Representatives of Tiarako and the District Administration presenting the "Procès-Verbal" document.
Photos: Larissa Stiem-Bhatia

04.09.2018

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Tenure insecurity is a key obstacle to sustainable rural development in sub-Saharan Africa, and women are most affected by it. This article showcases a process that secures land-use rights for women building on traditional systems of land governance. The core component is voluntarily negotiated intra-household tenure arrangements.

Women make up 57 per cent of the workforce in sub-Saharan agriculture. Yet, only 15 per cent of landowners are female, and even their land use rights are usually precarious. In rural Burkina Faso, where customary law prevails, women’s land use rights can be withdrawn at any given time – commonly by their husbands. Consequently, many women are unable to make long-term investments in land productivity, such as soil fertility measures, which limits their potential to enhance agricultural production, incomes and standard of living. In many ethnic groups in Burkina Faso, widows experience less tenure insecurity. Their land use rights are relatively stable, as these are of unlimited duration. However, widows only inherit permanent use, and no ownership rights, under customary law.

While major land rights reforms are ongoing in many African countries, the prospects of significant change for women remain weak. In Burkina Faso, most of them still face tenure insecurity – even in cases where family land ownership has been formalised.

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