Women and land rights

Women produce 80% of the crops but own very little of the land in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority of women granted only user rights. Women’s holdings tend to be smaller and less fertile. Formal title to land has generally been given to the male heads of households. This in itself violates women's rights and the damage is compounded by the way in which access to credit and membership of agriculture organizations (which often provide agriculture inputs and services to their members) is often linked to title to land.

ACORD's work on land rights

Raising awareness and understanding of women's rights is crucial. ACORD has selected different approaches to be most effective in different situations. One has been to encourage registration of land title jointly in the names of both the wife and the husband. Another has been to support women who are the heads of their households, often widows, to register the land in their own name. In some places the introduction of formal property rights can make a break from the status quo and improve women's rights; in others, formal laws on land are just ignored in practice, and it is more meaningful to work within the informal systems of ownership that are in place, which are often communal.

ACORD's current work includes:

  • Supporting women heads of household to register their land
  • Raising awareness on land rights and entitlements
  • Conducting research to identify gaps that prevent women from claiming their rights
  • Advocating to bring about policy and practice changes with regards to land management and allocation

Case study: Rwanda - women's land rights and food security

In post-conflict Rwanda almost a third of households are described as being headed by a women or girls and for women in rural areas, their livelihoods are dependent on subsistence farming. Land is scarce and tenure uncertain as all the land belongs to the government. Women's insecure property rights in the country make these households even more vulnerable to poverty than they would otherwise be. Securing land rights for women ensuring that they are capable of defending these rights is essential for sustainability.

To enable women to be food secure ACORD:

  • Supports vulnerable families headed by women to secure their traditional lands
  • Campaigns for laws and policies that enhance equality between men and women in land ownership
  • Strenghtens the capacity of women caucases and builds stronger women's organisations
  • Engages men and women in collective work to protect and preserve land and increase productivity

Join the women and girls of the Ihuriro as they recount the challenges and opportunities facing them in post-conflict Rwanda. This video produced by ACORD Rwanda in 2009 follows an ACORD project on Women's land rights and food security.

Woman and girl heads of households in post-conflict Rwanda from ACORD on Vimeo.

If you don't want to stream the video you can download an mp4 file from the link below. Be aware that the file is low resolution with a small frame size (320 by 180), but it is still a large download at 26 MB. This will take around one hour with a 56kb modem, 3 minutes with a 1024kbps connection and  20 seconds with 10 mbps broadband. If you have a slow and unreliable connection we suggest you use download manager software.

Women's land rights and food security mp4 file, 26 MB: english

  • human rights
  • land rights
  • rwanda
  • women