Accepted paper:

The rising rural middle-class in the Zimbabwean land and agrarian reform; A gender perspective.

Authors:

Kwashirai Zvokuomba (University of Johannesburg)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines the rise of the black middle-class within the context of the Zimbabwean land reform. It explores the new developments and trends in the rural enclave from a gender perspective, and argue that a small click of farmers are becoming part of a new middle-class in rural areas.

Paper long abstract:

The article gives an analysis of rise of the middle-class within the context of land reform in Zimbabwe, utilising the 'gender lenses' and the narrative inquiry in the unearthing of the lived realities and experiences of both female and male land owners, taping into their finite changes of lifestyle. The research focused on the analysis of the post Fast Track Land Reform Programme farmer narratives and the rise of a click of these 'new farmers' to the middle-class as they 'modernised' their agricultural activities and transform their social status. This paper acknowledges that there is an avalanche of conflicting definitions of the middle-class in Africa due to the unstable economic environment, but argues that the narrative about the rising middle class is now 'inscribed on the walls' in the rural. This is a counter narrative to the history of poverty in the rural. Thus the article does not put gender 'lenses' but gives an alternative approach to land reform studies, thereby contribute to new knowledge production in the sociology and anthropology of land, a space which has been known for neglecting the gender dimension or treat it as an 'add on'. The study concludes that despite the challenges faced by new farmers, some have taken advantage of the political economic environment to 'up' their farming ventures to being profitable, strengthening the argument that the middle class phenomenon is no longer restricted to the urban only.

panel P123
The urban and the rural in biographical constructions of urban African middle classes