Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Revealing the Social Dimensions of Open Space Cultivation by Older Women in Harare

Advancing a Social Planning Discourse For Urban Agriculture

By Stephanie Gabel, BES, MA
MA Thesis (Planning)
School of Community and Regional Planning
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC

Chapter One of this thesis can be downloaded here. (265K)


This research on urban agriculture in Harare, Zimbabwe highlights women's ideas, needs, concerns and agency, contextualising these findings through an investigation of the institutional and policy environment governing the practice of open space cultivation in the city. A broader conceptualisation and definition of urban agriculture is applied within this study. It is proposed that UA is reflective of cultural and social processes that convey the historical development of cities, illuminating stories that often remain hidden or unacknowledged in prominent accounts of city formation. A feminist methodology provides an overall framework, while also incorporating ethnomethodology and participatory research methodologies to highlight the broader social, political and cultural contexts of urban agriculture (UA). A multi-method approach was adopted that included the use of semi-structured interviewing, focus groups, strategic meetings, participatory methods, visioning interviews and action methods (such as field trips, creating a stakeholder forum, and organising income generating projects).

Findings from this research have been used to develop a gender-aware history of women and UA in Harare. Other key findings show that the forms of organisation for open space cultivation (SOSC) developed by older women have been historically unacknowledged, ignored, and impeded by those with decision making power, most often male elites. Nine legal channels available for SOSC in Harare are uncovered in the research, dispelling the myth that UA is an illegal activity in the City. This research further elaborates on the impacts of legal ambiguity that have resulted in land conflicts between various land tenure systems and categories, demonstrating the serious governance challenges at the heart of developing supportive policy development for UA in the City. The voices of women are used to illuminate the dire need for local and neighbourhood level leadership, and the importance of addressing the cultural context in which UA is imbedded. A discussion of planning and governance in Harare reveals the exclusionary practices that operate to make the work of women, their UA and land based livelihoods invisible in planning practice and city decision making. The research shows the potential for shifting planning practice and discourse toward more people centred, democratic forms of planning for UA.

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Revised Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture