At a recent conference on food security held in Nairobi, Kenya, experts discussed the important role women can play in increasing global food security. For example, research has shown that when women’s income and influence in household decisions improves, the food security and nutritional status of the household also improves. One way to increase both women’s income and influence in household decisions is through land ownership. Unfortunately social norms and outdated laws in many parts of the world limit women’s ownership of and access to land.
According to Tim Hanstad of the Rural Development Institute (RDI), women provide 60 to 80 percent of food production in most developing countries, but they own less than 2 percent of the world's titled land. Without formally titled land, many women have difficulty getting loans to acquire important agricultural inputs such as seeds or fertilizer. They must also rely on their relationships with male family members to access land. This access can be abruptly denied in cases of death, marital conflict and family disputes over land. A 2009 United Nations report suggests several factors contribute to this inequality, such as discriminatory inheritance practices, unequal access to land markets and gender biased land reform.
A number of strategies can address these inequalities, such as joint titling between a husband and a wife or the formation of land trusts that allow groups of women to farm collectively. It is also important to initiate education campaigns about women’s property and tenure rights, as many countries allow women to own land, but misinformation or cultural norms prevent them from doing so. With better access to and ownership of land, women have more access to the credit and agricultural resources that enable them to increase their income and strengthen their bargaining power within their household and community. Such outcomes help to increase the nutritional status of a household and contribute to improved food security.
The Roadmap to End Global Hunger and Promote Food Security Act (H.R. 2817), a House bill based on the Roadmap to End Global Hunger report, recognizes women’s important role in food security. In particular, it calls for increased government-to-government technical assistance, which can play an important role in expanding women’s access to and ownership of land. Call your Congressional representative now and ask him or her to support the Roadmap.
Public Policy Intern
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