Increasing Women’s Access to Land: Advancing the Conversation
*Update! To read about the results from MEDA's Agricultural Land Tenure Forum, visit this blog*.
On Saturday, November 18th, 2017, MEDA’s GROW project (Greater Rural Opportunities for Women) will be hosting a Land Tenure Forum in Wa, Ghana. The goal of this event is to bring together opinion leaders to discuss the issues surrounding land tenure for women. Attendees include Chiefs and Queen Mothers, landowners, GROW’s Lead Farmers, Key Facilitating Partners (KFPs), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Women in Agricultural Development, and various community members. A well-informed advocate on formalized land agreements will facilitate the event and lead the discussion on the importance of land ownership for women, and its sustainable impact on economic empowerment in GROW communities.
MEDA is very excited for this Forum as it is an important step towards promoting land rights for GROW women. Women in Ghana’s Upper West Region understand that the return on investment into their small plots of land is lost with constant changes from one plot to another.
To achieve optimal results, secure access to fertile land both during and outside the growing season is required to allow good stewardship of the soil and other resources. Due to socio-cultural norms in Ghana, women rarely hold the legal deed to the land they work and they are dependant on community and family members to allow them access to the land. Additionally, women typically only have access to a particular plot for a year, and must often move to another plot for the following year’s growing season. Being able to securely plan for several years will allow women farmers to plan more effectively, preparing the land, improving their yields and increasing their income.
Background: Land Tenure and Women
Land tenure includes access to both land and the natural resources, such as water, trees and arable soil. Tenure also defines who is granted access to, control over, and the ability to transfer land. Having control over one’s land is a precursor for productivity and given these conditions, it is no surprise how important land tenure can be for political, social and economic structures.1
Ghana’s land governance system is pluralistic, meaning that both customary and statutory systems operate simultaneously. Customary tenure means village chiefs hold rights to communal land, which accounts for almost 80% of land in Ghana. Statutory tenure means land can be acquired legally in the formal court of law and accounts for the remaining 20% of land in Ghana, which is officially owned by the state.4 Customary tenure has been seen as the most manageable way to seek access to land, given that this is the majority of the country’s property. The informality of land deals can also be ideal for land seekers, and women are frequently granted land access through such informal means.
Many studies find that land ownership and more secure land access for women can increase food security on both household and community levels, as well as protect vital natural resources.1 Despite the fact that 48.7% of women in sub Saharan Africa are active in agricultural labour, only about 15% of those women are landowners.3 Fortunate women landowners often hold small plots of land compared to men in their communities. One study in Ethiopia showed that women’s plots were 23% smaller than men’s. Formalized land rights can also lead to better soil conservation, as seen in Rwanda, where female landowners were 19% more likely to use proper soil conservation techniques, versus only 10% for men landowners.3
When women own land they become change-makers in the face of food insecurity.
Research has shown that gender equal access to agricultural resources can increase farm yields by 20 to 30%.3 This is substantial in developing countries where food insecurity is the highest, and is estimated to reduce global malnourished populations by a staggering 12 to 17%.3 Global Affairs Canada and MEDA have identified increased agricultural productivity as a core priority in development assistance to Ghana.2 Improved agricultural productivity requires consistent access to land – particularly for the up to 70% of rural women working in this sector. MEDA’s Land Tenure Forum will reinforce this message on a larger scale and will provide even more support to advancing this next step in securing land rights for women. MEDA looks forward to a momentous event, and stay tuned for a post-event update!
1 Food and Agriculture Organization. (2002). Land Tenure and Rural Development. FAO Land Tenure Studies.
2 Government of Canada. (2017, August 25). Canadian International Assistance in Ghana.
3 USAID. (2016). Fact Sheet: LandTenure and Women's Empowerment.
4 USAID. (2013, July). Country Profiles: Ghana.