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Fridays Academy: Land, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction (III)

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

We continue our weekly series, as usual from Raj Nallari and Breda Griffith's lecture notes.


Land Policies and Women


Ownership of land is particularly important for the welfare of women. Traditionally, women have been deprived in this area.  Land policy initiatives that were targeted for the household failed to appreciate the positive role that women who have access to assets play in nutrition and human capital accumulation. Asset ownership for females has been shown to affect spending on education for girls especially. Quisumbing and Otsuka (2001) show that the introduction of export crops in Ghana increased the demand for female workers and also resulted in improved spending on education (for girls) and health. Furthermore, it has been shown in some studies that productivity increases when women both control and own the land. Udry (1996) showed that the transfer of plots from men to women in Burkina Faso increased the output by 6 percent. Although Adesina and Djato (1997) found no significant difference between the efficiency of women compared to men for plots in Cote d’Ivoire, in situations where women are the main agricultural cultivators, for example in Africa, Latin America and Asian countries, and men control the proceeds from cultivation, women have less of an incentive to exert efforts, thus agricultural productivity may be lower.  


Typically women’s land rights in many developing economies are acquired through their husbands or male relatives. In many societies however, widows have only indirect access to land that is often insecure.  Saxena (1999) notes that for India, laws and prevailing practices are often heavily biased against women.  The increase in AIDS/HIV and the significantly increased male mortality are forcing adjustments in traditional inheritance patterns, but at a slow pace.  Ntozi and Ahibisibwe (1999) examine the changes that have taken place in some African countries.  A woman’s right to own land needs to be legally recognized and enforced. Reforming inheritance laws is one avenue and also gender equality in the constitution that supersedes any legal provision is another. Developing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa have embraced some of these options but much more needs to be done. 


Next Friday: Land Inequality and Rural Poverty