Beyond Ownership: Women’s and Men’s Land Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa

Type Working Paper
Title Beyond Ownership: Women’s and Men’s Land Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year)
Advancing women’s land rights is a priority for the international development agenda as highlighted in at least two targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and linked to the success of several others. Yet, there is limited practical guidance on how to measure progress on land rights especially in contexts where individual property rights and customary tenure regimes coexist and where large shares of agricultural land remain unregistered as in SubSaharan Africa. In such contexts, data on land ownership may not provide an accurate picture of women’s and men’s land rights and the progress made towards improving their tenure security. This study fills a gap in the literature by empirically examining the gender gaps in land rights, extending beyond reported ownership, and by assessing the extent to which reported ownership overlaps with other land rights in six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study reveals significant gender gaps not only in land ownership but also in land management and the rights to sell or use the land as collateral. The sizes of the gender gaps in land rights vary across countries with Niger and Nigeria exhibiting larger gender gaps. Moreover, reported ownership and other rights over land do not always overlap, indicating that concepts of ownership, management and economic rights should not be used interchangeably, especially in plot-level analyses. Drawing on the empirical analysis, the study provides technical guidance on the collection of harmonized, quality sex-disaggregated data for generating land statistics on the various land rights that women and men have, beyond ownership. Good quality measures of women’s and men’s land rights are fundamental for the development of better policies that seek to empower rural women and to contribute to poverty reduction through increased productivity and increased participation in income generating activities.

Related studies