Women, Land, and Food: The Critical Nexus

By Yuliya Neyman, Land Tenure, Land Governance and Legal Advisor in USAID’s Land Tenure and Resource Management Office. This commentary originally appeared on Agrilinks.

More than 400 million women around the world work as farmers. And yet, most of these women do not own the land they are farming. In fact, many do not even know that they are allowed to claim ownership over this invaluable asset. Women are estimated to comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, but own less than 10 percent of the land.

Why would that be? For one, in more than half of all countries around the world, laws or customs hinder women’s ownership and access to land. In some countries, discrimination is written into the law; in others, strong and entrenched customs and norms prevent women from claiming ownership over land. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of knowledge about land law and land rights, particularly amongst women in developing countries, who are less likely than men to attend school and attain literacy. Even where land laws purport equality, discriminatory inheritance laws effectively prevent women from inheriting land.

Why do we care? If the man in the family has secure ownership over the household’s land, shouldn’t that be enough to secure a steady income and provide for the children? As it turns out – no.

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