Gender, Rights, and the Politics of Productivity: The Case of the Flag Boshielo Irrigation Scheme, South Africa
Can South Africa's world renowned constitutional socio-economic rights to access to sufficient water and food be realized by technology-driven capital-intensive economic growth, especially agricultural growth, or are there inevitable trade-offs? Is growth of the country's well-advanced, large-scale businesses a necessary condition to redress past inequities along race and gender lines and achieve substantive equality? Or would the promotion of sophisticated technologies for 'economically viable' productivity inevitably reinforce past and present wrongs: concentrating income, land and water among the few; widening the skills gap; and increasing the numbers of unemployed, especially women and youth? These questions are certainly not unique to South Mrica, but the views at both ends of the spectrum are probably more at variance than elsewhere. Answers to these questions are vital for gender equality. A persistent stereotype is that technology design, construction, operation and maintenance are male domains. Yet, the constitutional right to substantive equality prohibits any gender-based exclusion from control over technologies. Moreover, in the case of agricultural technologies for black agriculture, women historically dominated, and still dominate, cropping in South Mrica. Thus, in principle, they are more interested in learning technologies that can render their labour more productive.