The actual gender relations within rural communities and the strategies being pursued in communal land processes are obscured and often ignored in policies about communal rangelands, which over-stress the ecological and economic impact and the balancing of these dimensions. As active and primary users, women play a central role in livelihoods supported by communal rangelands. Their access to land is mediated through their relationships with men. A wider debate is needed to advance the largely superficial policy considerations of women’s position in relation to communal rangeland and the extent to which they may be excluded on the basis of traditional control of land, forms of access and claiming of use rights. The paper “Reshaping women’s land rights on communal rangeland” in the African Journal of Range & Forage Science discusses the complexity of land rights under communal land tenure and argues that, despite traditional and policy barriers, women in traditional systems of male-dominated land rights have had some success in accessing communal rangelands. Greater policy impetus is necessary to leverage equitable and independent land access for women amid debates about management of communal rangelands.
The paper contributes to the debates on communal rangelands by analysing the gendered dimension of land rights and land access in the rural areas of Namaqualand in South Africa. Many of the principles apply to other pastoral areas in Africa, where women have taken advantage of the traditional system to engage in economic activities that would not have been accessible to them with titled or formalised land ownership.