Women’s Empowerment, Agriculture and Land Rights
Land is the foundation upon which farmers and rural communities build their livelihoods, and a growing body of empirical evidence shows that secure land tenure can be instrumental to gaining access to credit and in decision-making, such as how and when to invest in soil, crops, labor and marketing of production. Even though women make up a significant portion of the agricultural workforce in most developing nations, women in many places are less likely to own or control land, their land rights are often weaker and more susceptible to encroachment, and they tend to hold inferior quality land and smaller plots. Secure land tenure and property rights can play an integral role for empowering women in agriculture.
The consequences of insecure land rights can be dire for many women, who already face greater risks of displacement, loss of income, food insecurity and gender-based violence. Women may be excluded from inheriting land, or their land rights may not be recognized by local authorities and male family members, which can result in women and children being forced off of land that they may have lived on and farmed for decades.
Rural women face particularly strong obstacles to their control over and use of land. They often do not have the same level of access to extension services and other forms of support as men. The risk of losing their land can also discourage women from investing in it, making lands less productive. This unequal access to opportunity, combined with less secure land rights, contribute to a land gender gap that has adverse economic and social impacts on women, their families and their communities at large.
Looking at this challenge from a more positive angle, women become self-reliant and contribute to the economic growth of their households and communities when they have stronger land tenure and property rights. When women have secure land rights, they tend to invest more in their land and produce more grains, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products. Research shows that if women farmers worldwide had the same access to resources for agricultural production as men, they could increase yields on their farms by up to 30 percent and reduce the number of food-insecure people by 12-17 percent.
Empowering women is at the core of USAID’s work, which is why the Agency is playing an active role helping women to secure their land rights. Get the facts on women’s land rights, including the relationship to food security and agriculture, by downloading this fact sheet. You can also watch a recording of a 2015 panel discussion, Women, Land and Food, to learn more about the intersection of women’s empowerment, land rights and food security.