Landless women, hopeless women? Gender, land and decentralisation in Niger | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
January 2006
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This paper is a summary of a case study on gender, land and decentralisation. It addresses how women in rural areas of Niger deal with pressure on land within changing agricultural production systems. A separate focus is on women’s land rights, and the strategies they use to capitalise on these rights. The study is based on four main assumptions:increasing human pressure on land is changing dominant modes of access to land leading to the exclusion of women from agricultural productionthe decentralised system of land commissions in Niger potentially offer greater equity for rural womenchanging modes of production have led to the decline in the social practice of recognition for both men and women and based on merit. This is leading to new benchmarks for competition among womengiven the lack of non-agricultural economic options for women, poverty is becoming feminised. Women’s access to land is becoming an increasingly important issue for the land tenure systems.The four hypotheses are confirmed in the empirical study. The de-feminisation of agriculture is a reality, with women’s modes of access to land changing and the role of the land commissions and decentralisation still limited, constrained by traditional ideologies about leadership, status, and governance. For each study area, the paper finds women’s involvement in agriculture inversely proportional to pressure on land. Agriculture is becoming de-feminised in southern areas - where settled agriculture is the dominant form of production - and this marginalisation is having a devastating effect on women’s living conditions. The opposite trend is observed in the north, in pastoralist areas. Women here are excluded from keeping livestock and must resort to establishing agricultural fields in very marginal environments. In both cases, the most vulnerable women are excluded from the dominant system of production, where knowledge and social and economic valorisation are concentrated. A key conclusion is that the de-feminisation of agriculture is a determining factor in the feminisation of poverty.By way of addressing these challenges, some knowledgeable and wealthier women have adapted by gaining land via other socially-accepted means, such as inheritance but also through pledges and purchases. Nonetheless, the authors make clear that traditional models of female leadership and social-standing are in crisis, and emphasise that the political will of governments and donors is key to ensuring agricultural development in Niger is both pro-poor and equitable for both men and women.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

M. Diarra
M. Monimart


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