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Is women’s access to land an indicator for their well-being and empowerment?

 

Photo credit: CGIAR

After the group discussion on land and gender in Volta Region, Ghana. Photo credit: Isabel Lambrecht, IFPRI

Women’s access to land in Ghana: Are we asking the right questions and are we drawing the right conclusions?

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With increased recognition of the importance of gender in development, researchers now often collect data disaggregated at the individual or intra-household level, sometimes with a great amount of detail involved. Yet, once in a while we may need to step back and reflect whether we are asking the right questions and whether we are making the right conclusions. In this blog I advocate for the continued use of qualitative research methods to better understand the local context and to enable researchers to better design quantitative survey instruments and interpret the results from quantitative data analysis.

Starting my research on land tenure and gender in Ghana, I complemented the literature review and data analysis with qualitative field work in order to better understand how smallholder farmers gain access to land and how this differs for men and women.  I initially planned to conduct a modest number of group discussions and stakeholder interviews. Yet, this soon appeared insufficient to grapple the diversity of tenure systems and I finally conducted a total of 56 gender-separated group discussions in 7 different regions of Ghana.

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Woman entrepreneur in Upper-West Region, Ghana, selling fried yam to supplement household income. Photo credit: Isabel Lambrecht, IFPRI – http://pim.cgiar.org/files/2016/11/Woman-enterpreneur-Ghana-300×225.jpg

The first aim of the field work was to understand how smallholder farmers access land in Ghana. To say that customary tenure systems are complex and diverse is not an understatement. In the paper published in Land Use Policy I explain key aspects of customary tenure arrangements in Ghana, and how they can differ even among nearby communities.

The second aim was to understand how and why men’s and women’s access to land differs. By definition, gender is a social construct. In my discussions with household members of both sexes, it quickly became clear that men and women often have different roles in their households, families, communities and markets, and to a large extent this offers a rationale for an unequal distribution of productive assets between men and women.  The analysis of the social norms, rules and perceptions that influence men’s and women’s access to land was published in World Development.

Read the full story: CGIAR

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.