By Yousra Yusuf, Women Deliver
Women operate the majority of small farms and contribute more than 75% of all agricultural work worldwide, yet few of them own the land they cultivate and depend upon to feed their families. Secure land and property rights support economic growth, reduce poverty and provide opportunities for empowerment. Land ownership also provides women with economic access to market institutions and social access to non-market institutions, such as household and community relations. Landesa, together with national and state governments of 45 countries, are using micro-plots to enable women to access permanent land rights to increase long-term economic opportunity for families living in poverty. Micro-plots are small pieces of land, usually the size of tennis courts, which have shown to increase household assets by allowing families to plant their own produce and sell the excess which provides a small income to the families.
According to UNFAO, rural landlessness is a key predictor of poverty and hunger, especially in countries where most of the rural poor are day-laborers who have no legal control over land and thus can only feed themselves and their families when they find work. Rural women are at a particular disadvantage—they own only about 5% of all agricultural land worldwide, leading to a significant impact on women’s economic status and rights. Rural women are also more likely to die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth than women living in other areas.
Securing land rights is particularly important in efforts to reduce poverty and improve women’s health. Studies have shown a strong positive correlation between reducing poverty and increasing women’s control over land. According to a report published by the Global Coalition of Women on AIDS under UNAIDS, women who own property have higher livelihoods, higher bargaining power in their household and can better protect themselves from domestic violence while also having better negotiating power with regards to abstinence, contraceptive use and fidelity.
Land ownership also provides women with a higher status in the community, which then allows them to engage their communities in promoting better maternal health services, empowerment for girls and women, and HIV/ AIDS-related prevention or treatment programs. Most importantly, land rights give women a chance to allow their children, especially daughters, to attend and stay in school for a longer time. And research has proven that each additional year of schooling for girls decreases the infant mortality rate of their offspring by 10%.
For the past four decades, Landesa has helped secure land rights for more than 105 million families which represent over 400 million people. These plots have shown to increase health and reduce malnutrition among the people they serve. At the same time, micro-plots from Landesa has allowed children of poor families to stay in school instead of working in fields. More importantly, as seen in this video below, securing land rights has helped families to allow girls to stay in school and decrease early marriage.
Land governance will be an important factor to address poverty and increase empowerment of women in the continuing years. Landesa’s model can provide a foundation for successful programs that work to establish land and property rights, particularly for women, around the world.
To read more about Landesa and its programs, click here.
Flickr photo via Eileen Delhi.