Gender inequalities in ownership and control of land in Africa

Myths versus reality

Over the past decade, stakeholders have made a variety of generalized claims concerning women’s landownership, both globally and in Africa. Typically, these claims include statements with single statistics, such as “women own less than 2 percent of the world’s land” or “women own approximately 15 percent of land in Africa south of the Sahara.” These claims are problematic because they are not substantiated by empirical evidence, do not reflect variations in landownership across or within countries, do not acknowledge differences in landownership regimes, nor address comparative ownership by men in the same contexts. Neither do they address the difference between ownership and control of land. The lack of a clear understanding behind statistics on gender and land also leads to an inability to clearly articulate a policy response to the potential inequalities faced by women and men. The objective of this paper is to explore, conceptually and empirically, the levels and relative inequalities in landownership between women and men in African countries. The first section of the paper engages in a conceptual discussion of how to measure gendered land outcomes, what ownership and control mean in different contexts, and why attention to these factors is important for the development of gender and land statistics. The second section of the paper systematically reviews existing evidence from microlevel large sample studies by region to summarize recent trends in land access, ownership, and control by sex. The third section presents new statistics from a variety of nationally representative and large-scale unpublished data on gender and land in Africa. Results provide not only a nuanced understanding of the importance of measuring land indicators for gendered development in Africa and globally but also new statistics on a variety of land outcomes to aid stakeholders in the discussion of gender-land inequalities.

Doss, Cheryl
Kovarik, Chiara
Peterman, Amber
Quisumbing, Agnes R.
van den Bold, Mara
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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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