The ordinary Swazi derives rights to land access and use by virtue of his/her residence or membership in a particular homestead ( umuti ). According to Hilda Kuper and Brian Marwick, the homestead is patriarchal, with a male homestead head ( umnumzana ) assuming primary powers, but the position of the main wife is important in family life. The homestead head determines resource allocation such as land distribution, makes major decisions regarding both production (plowing and types of crops grown) and economic expenditures, and mobilizes homestead labor.
The traditional Swazi homestead was circular in shape; the dwelling huts and cooking huts were built around the circumference of a circle, forming two "horns" embracing the courtyard and partially enclosing the cattle byre. Homestead residents have access as individuals to arable land and as members of the larger community to communal pasturage. Following the arrival of Europeans in Swaziland, homesteads changed; customarily tenured land was reduced in area, fragmented, and taxed. New agricultural methods, new hybrid seeds and fertilizers, and new technologies were introduced. At the same time, men migrated within Swaziland and to South Africa in search of income, thereby reducing labor power, altering sex roles, and changing the locus of decision making within homesteads. When homestead production activities changed, the social composition and physical organization of homesteads also changed.