooking once a day and the food must last the whole day.” (Poytla, Munzhedzi CPA). They also have the difficult task of worrying about the affordability of food, which influences what they are able to purchase.

Oxfam South Africa insists on engaging in development with a gender lens to ensure that any work done within communities is effective and addresses the specific issues that disproportionally affect women and girls. There is a need for a gendered response from the local municipality and government. The drought has and will continue to affect women, men, boys and girls differently. It is important that all groups are given equal and ample opportunity to address their needs. This can be done through ensuring equal and fair participation in decision making at the various levels, (within the CPAs, local municipality and government and protection of the vulnerable. This will require a process of identifying the experiences of women and girls vulnerability within these communities… Sustainable and transformative measures are important if South Africa is to adapt and mitigate the effects of the drought, while weather conditions continue to worsen. A well-executed gender sensitive response from the local municipalities and government will aid these communities to adapt better to El Nino, and will further improve the Community Property Associations.