Increasing Women's Access to Land: Committing to Change

PostEvent1Attendees at MEDA's Agricultural Land Tenure Forum in Wa, GhanaNovember 18th, 2017, marked a milestone for MEDA’s Greater Rural Opportunities for Women project (GROW). Together, Chiefs, Queen Mothers, landowners, community leaders, GROW’s Lead Farmers, Key Facilitating Partners (KFPs), the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Women in Agricultural Development, Male Gender Activists (MGAs) and opinion leaders met in Wa, Ghana to discuss the key land tenure issues for women. This event catalyzed a public discussion on the importance of land tenure for women and its impact on sustainable economic empowerment, resource management and food security. To read more about the background of this event, and why land tenure matters for women, visit this blog.

Facilitated by Fr. Clement Mweyang Aapengnuo, attendees learned about the value of secure land tenure for communities in the Upper West Region. Fr. Aapengnuo is the Executive Director of the Center for Conflict Transformation and Peace Studies (CECOTAPS) and is a leading advocate for formalized land agreements for both men and women.

MEDA’s Agricultural Land Tenure Forum was the first of its kind in Ghana’s Upper West Region, addressing women’s rights to secure, extended access to farming land. This event was a tremendous success, engaging more than 1,000 attendees – many attendees expressed they had never attended an event in Wa with such a large turnout! Even Fr. Aapengnuo asserted “This was the first time I gave a keynote address to over a thousand people on the importance of rural women having secured access to land for agriculture. It was the first time I had so many traditional rulers in the same room.” The facilitator explained to local community leaders the socio-economic benefits of women accessing land for longer durations, a critical factor in farming success. After six years, GROW women understand that investment into their small plots of land is lost with constant changes from one plot to another, and now this message is being shared more widely. PostEvent2Full House at MEDA's Agricultural Land Tenure Forum

Urging community members to be champions of the cause, the facilitator questioned Chiefs on what they want their legacy to be. One’s legacy should be for the economic future of their people – something secure land access for women can accelerate. A representative from the House of Chiefs said after the event, “women form part of us, how can we say they are strangers, and for that matter should not have access to family land, then you are saying your life partner is a stranger to you.” Family support is crucial in moving this message forward.

Attendees also got to hear first-hand stories from GROW communities, as women spoke about how Chiefs and landowners can help them create more sustainable livelihoods for their families. Also in attendance were GROW’s Male Gender Activists (MGAs). MGAS were first introduced to the GROW project in 2015 to talk to communities about gender equality and serve as champions for the GROW project. As of 2017, GROW has enlisted 27 MGAs. MGAs are vital participants in this conversation, as they advocate for community and spousal support for women’s access to land. Anecdotally, we know that MGAs have been very successful at advocating gender issues in their communities. MGA activities have led to gradual changes in ownership and control of resources to women in GROW communities, which contributes to increased soy yields. Men are PostEvent3Women talk about their experiences with land tenure. realizing that when women have the ability to manage their resources, they can be very productive and economical. It is estimated that the average land size that men cultivate in the Upper West Region is between 10 and 15 acres, while women cultivate only 1 to 5 acres. Improved agricultural productivity requires consistent access to land – particularly for the up to 70% of rural women working in this sector. The constructive dialogue that MGAs are creating in Ghana contributes to greater land rights for women. The event ended with a declaration from the Head of the House of Chiefs that he would support women in gaining access to land. He agreed this is a long overdue topic, and assured women in his communities that, not only were their voices heard, but also offered his support and assistance.

The need for increased land access for women was felt during the Land Tenure event. The Regional Officer for Women in Agricultural Development, Elizabeth Kutina, asserted, “women’s lower access to land has affected their ability to practice sustainable environmental management and is therefore negatively impacting on agriculture and biodiversity.” Madam Charity Bature, the Regional Gender Officer at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for the Upper West Region also added, “[this] forum is a big step forward and my appreciation to MEDA for reaching out to women under the GROW project in the Region.”

Chiefs and family leads, for the first time, were discussing the positive outcomes from releasing land to women for long durations of time. Many expressed they would do so for up to 10 years, as they realize that women in agricultural development are the foundation to sustainable development in the Upper West Region.

MEDA and GROW will continue to work towards achieving this goal. Lots of hard work is ahead to secure meetings with Chiefs and landowners to discuss the next steps. This cooperation from the Head of the House of Chiefs will be invaluable and new partnerships were made to campaign for the importance of land rights for women.

For more information, see the local press coverage of our Land Tenure event here.

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