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Other publication (non peer-review)

Book Gender, land and agricultural development in Africa.
Publisher LEGEND Evidence , Land Portal

Open Access


Academic research since the 1990s has con rmed the importance of access to land for women’s empowerment (e.g. Agarwal, 1994; Whitehead and Tsikata, 2003; Englert and Daley, 2008; Daley and Englert, 2010). What access means, how it differs from ownership and whether having a legal title is a necessity have been the subjects of many academic debates. Evidence reviewed in DFID’s Topic Guide on Women’s Empowerment in a Changing Agricultural and Rural Context highlights that the promotion of women’s land rights in pluralistic legal settings is complex and that a land title alone is not enough to achieve empowerment. Furthermore, it highlights that there is a clear lack of sex-disaggregated data on women’s land ownership and control, making it dif cult to establish causal relationships between land ownership and empowerment (Murray, 2015). The present Evidence Update builds on DFID’s Topic Guide and both con rms and nuances the positions put forward there. It additionally highlights that what still remains is to shift the focus of development practitioners from women as an isolated category to women and men as part of broader social relations (gender). Awareness-raising and inclusion of men will be key to achieving this and to building the social legitimacy for gender-equitable land governance. Recent research also demonstrates that agricultural investments are putting particular pressures on land and natural resources, while often not ful lling promises of employment and infrastructure creation. Much of the eld research indicates that women, migrants and pastoralists are often the people most negatively affected by these investments, not least when they lose access to valuable common pool resources without any compensation. Meanwhile, bene ts tend to be appropriated by a small, male local elite, often including customary authorities and government of cials. In order to make these investments more bene cial for local land users (including the most vulnerable groups in societies) and to prevent agricultural projects from failing, the local context and existing power relations need to be well understood. Only based on such understanding will international development partners be able to effectively monitor the implementation of agricultural investments, ensuring that meaningful and comprehensive consultations are held with all existing land users at all stages of the investment process, and that there is proper compensation for all land and resource loss. Viewing land and agriculture with a gender perspective reinforces the need to engage with the social norms and stereotypical notions of gender roles and relations that have devalued women and their work and that have provided justi cations for women’s lack of voice in community affairs and lack of access to resources. A focus on gender thus requires a close look at relations between women and men, as well as acknowledgement of the various other inequalities that promote or constrain empowerment, such as those based on age, class, marital status, and status in the community.