Zainab Hamis Hussein walks through her farm in the semi-arid district of Ikungi, Singida in central Tanzania, carefully moving through a sea of yellow sunflowers. The sunflowers are slightly bent over, the petals starting to wilt as she demonstrates that this is a sign her crop is almost ready for harvest.
Just a few months earlier, she couldn’t call her farm her own, with limited options to register land under her name, placing her at risk of losing the land she farmed with her family for decades if her husband passed away, or they became separated.
“I didn’t even know that registering the land under both our names was a possibility, and like many other women, would have this fear, because I’ve seen many other women driven off their land and left with almost nothing,” says Ms. Hussein.
In Tanzania, although women spend much of their time providing labour for household agricultural production, their control over the land use remains limited. According to research by the Tanzanian National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 33 percent of women own agricultural land compared to 47 percent of men. Only nine percent of women have sole ownership of land, and 25 percent have joint land ownership, whereas 30 percent of men have sole ownership and seven percent joint ownership. Furthermore, when women do own land, it’s typically smaller than that owned by men, and have lower yields.
In an initiative that began in 2021 as part of the 3-year “Realizing Gender Equality through Empowering Women and Adolescent Girls” programme, funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), UN Women supported the Ikungi District Council in the Singida region to issue land certificates – Certificates of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCROs) – for women’s sole or joint land ownership.
The program modernized the practice of land demarcation with a gender-responsive approach and advanced technology. It first equipped the Ikungi District with a digital land use management system (ILMIS and MAST) and IT infrastructure, required for more efficient data processing and the settlement of land disputes. UN Women Tanzania further trained the district and village-level land governance institutions to undertake gender responsive CCROs issuance, and sensitized communities in the district on women’s right to own land and the benefits of joint land ownership.
Today, 5,360 CCROs have been issued as a result of these interventions, with over 2,000 of these issued to women. The proportion of CCROs issued to women increased from 14 per cent prior to the programme (between 2013-2020) to 41 per cent after the programme (2021-2022), a three-fold increase. With better technology, the land certificates were also issued faster, with more than 5,000 issued in just three months, compared to the past where it took four years to produce 1067 CCROs.
As one of women who was able to obtain a land certificate, Zainab has joint ownership of her family’s land, along with her husband.
“Now I have more decision-making power in terms of what we do with our land, what to cultivate, and how much we can sell. I am also considering using the land as collateral to be able to get a loan to further grow my farming business,” she says.
The programme provided women farmers with financial and entrepreneurship training, and linked women farmers with agro-dealers.
After receiving training, Ms. Hussein also began exploring other techniques to increase her income, including the use of climate-resilient fertilizers and seeds, which saw her sunflower yields soar from 5 bags per year to an impressive 16 bags. She also made the decision to diversify, adding other crops to her farm, and as a recently appointed Chair of one of the Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Societies (AMCOS) in her region, she regularly uses the platform to advocate for women’s land rights.
Many other women in the district have experienced similar successes. A 55-year-old sunflower and horticultural farmer, and mother of 8, Elizabeth Hamis Lala also received the CCRO under her name. “Now, I can access financial loan services using my land as collateral. This has made me more independent in my ability to plan for agricultural inputs on my land,” she says.
The incidence of land disputes and land grabbing which threatened widows has also significantly decreased, with land dispute cases in the Ikungi district, dropping from 40 cases per year in four targeted villages from 2019-2020 to five cases from 2021-2022.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Women – Africa.