Beyond ownership: women’s and men’s land rights in Sub-Saharan Africa uri icon


  • Advancing women's land rights is a priority for the international development agenda. Little consensus exists, however, on which rights should be monitored and reported, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where individual property rights and customary tenure regimes coexist and where much agricultural land remains unregistered. In such contexts, land ownership statistics may provide only a limited picture of women's and men's land rights. While some surveys collect information on women's land ownership, others collect information on women's management of land or control over the output produced. Using recent waves of the Living Standards Measurement Study-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) for six African countries, we examine who holds the different rights on each plot of agricultural land and the extent to which these rights are held by the same person. We focus on (a) reported ownership, (b) who decides and manages the agricultural activities, and (c) who controls the output of land. We find that these rights over land do not always overlap, indicating that concepts of ownership, management and economic rights should not be used interchangeably. Consistent measures of women's and men's land rights are fundamental for the development of policies to empower rural women and to contribute to poverty reduction.

publication date

  • 2021
  • 2020