Namibia: Masule Breaks Gender Barrier to Become First Female Tractor Operator in Zambezi

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Kahimbi Desire Masule is a 34-year-old ambitious woman who grew up with her grandmother in the Sikanjabuka village located in the eastern part of Zambezi region. At a young age, she loved and enjoyed agriculture which encouraged her to enrol at Zambezi Vocational Training Centre (ZVTC) in 2017, where she obtained her level 3 Agricultural Certificate.

To bridge the gap of gender inequality and survive the climate change effects in the country, she became the first female tractor operator in her region and probably amongst the few in Namibia.

“Growing up in Zambezi region, there have been challenges faced by women due to cultural differences which ascribe certain type of work to gender,” she said. Men are more responsible for livestock production, mending fences, land tiling and they have control over agricultural equipment including household tools.

On the other hand, women such as Masule are responsible for agricultural production (planting, thinning and harvesting), fetching water and collecting firewood, as well as preparing food for their families.

Operation of machinery such as tractors in the agricultural production process is one of the activities, which is often ascribed within the domain of men’s work. “As women, we have the ability to carry out activities such as ploughing, however, there is limited access to equipment as they are most accessible to men,” Masule said.

With limited or no access to land and other resources, including finance, technology and information, women and girls suffer the consequences of climate change more and bear increased burdens in domestic work as compared to male farmers in Namibia.

In November 2020, the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF) through the Climate Resilient Agriculture in the most Vulnerable Extreme northern regions of Namibia (CRAVE) project, conducted a gender mainstreaming training workshop in Kavango East, Kavango West and Zambezi regions. The training was aimed at creating awareness on gender and climate change mainstreaming to the beneficiaries as well as technical staff in those regions.

CRAVE is a five-year project funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) through the EIF as a direct national Accredited Entity.

The Environmental Investment Fund has developed a gender policy which sets out a target of 50/50 involvement of women and men and benefits on climate change and activities financed by the Fund.

Masule was one of the first five women in Zambezi region who went through CRAVE project tractor operators training and first to obtain her license.

Her motivation and dedication have fuelled her to take up such responsibilities which are normally assigned to men. This has prepared her for climate change effects and is determined to continue bridging the gap of gender bias as well as ensuring food security in her region.

Masule encouraged other women to take on the full responsibility of their livelihoods to thrive through the effects imposed by environmental problems such as climate change and cease to wait on their opposite gender for survival. “It is not enough to simply hope for a better future, the only way forward is action. CRAVE project has done it for us, so we should get up on our feet and start acting” she concluded.

*Kredula Shimwandi is a Gender Mainstreaming Young Professional Intern at the Environmental Investment Fund

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