The covid-19 pandemic has destroyed the land rights and livelihoods of many people farming in rural communities across the African continent, and women are bearing the consequences of this pandemic, says Fatmata Fouard-Kanu, a legal empowerment advocate from the Namati Land Rights Organisation in Sierra Leone.
According to Fouard-Kanu inequality is an ongoing challenge in her country. Amid the pandemic the injustice against women in poor areas have been “heightened”.
“The covid-19 situation has crippled the economy to an extent that the incoming opportunities especially for women have dwindled. Women have been reduced to mere housekeepers and this grooms a lot of domestic violence in homes,” she says.
She was one of several panellists who spoke on the impacts of covid-19 on land rights in their respective countries during a recent webinar hosted by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS). It was the eighth instalment in a series chaired by prof. Ruth Hall of the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).
She explains that the pandemic exposes gender inequality in the use and concern of land in a country in the southwest coast of West Africa. Women are still not allowed to control or make decisions in land matters. Neither can they participate in land negotiations. The sharing of land has been poorly handled with women being pushed away or sometimes being given the smaller share.
“The situation has been exacerbated by the outbreak of the pandemic,” she says, with women restricted from making meaningful contributions when it comes to land matters.
Bernadus Swartbooi, leader of the Landless People’s Movement and former deputy minister of Lands and Resettlement in Namibia, says the number of covid-19 cases in his country is very low (as of today 24 cases have been reported),so causalities of the novel corona virus have been relatively low.
However, Namibian people have not been spared from lockdowns that have had dire consequences on their rural and urban economy.
“There has been a direct impact on incomes and on the trade in goods and services. In particular, in the rural areas there have been a very big economic impact, because (livestock) auctions could not be held,” he said.
Swartbooi says the goods and services most people use to make a living have come to a standstill because of the closure of the border with South Africa. This has had severe financial implications.
Apart from covid-19, Namibia still faces other issues such as drought. The country has seen an increase in the number of people who are moving from rural to urban areas.