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Tanzania (3)

Unfortunately, I could not find specific data on the percentage of women who have obtained title deeds under customary ownership. The figures I was able to get are all from the FAO database and primarily relate to agricultural land:

According to the agricultural census from 2002, 19.7 percent of agricultural holders were women and 80.3 percent were men. The agricultural holder is the person who makes the major decisions regarding resource use and exercises management control over the agricultural holding

Of total agricultural land owners, 45.2 percent were women and 54.8 percent were men in 2013 (LSMS-ISA 2012-2013). The agricultural landowner is defined as the legal owner of the agricultural land, but the indicator may not necessarily reflect documented ownership certified by a legal document.

Of total household agricultural land, 16 percent is owned by women and 44 percent is owned by men; 39 percent is owned jointly by women and men (LSMS, 2010-2011,[1] Doss et al. 2015)[2]

While the legal framework generally upholds women’s rights to land, in rural areas patriarchal practices predominate whereby men are de facto heads of households and have greater rights to land than women. The law is still weak in regard to women’s inheritance rights to land, and inheritance practices discriminate severely against women (FAO GLRD, country study).

Under the Village Land Act, seven-member Village Land Councils must be comprised of at least three women. The Village Land Council has a minimum quorum of four members, at least two of whom must be women. The Act provides that the nine-member Village Adjudication Committees, tasked in part with safeguarding women’s interests, must be comprised of at least four women. Five members are required for a quorum; at least two of which must be women (FAO GLRD, country study).

The Land Act of 1999 (Part XII) provides the legal framework for shared tenure. The Act recognizes two forms of shared tenure, joint occupancy and occupancy in common. Joint occupancy can only be created among spouses and exists when land as a whole is occupied jointly under a right of occupancy or lease. This means that: (a) there can be no disposition without agreement by all occupiers; (b) the joint occupiers—while alive—can only transfer their interest to the other joint occupier(s); and (c) when a joint occupier dies, interest vests in the surviving occupier (or occupiers, in which case jointly) (FAO GLRD, country study).

With occupancy in common, each occupier is entitled to an undivided share in the whole. The implications are that: (1) any occupier in common needs the consent in writing of the other occupier(s) before he or she can transact his or her interest to another person, but consent cannot be “unreasonably” withheld and (2) when an occupier dies, his or her share becomes part of the estate and his or her heir inherits the land. The legal presumption is that spouses hold all land that is co-occupied and used by both (or all) as occupiers in common, and the presumption of co-occupancy for spouses applies to granted rights (certificate of occupancy) and customary rights (customary certificate of occupancy). Co-occupancy is not presumed, under the Land Act, to apply to land that belonged to one spouse prior to the marriage (FAO GLRD, country study).

The Law of Marriage Act prohibits one spouse from alienating his or her interest in the matrimonial home (including associated agricultural land allocated by a husband or wife to his or her spouse for exclusive use) without the consent of the other spouse(s) (FAO GLRD, country study).

Click Here for a recent article that discusses the issues your question raises.  The article has case studies and gives a good feel for the issues faced by women but does not have hard statistics.

[1] Living Standard Measurement Study (LSMS) survey. LSMS-ISA (LSMS-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture)
[2] Doss, C., Kovarik, C., Peterman, A., Quisuming, A.R., Bold, M.V. den, 2015. Gender inequalities in ownership and control of land in Africa: Myth and Reality. Agricultural Economics 46(2).

Research indicates that when women are empowered through having secure rights to land, their agricultural productivity improves; they are more included in household decision-making, which has a positive impact on their families; and their income may improve. Here are some examples from Africa and beyond.

Agricultural yields and investment:

  • In Rwanda, land titling boosted land investment among male-headed households by 10% and for female-headed households by nearly twice as much (Ali, et al., 2014).
  • Women’s concern over loss of land reduces their investments in land even when their husbands are alive. In Zambia, secure inheritance rights for widows are associated with higher land investment by married couples, including fertilizer application, fallowing, and use of labor-intensive tillage practices meant to reduce erosion and run-off. Investment is highest when the widow inherits, lower when someone in her family inherits, and lowest when the land reverts to the chief or another family member (Dillon & Voena, 2017).


Female farmers are largely excluded from modern contract-farming arrangements because they lack secure control over land, labor, and other resources required to guarantee a reliable flow of produce (FAO-SOFA Team & Doss, 2011; Croppenstadt, Goldstein, & Rosas, 2013).

Secure land rights are important for the well-being of families, whether a woman is head of her household or lives in a household headed by a man (Smith, Ramakrishnan, Ndiaye, & Martorell, 2003). Households where women have rights to land are likely to spend a larger portion of household income on food (Menon, ven der Meulen Rodgers, & Nguyen, 2014); an increase in female landholdings is associated with increases in household food expenditure and levels of child education (Katz & Chamorro, 2002); and children of mothers who own land are less likely to be severely underweight because women have control over household decisions (Allendorf, 2007).

  • In Tanzania, women who reported having strong property and inheritance rights were more likely to be employed outside of the home, more likely to be self-employed, and more likely to have higher gross earnings. Moreover, women in communities with stronger property and inheritance rights for women have greater individual savings (Peterman, 2011). A study in Ethiopia also found that when the larger community of women has land rights, individual women’s rights are improved (Holden & Bezu, 2014).
  • In Ethiopia, in the event of a no-fault divorce, women who brought in some land to the marriage expect to receive more land and livestock in the event of a divorce than those who did not bring land into the marriage, and women who individually own more livestock and hold user rights on a larger share of the household’s land expect to receive more land and livestock in the event of divorce than those with no livestock or a smaller share of household land. In addition, women who bring more assets into the household, either at the time of marriage or through inheritance, have more say in farming decisions (Fafchamps & Quisumbing, 2002).

Labor and Income:

  • In Rwanda, a study by Ali (2017) shows  higher incomes for both men and women, a drop in farm labor, and women’s shift toward self- and wage-employment.

How do we achieve that?

This is a big question with many moving parts. The critical things are to: (1) understand the context, including the law, customs of different groups, the land tenure systems, the political situation, and what women want to focus on—what are the biggest constraints women face (for example, widows lose rights to their land); and (2) understand which land rights you want to secure or improve—the right to use, the right to benefit from, the right to manage/make decisions—and what would make them more secure (longer term, more enforcable, not changed by marital status, etc.).

Ali, D. A., Deininger, K., & Goldstein, M. (2014). Environmental and gender impacts of land tenure regularization in Africa: pilot evidence from Rwanda. Journal of Development Economics, 110, 262-275.

Allendorf, K. (2007). Do women’s land rights promote empowerment and child health in Nepal? World Development, 35(11), 1975-1988.

Dillon, B., & Voena, A. (2017, January). Inheritance Customs and Agricultural Investment.

Croppenstadt, A., Goldstein, M. , & Rosas, N. (2013). Gender and Agriculture, Inefficiencies, Segregation, and Low Productivity Traps. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, Development Economics Vice Presidency, Partnerships, Capacity Building Unit.

Fafchamps, M., & Quisumbing, A. (2002). Control and Ownership Over Assets Within Rural Ethiopian Households. Journal of Development Studies, 38(6).

FAO-SOFA Team, & Doss, C. (2011). The Role of Women and Agriculture. Rome: FAO.

Holden, S., & Bezu, S. (2014). Joint Land Certification, Gendered Preferences, and Land-related Decisions: Are Wives Getting More Involved?”. As, Norway: Centre for Land Tenure Studies/School of Economics and Business Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Katz, E., & Chamorro, J. (2002). Gender, land rights, and the household economy in rural Nicaragua and Honduras. Madison, WI: USAID/BASIS CRSP.

Menon, N., ven der Meulen Rodgers, Y., & Nguyen, H. (2014). Women’s Land Rights and Children’s Human Capital in Vietnam. World Development, 54, 18-31.

Peterman, A. (2011). Women’s Property Rights and Gendered Policies: Implications for Women’s Long-term Welfare in Rural Tanzania. Journal of Development Studies, 47(1).

Smith, L., Ramakrishnan, U., Ndiaye, A., & Martorell, R. (2003). The Importance of Women’s Status for Child Nutrition in Developing Countries. IFPRI.

While this issue is a concern in many urban and rural settings, there seems to be precious little “how to” information available. What does exist can provide a roadmap, but the details will be dependent on the goal of your project, the current law, and local and national political will.

The most recent research on the topic that I could find comes out of South Africa. I would recommend a book and an article as a good starting place. The book is, UNTITLED: Securing Land Tenure in Urban and Rural South Africa, edited by Donna Hornby, Rosalie Kingwill, Lauren Royston, and Ben Cousins, and published in 2017.

The article is, Land Rights Adjudication: Developing Principles and Processes for ESTA and Labour Tenant Right ’ Holders, and was published in June 2017. The article was written by Dr. Rosalie Kingwill for Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA).

The gist of the idea is this:

• Collect evidence from the ground up to understand the local situation/norms of land use.
• Develop standardized evidentiary principles based on current norms where ‘like units’ can be compared with ‘like units’ across varied tenure landscapes to allow for local variation and diversity.
• Develop a system of adjudication with clear-cut principles against which to test the legality or veracity of individual land rights by authoritative means.

The registry for “off-register” rights could be separate or a part of the main land registry depending on the existing system. Namibia has passed an act designed to create new forms of title to immovable property and to create a register for these forms of title. The system is expected to operate parallel to the existing registration system. Admittedly, including non-ownership rights in an existing registry or creating a new registry will be a slow and difficult process.

Gender Specific Issues

Anytime a census of rights is taken, women are at risk. Women, who use land and depend on it may nonetheless not be considered to have a right to that land. Thus, the evidence collectors will need to be aware that they are collecting information on who has what interest in which land, and that this information should be collected from every adult member in a household, not only the head of household. In addition, a focused effort will be required to ensure that women, as well as men, are provided notice and receive ongoing information and communication throughout the process. Including women often requires separate meetings or other accommodations.

As well, when registering of rights/interests occurs, there is usually a perception of increased value of the land. Where there is a significant power differential between men and women, women can lose their right to use the land, once the value of that land is increased. It will be important to monitor the effect of the information gathering and to communicate with the community about its purpose and the hoped for outcome.

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