Land tenure as a tool to promote equality

Land tenure is a critical issue in efforts to build equity, MEDA discovered during its Greater Rural Opportunities for Women (GROW) project in Ghana. Land tenure “underpinned women’s ability to participate in agriculture, their agricultural productivity… and ultimately, their income.”
Women are far from being treated as equals in Ghana. The West African nation ranked 139 out of 177 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s 2015 Gender Inequality Index.
Access to land is a key barrier for women farmers in Ghana to achieve parity in the equal distribution of economic and natural resources, studies suggest.
Land tenure rules define the ways in which property rights to land are allocated, transferred, used or managed in a society.
Only 20 per cent of land in Ghana is governed by written, codified rules known as statutory tenure, with 80 per cent under the authority of local chiefs and leaders.
Most women MEDA worked with in the GROW project cultivated one acre or less. Fewer than one in five cultivated 1.5 acres or more of crops.
Women’s access to land is routinely lost through formal titling and registration. Also, women would have to be literate to benefit from statutory tenure, and most women are not able to read and write.
Within a family, a woman may have use rights for growing subsistence crops to feed her family, but her husband will have control rights, as he benefits financially from the sale of crops.
Land accessible to women requires intense physical labor to uproot tree stumps, clear rocks and level the steep grades present. Men often provide women with the worst lands, as women are so desperate for land access that they will do the hard labor to improve the land. When 
men subsequently take over the land, the men benefit from improvements women have made.
During the GROW project, MEDA recognized that focusing both on land tenure and improved agronomic practices and inputs would led to greater yields, productivity and incomes for women subsistence farmers.
To build greater awareness around land tenure and rights, GROW piloted a training workshop on alternative dispute resolution for women soybean farmers, so women could understand their rights, learn how to negotiate better with males in the community around the issue of land tenure and learn about the steps to formalize their land tenure. GROW also hosted community gender sensitization sessions with local partners and male gender activists that focused on land access and control. These activists serve as allies with women farmers to sensitize the community in support of them.  A 2017 forum on land tenure in Ghana was attended by over 1,000 people3 A 2017 forum on land tenure in Ghana was attended by over 1,000 people
In late 2017, GROW hosted a day-long event to discuss secure and long-term land tenure that was the first of its kind in Northern Ghana. Attended by village chiefs, their female counterparts — Queen Mothers — landowners, lead farmers, representatives of government departments and male gender activists, the land tenure forum attracted over 1,000 people.
Women speakers advised chiefs and landowners how they could help women to create more sustainable livelihoods for them and their families. The event’s facilitator, Fr. Clement Mweyang Aapengnuo, highlighted how providing women access to secure land tenure over multiple years was the best form of resource management and security for future generations of farmers.
At a subsequent meeting in July 2018, village chiefs, Queen Mothers and the GROW team reaffirmed their commitment to longer and secure land tenure arrangements for women farmers.
As women farmers have increased their household’s access to better nutrition, education for their children and ability to provide a better economic position for the entire household, Ghanaian men have been willing to provide more secure access to the lands for their women. ◆
From a case study by Sara Seavey, senior program manager, gender, of MEDA’s Washington D.C. office

Global Affairs Canada funds MEDA’S GROW (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) project in Ghana and the IMOW (Improving Market Opportunities for Women) project in Myanmar.