FEATURE: Female farmland ownership in the Upper West Region

Date: Tuesday May 14, 2019, 12:14 pm

By: Wononoo Salifu

Some female farmers
Agriculture is the major employer of most of the population in developing countries especially the rural folks. In Ghana farming is a major contributor to economic growth.
Land is a very important asset not only for sustaining livelihoods but also for generating wealth. Access to land ensures the possibility of farming.
In Ghana, lands were traditionally accessed and held by local communities through a practice known as customary law, a system that was very prevalent and that which still have a firm root in present day Ghana (Alhassan, 2006). Distribution of land rights within customary land holdings is determined by traditional rules. Among patrilineal communities land is passed from father to son. 

“Strangers” access land through the chief or earth priest, and exercise their use-rights through clearing and cultivating the land that they are given. As the patriarchs of autochthonous lineages (those whose male lineages were the first settlers of a particular area), chiefs and earth priests have both administrative and spiritual authority over land matters. While strangers are also expected to pay “drink money” to the chief or other authority who allocates land, the amount is usually nominal – a symbolic gesture (Tonah, 2002).
The banner at the meeting
The Constitution vests all public land in the President, and all customary holdings in stools, skins, or appropriate families or clans (Hughes et al, 2011; GOG 2010; Sarpong 2006; GOG Constitution, 1992).

Women are major producers of food, earners of household income and custodians of knowledge, yet their efforts are often hampered by their lack of access to productive lands. Equally, appropriate technologies for women are needed to increase food production.
The livelihood of Women Farmers in the rural areas is largely dependent on farming. Meanwhile these rural folks remain poor due to the lack of arable land for commercial farming purposes.
However, steps taken by BUSAC fund to help address this problem in the Nadowli-Kaleo District has sparked smiles on the faces of women farmers in the District as they receive assurance of getting arable land for farming from landlords.

The UN Women in collaboration with UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and African Union Commission (AUC) has reported that, On average, women make up about 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Evidence indicates that if these women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 per cent, raising total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 per cent. In turn, this would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 per cent.
A section of women at the meeting
Growing up in the Upper West Region, I witnessed the ordeal. Most women who have access to land are not given the privilege to control and transfer lands, they merely use it under restricted conditions and inadequate security of tenure.
About 96% of men have control over land in the Upper West Region. This stipulates that men are the owners of land and as such handle land issues whereas; women only have to rely on the men to secure access to land for farming activities.

Even though, land is a natural resource, it is not everyone who has the right to hold on to it. Traditionally, land is held on the bases of lineage and the people who occupied a specific place and used the land are seen as the owners of the land. In this regard, the transfer of land ownership is done through inheritance. On inheritance, land can be inherited through matrilineal and patrilineal lineage. Some customary inheritance systems such as patrilineal succession limit or even exclude women’s succession rights to land. Under the patrilineal succession systems, property devolves only through male lines (from father to son or father to brothers), but wives and daughters have no inheritance rights to land (Kuusaana et al, 2013). They further discovered that, matrilineal inheritance is through the mother’s lineage. In this regard, lineage property including land can be inherited only by a member of the matrikin while self-acquired property can be given as gift to anyone the deceased so desires. Property and status are hence transferred from the mother’s brother to sister’s son. Though this inheritance system comes with customary obligations imposed on the successor towards the surviving widow and her children, these are often ignored in practice.

This notwithstanding, women within matrilineal societies have relatively better access to and control over land compared to those of patrilineal society. Quran (2006) asserted that the matrilineal systems provide greater opportunities in social networks for women to access land.

Notwithstanding women’s crucial role in practices that are reinforced by culture, patriarchy, custom and tradition, it is a well-established fact that women contribute about 60% to the agricultural workforce in Ghana and produce about 70% of the food crop pie (World Bank, 1997; WiLDAF, 2010). Although land is key in the lives of rural women and despite women’s numerical strength in the agricultural labor force and agro-processing activities, access and control of this important asset is often premised on gender-erected binaries (Deere and Dos, 2006; FAO, 2010).

In fact, women hold only 10 % of household land in Ghana and their landholding security is even more precarious in the Upper West Region of Ghana where male-dominated culture and patriarchy are pervasively entrenched over generations (WiLDAF, 2010). Access to, control and ownership of land remains the domain of male privilege, deep-rooted patriarchal structures of power and control of community-based resources, tradition and culture (WiLDAF, 2010).

Subsequently, Toulmin and Quan (2000) posited that divorcees or widows could be forced to surrender matrimonial lands even if they have investments on them. Investments in this sense, in the Nadowli-Kaleo District could include housing, seasonal food crops or small scale tree crop plantations like cashew and mango.
Lands leased to women for farming are often of small sizes and non-rewarding and most times requires the mediation by male relations (UPWFCSL, 2017). With such prevailing conditions to the acquisition of land, women farmers are unable to get lands for commercial farming to increase their incomes and improve upon their lives. Women even lose the lands when their husbands die. Therefore, the women farmers purportedly remain poor and unable to contribute meaningfully to development (UPWFCSL, 2017). It is against these backgrounds that necessitate advocacy action of enhancing women's access to customary farm lands.
BUSAC fund through its advocacy for women access to fertile farmlands under the action, Enhancing women access to customary farm lands in the Upper West Region has given employment to women farmers in the Wa Municipal. A branch of women farmers group in the Nadoli/Kaleo District is set to benefit from the action. The Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund has supported women in the Wa Municipal access fertile farmlands for their farming purposes in 2014/15 while the Nadowli-Kaleo branch has been assured of same opportunity.
According to the Petron of Unity and Progressive Women Rice Farmers Co-operative Mr Salifu Adama, the advocacy support by BUSAC fund has earned the women group with a fertile valley for rice farming through the initiative they have benefited from other organizations. The group can now boost of the Unity Women branded rice in the Ghanaian market. He added that, the Nadowli-Kaleo branch will even perform better with this support.
With the impressive success chalked by Unity and Progressive Women Rice Farmers Co-operative in Wa, BUSAC fund has extended its support to the Nadowli-Kaleo branch of the group. The project, Enhancing women's Access to Customary Farmlands in the Nadowli-Kaleo District of the Upper West Region is implemented with support from a service provider, Posterity Interest Organization (COPIO) based in Techiman.
It is evident that from plowing to planting and through to harvesting, women contribute about 60-70% of farm Labor. The World Bank analysis conducted in six African countries shows that, women share of Labor in agriculture is 40-50%. The plight of vulnerable women would have remained unaltered if not for BUSAC fund.
Dr. John Akperep, the consultant to the group assured Chiefs and landlords in the Nadowli-Kaleo District of a tenancy agreement to allay their fear of losing their lands to the women in future.
The success of the group (UPWFCSL) keep souring as the early beneficiaries won the best rice producers in the Region at this year’s Pre-harvest festival held in Tamale.
Over fifty (50) women of the Wa Municipal branch have been fruitfully engaged on the rice value chain.
They have also benefited a drying facility from Koica through the offices of ?cooperatives Wa and has been noted for extension services despite the few extension officers in the Region.
Chiefs and landlords (Tendaaba) led by Goli Naa Kanfuri II, Naa Bawa Roger and Datuah Godfrey assured Unity and Progressive Women Rice Farmers Co-operative of fertile customary farmlands for commercial farming purposes.
COPIO therefore recommended that duty bearers as the Nadowli- Kaleo Traditional Council, the Nadowli- Kaleo District Land Owners Association, the Upper West Regional House of Chiefs, the Nadowli- Kaleo District Agricultural Development Unit, Lands Commission of Ghana (Upper West Regional Secretariat) and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (Upper West Region) be engaged in dialogue on the problem. In the dialogue, duty bearers should be persuaded to appreciate womens contribution to food security and the local economy of the District through farming and the need for them to have enhanced access to farm lands for commercial farming to improve their contributions to poverty reduction and economic growth of the area.
NGOs and other Civil Society Organization including the Media should showcase the importance of women in farming, sensitize chiefs, land owners and family heads; mostly men to appreciate that woman also have the right to own and use lands and that women are part of the development process and can effectively contribute to poverty reduction in the area.
There should as well be continuous education and sensitization exercises by government agencies such as the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) on the important roles women farmers play in the socio-economic development of the area to enhance their access to farm lands.
In this regard, women in the District need to demonstrate their ability to do meaningful farming should their access to customary farm lands be enhanced. They should demonstret their abilities to do that on the farms of their husbands and on the parcels of land they currently have access to as evidence of their readiness to do on their own when given the opportunity . This will justify why they need more secured lands.
Also, there is the need to review the customs and traditions with regards to ownership, tenure and use of land in the Nadowli-Kaleo District to include other opportunities for women to access customary farm lands for commercial farming.
Even if the women by custom will still not be made to own land, they should be given the opportunity to access large parcels of land on timely bases and at longer tenure to enable them plan and meet the farming season appropriately to cultivate crops on commercial scale with longer life span than it is now.
Women in the District should come together to form groups and get their leadership to intervene in the acquisition of lands for the members to work on. Husbands should develop personal motivation to give part of their fertile lands to their wives and also give them off days from the family farms to work on such lands since they have the potential to contribute meaningfully to food security and development.

Source: Wononoo Salifu

Author: Kantayir Digme    Verified


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