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Women, Land Rights and Food Security in Nigeria

An indigenous woman working on the Farm. Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, Nigeria.

Rights to own land in many parts of the world do not favor women. Settlement, conquest, government allocation, long occupation, purchase and inheritance are more frequent ways that people come by land ownership. In Nigeria, the property and land tenure laws remain discriminatory leaving most women landless, poor and hungry. While it is difficult for women to obtain access to own land, when they are able to own land rights, it is frequently lost due to marriage, divorce, separation, widowhood and cultural beliefs. There is little wonder why it is rare to find a female head of house, or a widow who has secured land rights.

In July 2013, I visited Mrs. A. Lami’s farm which was comprised of about 15 Hectares of land in the suburbs of Kaduna Metropolis. Lami revealed that, “she had always been interested in farming, but never inherited even the smallest portion of her late father and husband’s large farmlands in the village. To contribute to the cost of food and increase her earnings for her household, she had to save money over time to purchase her right to a farmland”. How many indigenous women can afford N300, 000.00 (about $1875) at the least to buy a Hectare of farmland? I wonder.

It concerns me that women are confined by deeply entrenched cultural, socio-economic and political conditions which deny them a valuable resource; that can make them authors of their own development. Excluding direct purchase, Nigerian women’s claims to land are usually realized through the male-gender as daughters, sisters, mothers, and above all as wives. Even so, those rights are often limited to access and not ownership. “Women do much of the farm work, but have minimal say over the land and the produce” laments Helen B., a grassroots woman leader.

Land insecurity is rife among Nigerian women. According to the 2012 Gender in Nigeria report, “women own 4% of land in the North-East, and just over 10% in the South-East and South-South”. Less than 10% of Nigerian women own land due to the popular practice of patrilineal succession, where only male children can inherit. Such male dominated customs undermines the role of women, especially indigenous ones, in agricultural production; and threatens national food security and food sovereignty.

Most of the income in rural areas of Nigeria is generated from farming; and women remain the primary agricultural producers, ensuring household food security. “Rural women are solely responsible for half of the world’s food production, and in developing countries, as much as 80% of food crops”, documents Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Furthermore, Gupta G. R. highlighted that “half of the world’s food and in developing countries, between 60-80% of food crops are the results of growth from seeds that have been planted by a woman’s hand”.

Yet, from North to South, East to West, across continents, countries, states, counties, and communities, women and girls are denied their rights to land. An international agricultural survey conducted by the FAO found that “globally, fewer than 20% of landholders are women”. In Western, Central, Eastern and Northern Africa, and across Asia, less than 10% of landholders are women. The case of Southern Africa and parts of Latin America, however, presented a slight difference and ray of hope as women appeared to have better access to land.

I believe that prejudice over land rights is a key factor contributing to gender disparity, with devastating results- low agricultural production, food shortages, under employment, widespread poverty, food shortages, poor health and hunger, for women, their households and communities. The degree of gender bias in land rights and it’s implication for food security and sovereignty in Nigeria and globally, therefore, calls for a balanced representation of women and men in decision making over land. Women’s productivity capacity must be enhanced!

Accordingly, I am advocating the formulation and implementation of definite local, national and global policies that will ensure progressive improvement, security and protection of women’s rights to land. “When women are empowered and can claim their rights and access to land, leadership, opportunities and choices, economies grow, food security is enhanced and prospects are improved for current and future generations,” said Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Greengirl with an indigenous woman farmer.
A girl and a woman planting seeds. Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, Nigeria.
Greengirl helping out with planting on a farm. Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, Nigeria.
Greengirl With A Grassroots Women's Group at A Jointly Established Demonstration Farm Project. Kaduna, Nigeria.

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Comments

Mukut's picture

Prejudice over land rights

You know GreenGirl, if you replace the country Nigeria with mine and still talk about this issue,it remains almost the same. Prejudice over land rights is crucial in contributing to gender disparity.

You are such a star ! You always write about Nigeria's compelling issues and bring them to us. I love you so much for that.

Keep going strong,my dear.

Love,

Mukut Ray

Greengirl's picture

Dearest Mukut

It gladdens my heart to hear from you. I know too well that you are also very passionate about finding solutions to some of the challenges faced by women in India.

But for the word limit we were given, I so much wanted to relate the issue of women's land insecurity to the Millenium Development Goals 1 (eradicating extreme hunger and poverty), 3 (promote gender equality and women's empowerment) and 7 (ensure environmental sustainability). I believe those goals may never be achieved if prejudice against women's land rights subsists.

There are a number of existing policies that can bring a turn around, but our leaders (decision makers) don't appear to have the political will to implement them. For example, the Convention on Ending All Forms Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) can make a world of difference if it is implemented bottom up. Well, we just must keep hope alive and keep doing the much we can do.

Thank you for your support my dear sister and friend!

Lots of love,
Greengirl

Ayunnie's picture

Thorny issue of gender and land ownership

Hi Greengirl,
To begin with, I have to congratulate you for keeping your vision and passion alive in all your articles. I can feel u on matters of environment, land and gender. Any time I come across any environmental article or calls for paper U do flash in my mind. For instant a couple of weeks ago I saw a call for paper on GENDER AND ENERGY but it was just for Southern and Eastern Africa.
Now, thank you for bringing this article out. Our cultures and government policies are very silent on women land ownership. It’s one of the greatest forms of discrimination against women and I am joining you in condemning it in all possible words.
Regards from Kenya

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Greengirl's picture

Dear Ayunnie

Thank you so much for your acknowledgement and for always keeping me and my work close to your heart. Haha, I feel privileged!

In my thinking, the Millennium Development Goal 3 of promoting gender equality and women's empowerment can never be achieved in as much as customary and statutory laws remain discriminatory against women. Our leaders need to have the political will to drive .the much desired change through a bottom-up approach, that will guarantee women's representation and participation in decision-making at all levels.

Your solidarity means a lot to me!

Hugs,
Greengirl

Iryna's picture

Empowerment

Dear Greengirl,
I agree with you that the main issue is in empowering of women and yes, fighting to improve political and economical support so women would have a chance to own the land. That's the paradox because often women are those who is responsible for housekeeping and taking care about the family economy. So I think informing and empowering of them is the key to change the situation.
Always support you, and agree with Millenium Goals correlation,
Greetings,
Iryna

Greengirl's picture

Yes Iryna!

Yes Iryna, women need to be informed and empowered because it is the only way of changing women's lots for good. It is obvious that a lot still needs to change for women and I hope those who wield the power to bring about change will arise and follow it through.

Your thoughts and voice always counts. Thank you so much for reading and reaching out.

Greengirl

Y's picture

Your point is well presented,

Your point is well presented, Greengirl. In many states in my country, there are community property laws which state that all property accumulated (other than inheritance) is owned equally by the two marriage partners. perhaps working toward more acceptance of this policy and gifts of land given to the wife with marriage and the births of children would bring about ownership equality.
Blessings on your efforts.
Yvette

Y

Greengirl's picture

Thank you Y!

Thank you so for much for sharing your insight about property rights in your country. The big problem we have in my country is that the customary land tenure laws have remained discriminatory; sadly too, the statutory laws still do not make provisions for the protection of women's property and land rights. I hope that with continued advocacy, there will be a turn around. I feel blessed by your words of encouragement and support.

Warmly,
Greengirl

Y's picture

And i feel blessed to be part

And i feel blessed to be part of your circle of influence.

Y

Tash's picture

Great topic! not often talked

Great topic! not often talked about as we have become accustomed to some things, and believing in them. Women need to therefore be informed about such rights as most rural women don't even believe they deserve property.The situation is not different in Uganda. women do most of the work and yet their inclusion in accumulation of property remains minimal, women are simply not looked at as worthy heirs because they tend to transfer property outside families.

good job!

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

Greengirl's picture

Hello Patsy.................

The sad truth about the land right situation is that men are yet to appreciate that everyone stands to benefit when women have secured rights over land. I am not surprised that the situation is no different in Uganda as women have long been marginalized across Africa as a result of discriminatory cultural practices. I very well agree with you that women need to be informed, and likewise our leaders need to put in place, policies that will remove the existing barriers.

Thank you for sharing your kind thoughts.

Much love,
Greengirl

Hideko N.'s picture

How beautiful you look on the photo!

I like your face with winning grin while you actually go out and do your field work. I am totally with the topic, land ownership for women. I have a huge land in Essien Udim, Nigeria purchased sometime ago, but it was stolen away from me regardless my will. It is awareness for me to know that "Less than 10% of Nigerian women own land due to the popular practice of patrilineal succession, where only male children can inherit. Such male dominated customs undermines the role of women, especially indigenous ones, in agricultural production; and threatens national food security and food sovereignty."

Let us keep in touch, and on the day I win back the land, we cheer with stout and soya meat! What do you say?
Love,
Hideko N.

SWACIN
http://www.swacin.com
https://www.facebook.com/Swacin

Greengirl's picture

Hello Hideko

I have since responded to your comment, but it was only today that I realized that you may not have received it because I posted it as a comment instead of a reply. This was what I wrote on September 18, 2013:

Thank you so much for the compliments on my pic!

Now I see that you have a first hand experience of how so difficult it is for Nigerian women to acquire and retain land. I am glad you learnt something new from the piece and I look forward to hearing your success story when your land title eventually finds its way back to you. Of course I'll be at hand to celebrate with you. Haha, I'll go for suya meat with malt.
Thank you for the invitation.

Love and loads of hugs,
Greengirl.

Y's picture

I think that one of the

I think that one of the primary game changers in my country has been conception control. As men have only daughters, they are seeing their ways clear to entrust their resources to them.

Y

Greengirl's picture

Thank you Y!

I am glad that you reached out with your thoughts. We need more game changers, such as the one you shared. You've been supportive and I appreciate you a great deal.

Together we can keep walking the talk!

Greengirl

Y's picture

For you I am grateful,

For you I am grateful, Greengirl!

Y

Greengirl's picture

Hello Hideko!

Thank you so much for the compliments on my pic!

Now I see that you have a first hand experience of how so difficult it is for Nigerian women to acquire and retain land. I am glad you learnt something new from the piece and I look forward to hearing your success story when your land title eventually finds its way back to you. Of course I'll be at hand to celebrate with you. Haha, I'll go for suya meat with malt.
Thank you for the invitation.

Love and loads of hugs,
Greengirl.

Heidi's picture

Land and Authorship

Hi GreenGirl. I love this line in your piece: "It concerns me that women are confined by deeply entrenched cultural, socio-economic and political conditions which deny them a valuable resource; that can make them authors of their own development." The authors of their own development - such a wonderfully written idea, well done! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and research here with us! What policy-changes are needed to start this shift? What's next? Best,
Heidi

Greengirl's picture

Thank you loads!

Dear Heidi, I must first of all thank you loads for making out time to read my post and also taking a step further to leave a comment and also stirring a conversation. Thank you for expressing your thoughts in a very stimulating manner!

For ages, women have not really being allowed to initiate and stir their own development as decision making processes and systems are usually out of their reach. It is gladdening however that with increased levels of awareness and advocacy, hope of a lasting change is beaming.

I love and appreciate the questions you raised! With respect to policy changes that need to happen, I would say that a lot of effort must be channeled by decision makers towards ensuring that the provisions of customary laws don't conflict with those of statutory laws. Both must be in harmony if real progress must be made. Essentially too, I think it is necessary that women are allowed to voice their needs and aspirations at every level of decision making. Women's needs, rights, roles, responsibilities and contributions must me recognized and respected.

Well, from my end, I will continue to advocate for women's empowerment because I am of the view that tangible progress can only be achieved if and only when women are allowed to fully and actively participate in all aspects of development. Women have a lot to offer the world and we should be given the opportunity to make our contributions to better our world. Policy makers need to take cognizance of this truth!.

Best Regards,
Greengirl

Dear Greengirl,

Thank you for this strong and powerful Op ed about such an important topic. Women owning their own land and having land rights is a game changer world wide. It is, as you explained so well, the answer to so many problems from food safety, to health to economic stability for women, but also for entire communities and countries.
I enjoyed hearing about Mrs. Lami and the struggled she faced to own land and how much money she had to spend and like her I wonder how many women can afford it.
I rent a small piece of land where I can grow some vegetables with my husband. This experience has been so positive for both of us. Not only do we save money on food we do not have to buy but we are understanding the cycle of the earth better and therefore become more respectful. We also feel empowered by the process and eating our own food. Growing your own food build confidence, food safety, and environmental awareness.
It is a transformative experience.
Wonderful job,
Cheers,

Delphine Criscenzo

Greengirl's picture

Your words always count..........

Your words always count and mean a lot to me in ways you may never imagine. I am glad that you consider the topic as one that is very important and thank you too for attesting to the fact that it is an answer to so many problems that humanity is grappling with. I feel truly motivated to keep speaking!

It is really nice to also learn about the efforts you and your husband are making to grow your own vegetables. Home gardening and subsistence farming certainly contributes in very significant ways to food security and sovereignty, and very importantly to savings and healthy eating. I also engage in home gardening and only recently, I decided to try out ginger in my small but mighty home garden. The whole idea came to me when I observed a number of sprouting ginger roots among a collection of unused ones I had at home. If only people know the many benefits they can derive, I am sure that more people will commit to growing their own food. You can imagine the difference it will make for many an indigenous woman to own a land which she can put into garden or farming use. I really just hope that the world wakes up to the reality of why women should not be denied their rights to own land.

Thank you so much for lending your voice to my call for change.

Hugs,
Greengirl

delphine criscenzo's picture

Inspiring!

I am always so deeply inspired what you write about! I immensely appreciate the connection and communication we have established. The issues that you take on are so close to my heart and I sometime want to have a conversation with you about the issues you tackle.
When VOF is over, I am wondering if I could interview you for my radio show and we could discuss the environmental struggles of Nigeria. Let me know what you think.
Much love and respect,

Delphine Criscenzo

Greengirl's picture

Wow Delphine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am deeply touched and feel highly honored by the invitation extended to me! To tell you the truth, prior to my being selected as a 2013 VOF Correspondent, I never really realized that there were people out there who understood and cared about my passion for advocating for the protection of our environment; and how so important the roles of women are.

Wow Delphine, I will be really glad to be interviewed for your radio show. Thank you so much for also being a great source of inspiration.

I am short for words to describe how I really feel at this moment!All I can say at this moment is: Yes, dreams do come true!

Hiigh regards,
Greengirl

delphine criscenzo's picture

I am so glad! I'll be in

I am so glad!
I'll be in touch about this!

Delphine Criscenzo

Greengirl's picture

Thank you!

I will keep my fingers busy, my ears close to the ground and my eyes wide open in preparation and while I wait. Haha! It's sure worth the wait! Thank you so much!

Greengirl

Debra Engle's picture

Excellent topic!

Greengirl, I congratulate you on this piece. It's clear that you've done a great deal of thinking and research, because you included excellent statistics and quotes to help make your point. Your personal passion also comes through, which gives this piece a great deal of power.

It's interesting...I was talking with my mother-in-law over the weekend, and she said her grandmother severed ties with her family because her father gave all the family's land and inheritance to her brothers. This was three generations ago, but the same issues persist. Thank you for addressing such an important topic. I, too, loved your statement about women being "authors of their own development." Beautiful! You are an author of change.

Greengirl's picture

Dear Debra...............

I have since replied to your comment, but just realized that I posted my reply as a comment. Please pardon me.

My reply- All I just want to do now is celebrate your very motivating comments. Thank you, thank you and thank you for giving me more reasons to stay focused and to keep my passion alive.

The story you shared about your mother-in-law's experience helped me realize even more that women's land insecurity is one issue that transcends generations; and needs to be tackled proactively. I never imagined that such a form of discrimination also happens in the developed parts of the world. A lot of awareness needs to be raised and very much so, a lot of advocacy needs to happen; as the problem remains one of the highest forms of gender discrimination, marginalization and colonization.

Your very kind words made my day. God bless you!

Love and Blessings,
Greengirl

Greengirl's picture

Dear Debra

All I just want to do now is celebrate your very motivating comments. Thank you, thank you and thank you for giving me more reasons to stay focused and to keep my passion alive.

The story you shared about your mother-in-law's experience helped me realize even more that women's land insecurity is one issue that transcends generations; and needs to be tackled proactively. I never imagined that such a form of discrimination also happens in the developed parts of the world. A lot of awareness needs to be raised and very much so, a lot of advocacy needs to happen; as the problem remains one of the highest forms of gender discrimination, marginalization and colonization.

Your very kind words made my day. God bless you!

Love and Blessings,
Greengirl

BUHENDWA NEEMA's picture

bien de vous lire

c'est juste vous felliciter;,et vous encourager
courage!!!!

neema

Greengirl's picture

Merci beaucoup Neema,

Merci beaucoup Neema, je vous remercie pour trouver le temps de tendre la main et donner également du crédit à mon poste. On vous apprécie beaucoup.

Meilleurs voeux,
Greengirl

Zoepiliafas's picture

The pictures that you added

The pictures that you added to this piece speak a thousand words. Let's connect, I think we should do something with these images to lift your voice.

We could plan a Skype chat or connect via email.

You my dear are a force and the momentum is building!!!!

Love,

Zoe

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager
World Pulse

Greengirl's picture

Great Zoe!

Thank you so much Zoe for your very supportive comment. I am glad that those pictures spoke to you. Hahahaha! Just me doing what I love to do! I certainly look forward to connecting with you and working with you on what you have in mind. Both Skype chat and email works for me and we could work that out once you are ready.

Much love and hugs to YOU!

Greengirl.

BUHENDWA NEEMA's picture

bien à vous

bien à ,vous je ne cessse de felicité les activités que vous faite; vraiment courage, c"est aussi vous informé que ma memoir de licence porte sur la production agricole de femme et la sécurité alimentaire; je sollicité les données au pret de vous;
merci!!!!!

neema

Green girl this post has re activated my zeal to complete the project I started with some women on land issues. As a grass root woman leader I have often received complaints from women on matters of land ownership and farmlands. I will strive to complete the project of documentation of the complaints and interviews of some women which is more like a follow up on your write up and almost sounds alike.

Thank you for reminding me that it is a project I must complete. Kudos sister. Before now I did not know that I could post more than one pix in a page. Thank you once again for opening my eyes

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