Women in farmer-led irrigation development: the case of Infulene Valley, Maputo – Mozambique

Natalia Reyes Tejada



This article draws on my doctoral research and aims to identify the ways in which international development literature generates a particular narrative on the relationship between agriculture, irrigation and societal development. It explores the social, economic and nutritional meanings that small-scale holdings have for society, particularly in the case of horticultural production in Infulene Valley, Maputo. As part of Maputo’s greenbelt, Infulene is protected by municipal laws, but at the same time is a recipient of the city’s waste. Development literature tends to highlight the importance of family agriculture: in Mozambique, 99.98% of agricultural holdings are family held (machambas). These smallholders farm 99.7% of the nationally produced food. However, the same literature expresses concern over a decline in productivity per area unit in family holdings. This presents the challenge of reflecting on the reasons why family agriculture remains. This is the case of Infulene, where horticulture’s permanence challenges declining water quality and the city’s rapid urbanization process. Development literature has failed to comprehend the intrinsic value of the machambas and it has unsuccessfully portrayed the African family systems reflected on the on-farm social organization of labour. The following is a manuscript that aims to understand the machamba as a socio-spatial unit and the on-farm sexual division of labour from a feminist perspective. The objective is, thus, to develop a language and terminology that do justice to its value in more terms than just productivity per unit area.

Keywords: Family agriculture, households, machamba, gender, Infulene Valley.

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