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?



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.

Woman entrepreneur in Upper-West Region, Ghana, selling fried yam to supplement household income. Photo credit: Isabel Lambrecht, IFPRI –×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

Land Grab in Africa

Read the full article: Food Tank

Photo credit: Food Tank

More than 1,000 large-scale foreign land deals are now under contract for agriculture covering more than 26 million hectares of land, according to the new report by Land Matrix Initiative.

Land Grab Update: Mozambique, Africa Still in the Crosshairs

On October 12, the government of Mozambique quietly announced that it would close its Agriculture Promotion Centre (CEPAGRI), the agency created in 2006 to promote large-scale foreign investment in the country’s agricultural sector. In a terse statement, government spokesman Mouzinho Saide gave no reason for the closure, saying only that its functions would be subsumed under a different agency in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Longtime Mozambique analyst Joseph Hanlon was not so shy, reporting in his October 18 Mozambique News Report that CEPAGRI was finished because those large-scale projects it was supposed to broker: “none of them have succeeded.”

Hyperbole aside, Mozambique’s grand visions of foreign capital modernizing its agricultural sector have indeed proven grandiose. Nowhere is this clearer than in the rich Nacala Corridor in northern Mozambique, where the ProSavana project promoted by Brazil, Japan, and Mozambique was going to transform 35 million hectares—nearly 100 million acres—into soybean plantations modeled on Brazil’s cerrado region.

Brazilian agribusinessmen walked away, seeing land that was hardly “unoccupied,” resistance from the communities occupying that land, and poor infrastructure to get any product to its intended markets in China and Japan. ProSavana lives on in name at least—and as an ongoing threat to farmers in the region—but so far, the project’s largest product is hubris. (See my previous articles here and here.)

But is land-grabbing over, in Mozambique and across Africa and the rest of the developing world? Now that crop and food prices have returned to their usual punishingly low levels, is the pressure off from foreign buyers looking to acquire large tracts of agricultural lands?

Not according to new data from the Land Matrix Initiative, which has been tracking such deals since the land rush took off in 2007. A large number of formerly announced deals have failed to materialize, as with ProSavana, but many that remain are now under contract and coming into production.

Land-grabbing: myth and reality

More than 1,000 large-scale foreign land deals are now under contract for agriculture covering more than 26 million hectares of land, according to the new report, “Land Matrix Analytical Report II: International Land Deals for Agriculture.” That area represents a remarkable two percent of arable land in the world. Nearly three-quarters of the projects have now begun production on some of the land.

Africa remains the largest target for land grabs, accounting for 42 percent of global deals with 10 million hectares under contract. Mozambique now ranks 18th among all target countries in area under contract, with 500,000 hectares in 60 concluded deals. That puts the country, which in the 2012 report was a top target in Africa, well behind Ethiopia, Ghana, and South Sudan, which have the most on the continent.

Read the full article: Food Tank

Land rights for conservation



Recognising land rights for conservation? Tenure reforms in the Northern Sierra Madre, The Philippines


van der Ploeg J., Aquino D.M., Minter T., van Weerd M. (2016)
Conservation & Society, 14(2): 146-160 [open access]


The legalisation of the customary land rights of rural communities is currently actively promoted as a strategy for conserving biodiversity. There is, however, little empirical information on the conservation outcomes of these tenure reforms. In this paper, we describe four conservation projects that specifically aimed to formalise land rights in the Philippines, a country widely seen as a model for the devolution of control over natural resources to rural communities. We demonstrate that these legalistic interventions are based on flawed assumptions, on: 1) the capacity of the state to enforce tenure; 2) the characteristics of customary land rights; and 3) the causal links between legal entitlements and sustainable natural resource management. As a result, these state-led tenure reforms actually aggravate tenure insecurity on the ground, and ultimately fail to improve natural resource management.

Gender and Land Rights

Photo credit: PIM.CGIAR

Caption from the GLRD leaflet

FAO’s Gender and Land Rights Database launches a new website

by Evgeniya Anisimova

FAO’s Gender and Land Rights Database (GLRD) has launched its new and improved website aiming to increase awareness about gender and land issues around the globe. PIM is proud to be one of the partners of this initiative, especially because the new GLRD’s indicators of men’s and women’s control over land draw from those proposed in the PIM paper by Doss et al (2013), “Gender Inequalities in Ownership and Control of Land in Africa: Myth versus Reality”. 

The three major components of the site are the country profilesgender and land-related statistics and the Legislation Assessment Tool (LAT) – all featuring interactive maps to facilitate information-gathering processes.

Read the full article: PIM.CGIAR

Drylands Dialogue and Social Diversity

Photo credit: DAPA.CIAT

Drylands Dialogue; Second Meeting in Nairobi Jan 20-21, 2015

Action Plan for Drylands Dialogue and Social Diversity

by Purabi Bose

The second gathering of the Drylands Dialogue meeting achieved the objective to identify priorities for research and development action plan.

On January 20-21, the second Drylands Dialogue was organized by the African Studies Center (ASC), the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry- Gender (CRP FTA), and AEGIS. The two-day meeting on drylands agriculture-forests-agroforestry-commons nexus gathered some 25 multidisciplinary experts including Dr. Dennis Garrity, Drylands Ambassador, UNCCD; Caroline King-Okumu, IIED; Esther Mwangi, CIFOR; Tobias  Haller, University of Bern; and hosted by Han van Dijk, ASC. The first Drylands Dialogue was held in Leiden, Netherlands on June 17, 2014.

Thematically the two-day meeting was divided in a knowledge part (day I) and a policy-action part (day II). The key objective of the meeting was to build a research-development action plan, building on the results of the first meeting. The research part was devoted to (1) the climate-food security; (2) the education-economic development; and (3) the conflict-land tenure and natural-resource management.

Read the full article: CIAT


Land tenure and agriculture

Photo credit: Pixabay

How does land tenure affect agricultural productivity? A systematic review

BY STEVEN LAWRY – Research Director, Forests & Governance, CIFOR

VIDEO : – Steven Lawry – The Impact of Land Property Rights Interventions

A lot of us who may come from the West assume that land rights certification, registration or titling are important attributes of any kind of land tenure or property rights system. We think of formal recording of land rights as essential to assuring farmers that they have land tenure security, an important enabling condition to agricultural development.

Economic theory and common sense tell us that if a family is going to invest in their property, they need to have a clear expectation that, far into the future, the kinds of sacrifices, investments of labor, capital, materials, into that land, and the benefits that come from those investments, will accrue to them. There’s a very simple relationship between land tenure security, property rights security, and investment: Theory predicts positive outcomes, and these are often observed practice, where people have clear tenure security.

However, in many developing countries, the kind of formal certification, property rights and titling systems that we are familiar with in wealthy countries often do not exist. A lot of farmers farm on land owned by the state. In Africa particularly, a lot of farming—up to 90 percent—is done on land held under customary tenure regimes, where land rights are not certified formally. Under customary tenure, people gain access to land as a social right, granted by virtue of their membership in a community.

Read the full article: Forests News

Land Acquisitions in Tanzania (IISD / Mark PURDON)

Land Acquisitions in Tanzania: Strong Sustainability, Weak Sustainability and the Importance of Comparative Methods

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This paper distinguished different analytical approaches to the evaluation of the sustainability of large-scale land acquisitions—at both the conceptual and methodological levels. First, at the conceptual level, evaluation of the sustainability of land acquisitions depends on what definition of sustainability is adopted—strong or weak sustainability. Second, a lack of comparative empirical methods in many studies has limited the identification of causal factors affecting sustainability.

An empirical investigation into the sustainability of land acquisitions in Tanzania that employs these existing concepts in a methodologically rigorous manner offers an opportunity to more clearly addresses ethical questions surrounding international land acquisitions. My findings indicate that it should not be assumed that sustainability necessarily hinges on issues of strong sustainability, particularly that all village lands represent critical natural capital.

As a result of its unique history of Ujamaa villagization, Tanzania villages often have ownership of significant tracts of unused land that mitigates the risk of violating conditions of strong sustainability. Issues of weak sustainability appear to be more important to villagers—particularly the degree of man-made capital benefits derived from projects. While compensation rates for lands acquired were low and the process lacked transparency, low compensation rates are not sufficient grounds for rejecting land acquisitions as unsustainable.

When projects deliver significant man-made capital benefits, low compensation rates were not a politically salient issue amongst villagers. Finally, results suggest that some prioritization of man-made capital over biodiversity can be ethically defensible when the decision-making process goes through legitimate village government bodies and benefits reach poor villagers.

Mark Purdon

PhD Candidate – Department of Political Science
University of Toronto


Fighting poverty one land plot at a time (The Seattle Times)

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UW professor fights poverty one land plot at a time

For decades, Roy Prosterman has pushed to change land-ownership laws and practices in an effort to lift some of the world’s poorest people out of poverty. Through Landesa, the Seattle organization he founded, he has helped millions of people across the globe gain rights to their own land.

By Melissa Allison

Seattle Times business reporter

By the time a coconut plantation owner with a gun strapped to his leg came looking for Roy Prosterman, the University of Washington law professor’s reputation was well established as a land-rights advocate for the poor.

It was 1987, two decades after Prosterman’s work in land rights had begun, when a Manila newspaper reported he was in town.

The land owner “probably hadn’t taken the trouble to realize we were not for confiscatory land reform and thought, ‘It’s another one of these Marxists,'” Prosterman surmised. “We left, decided it was not worth the risk.”

Prosterman had reason to take the threat seriously.

Seven years earlier, three of his colleagues, including one of his former law students, were assassinated for similar reasons at a hotel coffee shop in El Salvador. Prosterman would have been with them, but he was on vacation in Canada.

His work sparks strong reactions.

On one hand are landholders who sometimes assume that giving land to the poor means stealing it from them. On another, communists have accused him of using land programs to help the U.S. government root out peasant leaders.

Then there are the people who fight poverty on a global scale, working to eradicate hunger, increase education and reduce overpopulation — people like Bill Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which since 1997 has granted more than $17 million to Landesa, the nonprofit Prosterman founded.

“It’s an important positive role the development of land rights around the world is going to have, and that’s all a function of Roy Prosterman’s work,” Gates said.

Although other people — and governments — have tried land reforms, occasionally with success, Gates considers Prosterman the leader. “Nobody is in second place,” Gates said.

“Nobody is in second place,” Gates said.


Land ownership and land reform in South Africa (AfricaFiles / NGOPulse)

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Summary & Comment: This article focuses on land ownership in South Africa and some facts not widely known. “The first is that the amount of land in black hands is not 13 percent but may be as high as 50 percent. The second is that the 50 percent in white hands is held by South Africa’s food producers and that their numbers are shrinking very quickly as urban markets demand even more cost effective production methods. The third is that any policy that compromises the ability of those farmers to produce food may trigger a series of urban protests that the government may find difficult to control. ” JK

Author: Fran Cronje
Date Written: 7 March 2012
Primary Category: Food and Land
Document Origin: SANGONeT
Secondary Category: Southern Region
Source URL:

This article focuses on land ownership in South Africa and some of the facts that people, including politicians, have to get correct when commenting around the land issue. Dr Pieter Mulder has courted great controversy with comments that black South Africans have no historical claim to land in the Northern and Western Cape and also that blacks own a greater share of the country’s land than the government admits. His comments come against claims that whites owned 87 percent of South Africa’s land and that little progress has been made in changing this picture. However, some basic arithmetic reveals that a far greater share of the country is in black hands than is often acknowledged. It is also apparent that ensuring the productivity of the portion remaining in white hands is increasingly important to the government in maintaining political stability in urban areas. This has implications for the manner in which future land policy is implemented.


women own 2 percent of arable lands in West, Central Africa (AfricaFiles / ANSA)

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Research shows women own 2 percent of arable lands in West, Central Africa

Research shows women own 2 percent of arable lands in West, Central Africa
Author: Press Release
Date Written: 8 November 2010
Primary Category: Gender
Document Origin: Affiliated Network for Social Accountability Africa
Secondary Category: Food and Land
Source URL:
Key Words: Gender, agriculture, food and land, property

African Charter Article #14: The right to property shall be guaranteed. (Click for full text…)

Summary & Comment: A recent scientific study has shown that in Western and Central Africa, women are responsible for about 80 per cent of the agricultural production for the supply of households and markets. However, they own less than 2 per cent of arable land. HSEN


Solutions to land disputes (IRINNews)

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LIBERIA: Searching for solutions to land disputes

GANTA, 15 November 2010 (IRIN) – With close to 25 years surveying land and helping resolve land disputes, J. Patrick Vanie has unrivalled expertise on the nuances of land ownership in Nimba County. “I know this county right down to my fingertips,” says Vanie. But Nimba’s land commissioner admits to feeling swamped by an overwhelming caseload. “The land business here is tough, it is no joke,” Vanie concedes. “The demand for land here has become very, very high.”

There is serious concern at national and local level over unresolved land issues in Nimba. The northeastern county has remained relatively calm since the war ended seven years ago. But longstanding grievances have frequently surfaced.

Visiting the county’s administrative capital, Sanniquellie, for Independence Day celebrations on 26 July, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf warned: “The land dispute here has dragged on for too long.” Continue reading “Solutions to land disputes (IRINNews)”

Access to land and secure land tenure are key to poverty reduction (IFAD)

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Sharing practices to make land tenure securer


Posted by Roxanna Samii

By Willem Bettink

The land pathway got underway with knowledge from land right practitioners from Benin, Tanzania, Niger, Madagascar, Swaziland, Ethiopia and the Philippines. The focus of this pathway is to map out complementary good practices and innovations as part of a knowledge exchange programme on the customary land tenure and management systems.

Mike Taylor of the International Land Coalition opened by saying that, “Access to land and secure land tenure are key to poverty reduction”. During this first day participants shared their experiences with local customary land issues. Michael Odhiambo(Reconcile) identified a set of challenges they face in working with pastoralist in East –Africa and how empowerment of smallholder producers- pastoralist, farmers and fisher folk-is one of the ways to address these challenges. A participant stated” Can we empower pastoralists? Or have they been disempowered-as it is they who have all the knowledge about the land.” Continue reading “Access to land and secure land tenure are key to poverty reduction (IFAD)”

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