Titling, Registration, & Land Certification

Land titling formalizes and documents a person’s or persons’’ legal right(s) in the land. In the process, a land title or similar document, such as a land certificate, is issued. When that right is recorded in an official database, it is considered “registered.” Documenting rights generally makes them more secure. However, if more than one person has an interest in the land, and one or more people with interests do not have those interests documented at the time of titling, then they lose their rights to the land. Women’s interests are often not considered “rights” or are considered “secondary” and thus are not documented, leaving them more insecure.

Page Contents

  1. Research – Quantitative and qualitative studies organized by country and outcome
  2. Legal Issues – Common legal issues and example laws, regulations, and policies
  3. Projects – Interventions and their outcomes

Research Organized by Country

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2016 World Bank Policy Brief “Securing Property Rights for Women and Men in Rural Benin” by Markus Goldstein, Kenneth Houngbedji, Florence Kondylis, Michael O’Sullivan, and Harris Selod.1 

    The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) provided technical and financial support to the Government of Benin to develop Rural Land Use Plans (Plans Fonciers Ruraux, PFR), which were developed as part of large-scale land formalization. As part of the program, all PFR villages were selected through district-level lotteries that provided a public and transparent identification of program and comparison communities. One year after the start of implementation, a survey was conducted in 291 of these communities to compare differences in outcomes between the randomly-chosen PFR and non-PFR villages. The survey area including data from 9 of Benin’s 12 regions. The study sample covered households with at least one parcel of land in their village, including 2,972 households with a total of 6,094 parcels. The study also compared female headed households to male headed households.

  2. Questions posed
    • What is the initial impact of land demarcation (prior to the issuance of land certificates) on agricultural investment? Is the impact different for male headed households and female headed households?
  3. Description of intervention

    The PFR program focused on the formalization of existing customary rights of individual landholders. The program formalized customary rights of rural households through two main steps. First, the program demarcated all land parcels in a community and assigned property boundaries and second, the program issued land use certificates.

    The demarcation process involved communities in the mapping and attribution of land rights.2

  4. Context of findings

    Arable land held communally and under customary tenure but farmed by households. Men have ownership-like rights under customary law and women within male-headed households have the temporary right to use the land as provided by their husbands.

    The default marital property regime is separate property.

  5. Key findings

    Improved tenure security through land demarcation, increased long-term investments in cash crops and trees for both male-headed households and female-headed households, and erased the gender gap in land fallowing for female-headed households.

    More women moved to farm on insecure land. resulting in a drop in farm yields on parcels within the village, leading to a 22%  widening of the overall gender gap in agricultural productivity.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Were the women who moved to farm on the insecure land female-headed households or were they women in male-headed households or both? The conclusions drawn from this move would be different depending on who the women were who farmed on insecure land.
NOTES
  1. Goldstein, M.; Houngbedji, K.; Kondylis, F.; O'Sullivan, M.; Selod, H. 2016. Securing Property Rights for Women and Men in Rural Benin. Gender Innovation Lab Policy Brief; No. 14. World Bank, Washington, DC.

  2. For more detail, see

  1. Study Information

    This section discusses the 2014 paper by Stein Terje Holden and Sosina Bezu, “Joint Land Certification, Gendered Preferences, and Land-related Decisions: Are Wives Getting More Involved?”.1

    Gender-disaggregated household panel data and indices for wives’ and husbands’ land rights attitudes and for wives’ involvement in land related decisions (600 households).

  2. Questions posed
    • Does joint land certification strengthen wives’ awareness of their land rights?
    • Do wives’ attitudes towards women's land rights and husbands’ preferences for the traditional weak position of women affect wives’ intra-household bargaining power in land-related decisions?
    • Does certification in the community have an additional effect on the empowerment of wives related to family land?
  3. Description of intervention

    Community based land certification and registration. In two regions in Southern Ethiopia (Oromio and SNNP), joint land certificates for husbands and wives were issued starting in 2005.

  4. Context of findings

    The study covers very diverse farming systems and different ethnic groups in Ethiopia, indicating that the findings are applicable to diverse socio-economic conditions. The findings may therefore be generalizable to other areas in Ethiopia and perhaps other parts of Africa.

    This is a follow-up study to one done in 2007, which found that the 2005 reform had a small impact on women’s ability to influence farm management.2, 3

  5. Key findings

    By 2012, women had become more involved in farm management decisions, in particular, in crop choice decisions, and in land rental decisions.

    The wives’ index for participation in land-related decisions increases with the share of households in the community having land certificates and is positively correlated with attendance in land reform meetings.

    There is evidence that awareness, intra-household bargaining, and social process contributed to empowerment of wives in relation to land.

    Note: The relatively large change in involvement of wives in land-related decisions seems to be a combined effect of joint certification and registration, participation in related information meetings, and changes in awareness and preferences of husbands and wives.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • What level of engagement was required for women to perceive they understood their rights and how to document and implement them?
    • What activities supported changes in awareness and preferences of husbands and wives? Did this vary by ethnic group, farming systems, or socio-economic conditions?
NOTES
  1. Holden, S.T, and Bezu, S. “Joint Land Certification, Gendered Preferences, and Land-related Decisions: Are Wives Getting More Involved?” Centre for Land Tenure Studies/School of Economics and Business Norwegian University of Life Sciences, AS, Norway (October, 2014).

  2. Holden, S. and Tefera, T., "From Being Property of Men to Becoming Equal Owners? Early Impacts of Land Regulation and Certification of Women in Southern Ethiopia," FINAL RESEARCH REPORT (UN-HABITAT and GLTN, January 2008).

  3. Holden, S. and Tefera, T., "Land Registration in Ethiopia: Early Impacts on Women," UN-HABITAT REPORT (October 2008).

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2014 IFPRI paper “Land Rights Knowledge and Conservation in Rural Ethiopia: Mind the Gender Gap” by Agnes Quisumbing and Neha Kumar.1

    The Ethiopian Rural Household Survey (ERHS) is a panel data set using data from 7 rounds of data collection. This paper uses data from 2009. The land registration effort began in 2003. The ERHS sample consists of 1300 households in 15 villages across Ethiopia, with a particular focus on different agro-climates and agricultural systems.

  2. Questions posed
    • What is the medium-term impact of land registration on investment behavior by households, particularly the adoption of soil conservation techniques and tree planting?
    • Do differences between men and women in resource control and knowledge lead to significant differences in the adoption of soil conservation technologies and tree planting?
  3. Description of intervention

    Community based land certification and registration.

  4. Context of findings

    Male-and female-headed households differ in terms of human and physical assets, land owned and cultivated, and awareness of and participation in the land registration process. Female heads of household tend to be older, have fewer years of schooling, and have household members with fewer completed years of schooling than do male heads of household. Female-headed households have a larger share of dependent members but a smaller household size.

    Male-headed households hold more land (have larger plot sizes), of which a larger proportion is cultivable, compared to female-headed households. Women in male-headed households operate only 1 percent of the land, but in female-headed households, men operate almost one-fifth of land area.

    There is near universal certification of land rights for both women and men, but a large gap in knowledge of land rights.

  5. Key findings

    Adoption of Soil Conservation Techniques (SCT) is a labor-intensive process that tends to be higher in households with more labor resources (household size) but can be lower in households with higher opportunity costs of labor (better-educated households, more livestock). Registration of land was not a determinant factor, but this is because there has been near universal registration of land.

    Gender gaps in knowledge of land rights specifically has negative impacts on the adoption of some SCTs, whereas the general knowledge level of the household does not.

    “Gender gaps in knowledge about land rights in three domains—tenure security, land transferability, and gender rights—diminish the adoption of soil conservation practices as well as the planting of tree crops and legumes, although different domains of rights matter for different practices.”

    Paper suggests that closing the knowledge gap in legal rights is an important step to improving adoption of soil conservation technologies and sustainable farming techniques.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • What is the most effective means of ensuring that women have knowledge of legal land rights?
    • Are the results the same for women in malep-headed households?
    • Are women female-headed households or women in male-headed households more likely to attend information meetings? Which group is more likely to have more information and why?
NOTES
  1. Quisumbing, A., & Kumar, N. (2014). Land Rights Knowledge and Conservation in Rural Ethiopia: Mind the Gender Gap. IFPRI.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2015 article by Neha Kumar and Agnes Quisumbing, “Policy Reform toward Gender Equality in Ethiopia: Little by Little the Egg Begins to Walk”.1

    The Ethiopian Rural Household Survey (ERHS) is a longitudinal panel data set using data from 7 rounds of data collection. This paper uses data from 1997, 2004 and 2009. The ERHS sample consists of 1300 households in 15 villages across Ethiopia, with a particular focus on different agro-climates and agricultural systems.

    The paper looks at how two reforms—the changes in the Family Code implemented in 2000 and community-based land registration, undertaken since 2003—may have created conditions for gender-sensitive reforms to reinforce each other. It examines how household characteristics are correlated with changes in women’s perceptions regarding allocation of assets upon divorce, and knowledge of and participation in the land registration process.

    This entry focuses on the findings from the land registration process.

  2. Questions posed
    • Do male and female headed households differ in their awareness of and participation in the land registration process?
    • Do male and female headed households differ in terms of land owned and cultivated?
    • Does female membership on the Land Administration Committees (LAC), which oversee the land certification process, have an impact on women’s participation?
  3. Description of intervention

    Community based land certification and registration.

  4. Context of findings

    Study looked at Female Headed Households (FHH) and Male Headed Households (MHH) but not women within MHH. About 1/3 (32%) of sampled household heads are FHH.

    Female heads of household on average have no education while male heads of household have at least two years of schooling. In addition, female heads of household on average have fewer assets and less land.

  5. Key findings

    Male-headed households were more informed about initial public information meetings, more likely to have attended more meetings, and more likely to have received written information about the process of registration. Variations across regions regarding the gender gap in awareness with FHH in Oromia equally likely to be informed about the meetings as their male counterparts.

    Female heads of household who believed they had some ability to affect or change their circumstances were more likely to attend the meetings than those who felt powerless.

    Education and plot size had a differential effect on MHH’s and FHH’s awareness of the land registration process. While education did not improve men’s knowledge of the land registration process, it had a positive effect on women’s awareness of the process. FHH with smaller plots were more likely to have heard of the land registration process.

    There was a link between women’s awareness of and attendance at land registration meetings, and their memberships in Iddirs (women’s traditional social network). As well, representation of women in the LAC had a positive effect on the participation of female heads of households without having an adverse effect on the participation of MHH.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Were women in MHH aware of and participate in the land registration process?
    • What types of characteristics affected FHH and women within MHH differently?
NOTES
  1. Kumar, N. and Quisumbing, A. (2015). “Policy Reform toward Gender Equality in Ethiopia: Little by Little the Egg Begins to Walk.” World Development 67, 406-23.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2013 article “Individual tenure rights, citizenship, and conflicts: Outcomes from tribal India’s forest governance” by Purabi Bose.1

    Between 2008 and 2010, fifteen months of fieldwork were carried out to collect data using in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. In total, 105 households (274 male and female respondents) engaged in in-depth semi-structured interviews, and four focus group discussions were conducted in six Bhil tribal villages in Banswara district.

    The study area covers six tribal villages from two sub-districts, Kushalgarh and Bagidora, of Banswara tribal district located in the southernmost part of Rajasthan. Forest in this semi-arid region is highly degraded. The communal grazing land is either degraded or encroached upon.

  2. Questions posed
    • What are the current implications of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) on tribal households' claim to individual forest tenure rights?
    • How does the FRA affect tribal households’ citizenship rights?
    • What are the underlying reasons for conflicts at the household level?
  3. Description of intervention

    The intervention involved law and policy. The “Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’ (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006” (FRA), is an effort to correct historical discrimination against forest dwellers. This discrimination has included excluding traditional forest dwellers from living in forests and from using forests for non-timber forest products. The FRA increases the authority of local communities over forest resources, and is an attempt by the government of India (GOI) to decentralize forest resource management through regulations and directives to the states.

    The FRA gives forest-dwellers rights to access, own, and manage forests and other traditionally accessed natural resources. In addition, individual rights to forest plots are granted for forestland being cultivated for agriculture, and community rights are given over larger areas of forest for cultural practices, bona fide livelihood needs, grazing, fisheries, water bodies, and management of forest resources. The individual rights are documented and therefore formalized by the State government, not by the local communities.

  4. Context of findings

    Most state forest land in India is inhabited by Scheduled Tribes, who use the forest under customary arrangements, but has been state controlled.

    Of the total 105 Bhil households interviewed, about 40% have property rights to an average of one hectare of agricultural land. Except for one household that has property under joint ownership (with the man as primary and the woman as the secondary owner), all the remaining households’ property was owned by men.

    About 52 households claimed that they had used forest land without tenure rights before the Forest Rights Act. With its implementation, between 2008 and 2010, the number of households claiming individual tenure rights almost doubled to 97 households. Many families paid bribes to get the proof of having used land for three generations so their claim could be approved by the village committee established to implement the Forest Rights Act.

  5. Key findings

    Unexpectedly, the Bhil saw a linkage between individual tenure rights and political recognition. The focus group discussions indicated that the main reason for getting individual tenure rights was to acquire recognition of their belonging to the forest land as well as citizenship rights.

    Out of 133 Bhil women respondents, 89 were of the opinion that claiming forest land (of on average less than 1 hectare) would improve their household’s social status. However, only 12 women mentioned that an increase in the household’s citizenship status directly benefitted them in addition to benefitting the household. Without tenure rights the women are not directly involved in political representation at the community level.

    Intra-household conflicts are mainly between men (and rarely between men and women). About 90% of women interviewed their ability to use land was dependent on their belonging to the household. Overall, the findings indicated that the women and younger generation of the tribal household were not likely to gain individual rights to use the forest.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Have women been harmed by having their household land titled in the name of men only?
    • How has that changed the household or community dynamic?
NOTES
  1. Bose, P., 2013. Individual tenure rights, citizenship, and conflicts: Outcomes from tribal India's forest governance. Forest Policy and Economics, Vol 33, pp. 71-79

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses Henrik Wiig’s 2013 article “Joint Titling in Rural Peru: Impact on Women’s Participation in Household Decision Making”.1

    This is a cross-section data analysis of similar communities with and without titled plots exist side by side within the same district. The cross-section comparison between households in titled communities vs. untitled communities is not distorted by simultaneity bias due to an exogenous election process arising from the land reform of the 1960-70s. This research measures influence on decision-making in 1,280 rural households, interviewing men and women both together and separately. Research was conducted in 2010.

  2. Questions posed
    • Does joint titling of land empower women within the household (i.e. the degree to which women participate in household decision-making)?
  3. Description of intervention

    The intervention was called the Special Land Titling and Cadaster Project (PETT), a rural land titling effort funded by The Inter-American Development Bank in 1996.

  4. Context of findings

    Peru has implemented joint property rights between spouses and cohabitants on 57% of 1.5 million formalized agricultural plots.

  5. Key findings

    Women in households with plots titled jointly under the names of the husband and the wife participated in more household decisions. The effect is strongest for agricultural decision-making and land related investment decisions.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • What steps were taken to ensure women who did receive a joint title knew their rights?
NOTES
  1. Wiig, H. (2013). Joint Titling in Rural Peru: Impact on Women’s Participation in Household Decision Making. World Development, 52, 104-119.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2014 article by Daniel  Ayalew Ali, Klaus Deininger, and Markus Goldstein, “Environmental and gender impacts of land tenure regularization in Africa: Pilot evidence from Rwanda.”1

    The study looked at the impacts of the Rwandan land tenure regularization pilot. A key methodological challenge for a rigorous socio-economic assessment of the pilots was the lack of baseline data. To deal with this, this study conducted in Rwanda adopted a spatial discontinuity design and administered a short survey containing some questions that ask for recall at the start of the program. A survey administered in April–May 2010, about 2.5 years after the start of land tenure regularization, was used to obtain information for 3554 households with some 6330 parcels. The sample was to be distributed equally on both sides of the pilot cell boundary to create a treatment group (within the titled cell) and control group (those just across the border in non-program cells).

  2. Questions posed
    • In the land regularization areas, is there evidence of an increase in land-related investment, intergenerational impacts (inheritance), and/or the frequency of land transactions and credit access?
  3. Description of intervention

    Land regularization pilot (clarified rights, but did not register) in 4 cells covering 14,908 parcels with an area of 3448 ha, owned by 3513 households.

  4. Context of findings

    Study was done 2.5 years after completion of rights certification in the pilot area. Looked at female-headed households and male-headed households with some focus on women within male-headed households. During the pilot, the land rights of women in informal marriages were not overtly protected by law, as informal marriages are not addressed by law at all. Thus, women in informal marriages did not have their land rights documented. This was remedied in the roll out.

  5. Key findings

    For the sub-sample of married couples (with and without marriage certificates), the finding points towards a negative effect of Land Tenure Regulation (LTR) by itself.

    This is because for women not legally married (i.e., without a marriage certificate), LTR resulted in a statistically significant reduction of the probability of having documented land ownership. However, women in a union with a marriage certificate (76% in this sample) experienced a strong positive program effect and were more likely to be regarded as joint land owners after LTR than before.

    Individuals whose parcels had been certified doubled their investment in soil conservation, and female-headed households almost tripled their investment.

    The LTR required heirs to be listed on the document and there was virtually no gender bias in who was listed. Exception: female heads of household followed the tradition of male heirs.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Why did female heads of household show gender bias and choose male heirs?
NOTES
  1. Ali, D.A., Deininger, K., and Goldstein, M. (2014). “Environmental and gender impacts of land tenure regularization in Africa: pilot evidence from Rwanda.” Journal of Development Economics, vol. 110, 2014, 262-275.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2014 article “Women’s Land Rights and Children’s Human Capital in Vietnam” by Nidhiya Menon, Yanavan der Meulen Rodgers, and Huong Nguyen.1

    Matched household sample from Vietnam’s 2004 and 2008 Household Living Standards Survey. Looks at land specifically rather than assets generally and the effect of women’s land rights on children’s human capital.

  2. Questions posed
    • Did land titling for women lead to improvements in child health and education?
  3. Description of intervention

    Distribution of land use certificates in Vietnam.

  4. Context of findings

    State owns all land but use rights for household plots were titled at the household level beginning in 1993 (mostly in the name of men only) and at the plot level beginning in 2001 (land law reform).

  5. Key findings

    Female-only held land-use rights decreased the incidence of illness among children, increased their health insurance coverage, raised school enrollment, and reallocated household expenditures toward food (higher proportion of the household budget to food, an increase of 1% point) and away from alcohol and tobacco (lower proportion of household budget to tobacco and alcohol (a decrease of 1% point). These effects were almost all stronger than in households with male-only or jointly-held land-use rights.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Under what circumstances were women only receiving land certificates as opposed to male-only or jointly held land use rights?
NOTES
  1. Menon, N., van der Meulen Rodgers, Y., and Nguyen, H. (2014). “Women’s Land Rights and Children’s Human Capital in Vietnam.” World Development, 54, 18-31.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2015 article “Property Rights and Productivity: The Case of Joint Land Titling in Vietnam.” by Carol Newman, Finn Tarp, and Katleen van den Broeck.1

    Over 2,000 households in 12 provinces in rural Vietnam were surveyed in 2006, 2008, and 2010 as part of the Vietnamese Access to Resources Household Survey. Along with demographic information on household members, the researchers gathered detailed information on access to and use of productive resources such as land, labor, and other inputs. Information on the characteristics of land and agricultural production were collected at the plot level.

  2. Questions posed
    • What effect does land titling have on agricultural productivity (specifically looked at rice yields)?
    • To what extent do individual or jointly held titles affect agricultural productivity?
  3. Description of intervention

    Individual and joint titling of land use rights.

  4. Context of findings

    State owns all land but use rights for household plots were titled at the household level beginning in 1993 (mostly in the name of men only) and at the plot level beginning in 2001 (land law reform).

  5. Key findings

    Identifies a positive association between land titling and agricultural productivity. The results show that obtaining a land title is associated with higher yields, for both individually and jointly held titles, but they do not find evidence that joint titling has greater effects on productivity than individually held titles. However, there is also no tradeoff between joint titling and productivity. Thus, joint-titling improved women’s bargaining power within the household with no associated efficiency losses.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Are the same results found for crops other than rice?
NOTES
  1. Newman, C., Tarp, F., and Broek, K. (2015). “Property Rights and Productivity: The Case of Joint Land Titling in Vietnam.” Vol.91(1), pp.91-105.

Research Organized by Outcome

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2014 article by Daniel  Ayalew Ali, Klaus Deininger, and Markus Goldstein, “Environmental and gender impacts of land tenure regularization in Africa: Pilot evidence from Rwanda.”1

    The study looked at the impacts of the Rwandan land tenure regularization pilot. A key methodological challenge for a rigorous socio-economic assessment of the pilots was the lack of baseline data. To deal with this, this study conducted in Rwanda adopted a spatial discontinuity design and administered a short survey containing some questions that ask for recall at the start of the program. A survey administered in April–May 2010, about 2.5 years after the start of land tenure regularization, was used to obtain information for 3554 households with some 6330 parcels. The sample was to be distributed equally on both sides of the pilot cell boundary to create a treatment group (within the titled cell) and control group (those just across the border in non-program cells).

  2. Questions posed
    • In the land regularization areas, is there evidence of an increase in land-related investment, intergenerational impacts (inheritance), and/or the frequency of land transactions and credit access?
  3. Description of intervention

    Land regularization pilot (clarified rights, but did not register) in 4 cells covering 14,908 parcels with an area of 3448 ha, owned by 3513 households.

  4. Context of findings

    Study was done 2.5 years after completion of rights certification in the pilot area. Looked at female-headed households and male-headed households with some focus on women within male-headed households. During the pilot, the land rights of women in informal marriages were not overtly protected by law, as informal marriages are not addressed by law at all. Thus, women in informal marriages did not have their land rights documented. This was remedied in the roll out.

  5. Key findings

    For the sub-sample of married couples (with and without marriage certificates), the finding points towards a negative effect of Land Tenure Regulation (LTR) by itself.

    This is because for women not legally married (i.e., without a marriage certificate), LTR resulted in a statistically significant reduction of the probability of having documented land ownership. However, women in a union with a marriage certificate (76% in this sample) experienced a strong positive program effect and were more likely to be regarded as joint land owners after LTR than before.

    Individuals whose parcels had been certified doubled their investment in soil conservation, and female-headed households almost tripled their investment.

    The LTR required heirs to be listed on the document and there was virtually no gender bias in who was listed. Exception: female heads of household followed the tradition of male heirs.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Why did female heads of household show gender bias and choose male heirs?
NOTES
  1. Ali, D.A., Deininger, K., and Goldstein, M. (2014). “Environmental and gender impacts of land tenure regularization in Africa: pilot evidence from Rwanda.” Journal of Development Economics, vol. 110, 2014, 262-275.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2016 World Bank Policy Brief “Securing Property Rights for Women and Men in Rural Benin” by Markus Goldstein, Kenneth Houngbedji, Florence Kondylis, Michael O’Sullivan, and Harris Selod.1 

    The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) provided technical and financial support to the Government of Benin to develop Rural Land Use Plans (Plans Fonciers Ruraux, PFR), which were developed as part of large-scale land formalization. As part of the program, all PFR villages were selected through district-level lotteries that provided a public and transparent identification of program and comparison communities. One year after the start of implementation, a survey was conducted in 291 of these communities to compare differences in outcomes between the randomly-chosen PFR and non-PFR villages. The survey area including data from 9 of Benin’s 12 regions. The study sample covered households with at least one parcel of land in their village, including 2,972 households with a total of 6,094 parcels. The study also compared female headed households to male headed households.

  2. Questions posed
    • What is the initial impact of land demarcation (prior to the issuance of land certificates) on agricultural investment? Is the impact different for male headed households and female headed households?
  3. Description of intervention

    The PFR program focused on the formalization of existing customary rights of individual landholders. The program formalized customary rights of rural households through two main steps. First, the program demarcated all land parcels in a community and assigned property boundaries and second, the program issued land use certificates.

    The demarcation process involved communities in the mapping and attribution of land rights.2

  4. Context of findings

    Arable land held communally and under customary tenure but farmed by households. Men have ownership-like rights under customary law and women within male-headed households have the temporary right to use the land as provided by their husbands.

    The default marital property regime is separate property.

  5. Key findings

    Improved tenure security through land demarcation, increased long-term investments in cash crops and trees for both male-headed households and female-headed households, and erased the gender gap in land fallowing for female-headed households.

    More women moved to farm on insecure land. resulting in a drop in farm yields on parcels within the village, leading to a 22%  widening of the overall gender gap in agricultural productivity.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Were the women who moved to farm on the insecure land female-headed households or were they women in male-headed households or both? The conclusions drawn from this move would be different depending on who the women were who farmed on insecure land.
NOTES
  1. Goldstein, M.; Houngbedji, K.; Kondylis, F.; O'Sullivan, M.; Selod, H. 2016. Securing Property Rights for Women and Men in Rural Benin. Gender Innovation Lab Policy Brief; No. 14. World Bank, Washington, DC.

  2. For more detail, see

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2014 IFPRI paper “Land Rights Knowledge and Conservation in Rural Ethiopia: Mind the Gender Gap” by Agnes Quisumbing and Neha Kumar.1

    The Ethiopian Rural Household Survey (ERHS) is a panel data set using data from 7 rounds of data collection. This paper uses data from 2009. The land registration effort began in 2003. The ERHS sample consists of 1300 households in 15 villages across Ethiopia, with a particular focus on different agro-climates and agricultural systems.

  2. Questions posed
    • What is the medium-term impact of land registration on investment behavior by households, particularly the adoption of soil conservation techniques and tree planting?
    • Do differences between men and women in resource control and knowledge lead to significant differences in the adoption of soil conservation technologies and tree planting?
  3. Description of intervention

    Community based land certification and registration.

  4. Context of findings

    Male-and female-headed households differ in terms of human and physical assets, land owned and cultivated, and awareness of and participation in the land registration process. Female heads of household tend to be older, have fewer years of schooling, and have household members with fewer completed years of schooling than do male heads of household. Female-headed households have a larger share of dependent members but a smaller household size.

    Male-headed households hold more land (have larger plot sizes), of which a larger proportion is cultivable, compared to female-headed households. Women in male-headed households operate only 1 percent of the land, but in female-headed households, men operate almost one-fifth of land area.

    There is near universal certification of land rights for both women and men, but a large gap in knowledge of land rights.

  5. Key findings

    Adoption of Soil Conservation Techniques (SCT) is a labor-intensive process that tends to be higher in households with more labor resources (household size) but can be lower in households with higher opportunity costs of labor (better-educated households, more livestock). Registration of land was not a determinant factor, but this is because there has been near universal registration of land.

    Gender gaps in knowledge of land rights specifically has negative impacts on the adoption of some SCTs, whereas the general knowledge level of the household does not.

    “Gender gaps in knowledge about land rights in three domains—tenure security, land transferability, and gender rights—diminish the adoption of soil conservation practices as well as the planting of tree crops and legumes, although different domains of rights matter for different practices.”

    Paper suggests that closing the knowledge gap in legal rights is an important step to improving adoption of soil conservation technologies and sustainable farming techniques.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • What is the most effective means of ensuring that women have knowledge of legal land rights?
    • Are the results the same for women in malep-headed households?
    • Are women female-headed households or women in male-headed households more likely to attend information meetings? Which group is more likely to have more information and why?
NOTES
  1. Quisumbing, A., & Kumar, N. (2014). Land Rights Knowledge and Conservation in Rural Ethiopia: Mind the Gender Gap. IFPRI.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2015 article “Property Rights and Productivity: The Case of Joint Land Titling in Vietnam.” by Carol Newman, Finn Tarp, and Katleen van den Broeck.1

    Over 2,000 households in 12 provinces in rural Vietnam were surveyed in 2006, 2008, and 2010 as part of the Vietnamese Access to Resources Household Survey. Along with demographic information on household members, the researchers gathered detailed information on access to and use of productive resources such as land, labor, and other inputs. Information on the characteristics of land and agricultural production were collected at the plot level.

  2. Questions posed
    • What effect does land titling have on agricultural productivity (specifically looked at rice yields)?
    • To what extent do individual or jointly held titles affect agricultural productivity?
  3. Description of intervention

    Individual and joint titling of land use rights.

  4. Context of findings

    State owns all land but use rights for household plots were titled at the household level beginning in 1993 (mostly in the name of men only) and at the plot level beginning in 2001 (land law reform).

  5. Key findings

    Identifies a positive association between land titling and agricultural productivity. The results show that obtaining a land title is associated with higher yields, for both individually and jointly held titles, but they do not find evidence that joint titling has greater effects on productivity than individually held titles. However, there is also no tradeoff between joint titling and productivity. Thus, joint-titling improved women’s bargaining power within the household with no associated efficiency losses.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Are the same results found for crops other than rice?
NOTES
  1. Newman, C., Tarp, F., and Broek, K. (2015). “Property Rights and Productivity: The Case of Joint Land Titling in Vietnam.” Vol.91(1), pp.91-105.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2014 article “Women’s Land Rights and Children’s Human Capital in Vietnam” by Nidhiya Menon, Yanavan der Meulen Rodgers, and Huong Nguyen.1

    Matched household sample from Vietnam’s 2004 and 2008 Household Living Standards Survey. Looks at land specifically rather than assets generally and the effect of women’s land rights on children’s human capital.

  2. Questions posed
    • Did land titling for women lead to improvements in child health and education?
  3. Description of intervention

    Distribution of land use certificates in Vietnam.

  4. Context of findings

    State owns all land but use rights for household plots were titled at the household level beginning in 1993 (mostly in the name of men only) and at the plot level beginning in 2001 (land law reform).

  5. Key findings

    Female-only held land-use rights decreased the incidence of illness among children, increased their health insurance coverage, raised school enrollment, and reallocated household expenditures toward food (higher proportion of the household budget to food, an increase of 1% point) and away from alcohol and tobacco (lower proportion of household budget to tobacco and alcohol (a decrease of 1% point). These effects were almost all stronger than in households with male-only or jointly-held land-use rights.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Under what circumstances were women only receiving land certificates as opposed to male-only or jointly held land use rights?
NOTES
  1. Menon, N., van der Meulen Rodgers, Y., and Nguyen, H. (2014). “Women’s Land Rights and Children’s Human Capital in Vietnam.” World Development, 54, 18-31.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2015 article by Neha Kumar and Agnes Quisumbing, “Policy Reform toward Gender Equality in Ethiopia: Little by Little the Egg Begins to Walk”.1

    The Ethiopian Rural Household Survey (ERHS) is a longitudinal panel data set using data from 7 rounds of data collection. This paper uses data from 1997, 2004 and 2009. The ERHS sample consists of 1300 households in 15 villages across Ethiopia, with a particular focus on different agro-climates and agricultural systems.

    The paper looks at how two reforms—the changes in the Family Code implemented in 2000 and community-based land registration, undertaken since 2003—may have created conditions for gender-sensitive reforms to reinforce each other. It examines how household characteristics are correlated with changes in women’s perceptions regarding allocation of assets upon divorce, and knowledge of and participation in the land registration process.

    This entry focuses on the findings from the land registration process.

  2. Questions posed
    • Do male and female headed households differ in their awareness of and participation in the land registration process?
    • Do male and female headed households differ in terms of land owned and cultivated?
    • Does female membership on the Land Administration Committees (LAC), which oversee the land certification process, have an impact on women’s participation?
  3. Description of intervention

    Community based land certification and registration.

  4. Context of findings

    Study looked at Female Headed Households (FHH) and Male Headed Households (MHH) but not women within MHH. About 1/3 (32%) of sampled household heads are FHH.

    Female heads of household on average have no education while male heads of household have at least two years of schooling. In addition, female heads of household on average have fewer assets and less land.

  5. Key findings

    Male-headed households were more informed about initial public information meetings, more likely to have attended more meetings, and more likely to have received written information about the process of registration. Variations across regions regarding the gender gap in awareness with FHH in Oromia equally likely to be informed about the meetings as their male counterparts.

    Female heads of household who believed they had some ability to affect or change their circumstances were more likely to attend the meetings than those who felt powerless.

    Education and plot size had a differential effect on MHH’s and FHH’s awareness of the land registration process. While education did not improve men’s knowledge of the land registration process, it had a positive effect on women’s awareness of the process. FHH with smaller plots were more likely to have heard of the land registration process.

    There was a link between women’s awareness of and attendance at land registration meetings, and their memberships in Iddirs (women’s traditional social network). As well, representation of women in the LAC had a positive effect on the participation of female heads of households without having an adverse effect on the participation of MHH.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Were women in MHH aware of and participate in the land registration process?
    • What types of characteristics affected FHH and women within MHH differently?
NOTES
  1. Kumar, N. and Quisumbing, A. (2015). “Policy Reform toward Gender Equality in Ethiopia: Little by Little the Egg Begins to Walk.” World Development 67, 406-23.

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses the 2013 article “Individual tenure rights, citizenship, and conflicts: Outcomes from tribal India’s forest governance” by Purabi Bose.1

    Between 2008 and 2010, fifteen months of fieldwork were carried out to collect data using in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. In total, 105 households (274 male and female respondents) engaged in in-depth semi-structured interviews, and four focus group discussions were conducted in six Bhil tribal villages in Banswara district.

    The study area covers six tribal villages from two sub-districts, Kushalgarh and Bagidora, of Banswara tribal district located in the southernmost part of Rajasthan. Forest in this semi-arid region is highly degraded. The communal grazing land is either degraded or encroached upon.

  2. Questions posed
    • What are the current implications of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) on tribal households' claim to individual forest tenure rights?
    • How does the FRA affect tribal households’ citizenship rights?
    • What are the underlying reasons for conflicts at the household level?
  3. Description of intervention

    The intervention involved law and policy. The “Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’ (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006” (FRA), is an effort to correct historical discrimination against forest dwellers. This discrimination has included excluding traditional forest dwellers from living in forests and from using forests for non-timber forest products. The FRA increases the authority of local communities over forest resources, and is an attempt by the government of India (GOI) to decentralize forest resource management through regulations and directives to the states.

    The FRA gives forest-dwellers rights to access, own, and manage forests and other traditionally accessed natural resources. In addition, individual rights to forest plots are granted for forestland being cultivated for agriculture, and community rights are given over larger areas of forest for cultural practices, bona fide livelihood needs, grazing, fisheries, water bodies, and management of forest resources. The individual rights are documented and therefore formalized by the State government, not by the local communities.

  4. Context of findings

    Most state forest land in India is inhabited by Scheduled Tribes, who use the forest under customary arrangements, but has been state controlled.

    Of the total 105 Bhil households interviewed, about 40% have property rights to an average of one hectare of agricultural land. Except for one household that has property under joint ownership (with the man as primary and the woman as the secondary owner), all the remaining households’ property was owned by men.

    About 52 households claimed that they had used forest land without tenure rights before the Forest Rights Act. With its implementation, between 2008 and 2010, the number of households claiming individual tenure rights almost doubled to 97 households. Many families paid bribes to get the proof of having used land for three generations so their claim could be approved by the village committee established to implement the Forest Rights Act.

  5. Key findings

    Unexpectedly, the Bhil saw a linkage between individual tenure rights and political recognition. The focus group discussions indicated that the main reason for getting individual tenure rights was to acquire recognition of their belonging to the forest land as well as citizenship rights.

    Out of 133 Bhil women respondents, 89 were of the opinion that claiming forest land (of on average less than 1 hectare) would improve their household’s social status. However, only 12 women mentioned that an increase in the household’s citizenship status directly benefitted them in addition to benefitting the household. Without tenure rights the women are not directly involved in political representation at the community level.

    Intra-household conflicts are mainly between men (and rarely between men and women). About 90% of women interviewed their ability to use land was dependent on their belonging to the household. Overall, the findings indicated that the women and younger generation of the tribal household were not likely to gain individual rights to use the forest.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • Have women been harmed by having their household land titled in the name of men only?
    • How has that changed the household or community dynamic?
NOTES
  1. Bose, P., 2013. Individual tenure rights, citizenship, and conflicts: Outcomes from tribal India's forest governance. Forest Policy and Economics, Vol 33, pp. 71-79

  1. Study Information

     

    This section discusses Henrik Wiig’s 2013 article “Joint Titling in Rural Peru: Impact on Women’s Participation in Household Decision Making”.1

    This is a cross-section data analysis of similar communities with and without titled plots exist side by side within the same district. The cross-section comparison between households in titled communities vs. untitled communities is not distorted by simultaneity bias due to an exogenous election process arising from the land reform of the 1960-70s. This research measures influence on decision-making in 1,280 rural households, interviewing men and women both together and separately. Research was conducted in 2010.

  2. Questions posed
    • Does joint titling of land empower women within the household (i.e. the degree to which women participate in household decision-making)?
  3. Description of intervention

    The intervention was called the Special Land Titling and Cadaster Project (PETT), a rural land titling effort funded by The Inter-American Development Bank in 1996.

  4. Context of findings

    Peru has implemented joint property rights between spouses and cohabitants on 57% of 1.5 million formalized agricultural plots.

  5. Key findings

    Women in households with plots titled jointly under the names of the husband and the wife participated in more household decisions. The effect is strongest for agricultural decision-making and land related investment decisions.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • What steps were taken to ensure women who did receive a joint title knew their rights?
NOTES
  1. Wiig, H. (2013). Joint Titling in Rural Peru: Impact on Women’s Participation in Household Decision Making. World Development, 52, 104-119.

  1. Study Information

    This section discusses the 2014 paper by Stein Terje Holden and Sosina Bezu, “Joint Land Certification, Gendered Preferences, and Land-related Decisions: Are Wives Getting More Involved?”.1

    Gender-disaggregated household panel data and indices for wives’ and husbands’ land rights attitudes and for wives’ involvement in land related decisions (600 households).

  2. Questions posed
    • Does joint land certification strengthen wives’ awareness of their land rights?
    • Do wives’ attitudes towards women's land rights and husbands’ preferences for the traditional weak position of women affect wives’ intra-household bargaining power in land-related decisions?
    • Does certification in the community have an additional effect on the empowerment of wives related to family land?
  3. Description of intervention

    Community based land certification and registration. In two regions in Southern Ethiopia (Oromio and SNNP), joint land certificates for husbands and wives were issued starting in 2005.

  4. Context of findings

    The study covers very diverse farming systems and different ethnic groups in Ethiopia, indicating that the findings are applicable to diverse socio-economic conditions. The findings may therefore be generalizable to other areas in Ethiopia and perhaps other parts of Africa.

    This is a follow-up study to one done in 2007, which found that the 2005 reform had a small impact on women’s ability to influence farm management.2, 3

  5. Key findings

    By 2012, women had become more involved in farm management decisions, in particular, in crop choice decisions, and in land rental decisions.

    The wives’ index for participation in land-related decisions increases with the share of households in the community having land certificates and is positively correlated with attendance in land reform meetings.

    There is evidence that awareness, intra-household bargaining, and social process contributed to empowerment of wives in relation to land.

    Note: The relatively large change in involvement of wives in land-related decisions seems to be a combined effect of joint certification and registration, participation in related information meetings, and changes in awareness and preferences of husbands and wives.

  6. Unanswered questions
    • What level of engagement was required for women to perceive they understood their rights and how to document and implement them?
    • What activities supported changes in awareness and preferences of husbands and wives? Did this vary by ethnic group, farming systems, or socio-economic conditions?
NOTES
  1. Holden, S.T, and Bezu, S. “Joint Land Certification, Gendered Preferences, and Land-related Decisions: Are Wives Getting More Involved?” Centre for Land Tenure Studies/School of Economics and Business Norwegian University of Life Sciences, AS, Norway (October, 2014).

  2. Holden, S. and Tefera, T., "From Being Property of Men to Becoming Equal Owners? Early Impacts of Land Regulation and Certification of Women in Southern Ethiopia," FINAL RESEARCH REPORT (UN-HABITAT and GLTN, January 2008).

  3. Holden, S. and Tefera, T., "Land Registration in Ethiopia: Early Impacts on Women," UN-HABITAT REPORT (October 2008).

Projects

  1. Project Description

    Benin was made eligible for a Millennium Challenge Corporation Country Compact in 2005. The Compact entered into force in October 2006. The five-year, $307,298,040 Compact had four components: the Access to Markets Project, the Access to Financial Services Project, the Access to Land Project, and the Access to Justice Project.1 Together, they were designed to increase investment and private sector activity.2 The Compact close out date was October 2011.

    The $33.7 million Access to Land (ATL) Project aimed to create secure land tenure and to create effective and transparent governance of land and property. It had five subcomponents: Policy and Legal Reform; Achieving Formal Property Rights to Land; Improving Land Registration Services and Land Information Management; Information, Education and Communication; and Support Land Program Coordination.

    Broadly, the Land Project sought to improve land administration and management, document property rights in rural and urban areas, decentralize land registration by establishing regional offices, and provide education on land policy.3 Ultimately, the project worked in 40 of Benin’s 77 communes.4

    At the time of the compact signing, most rural landholders held undocumented customary rights in land, and disputes were widespread. The Rural Land Rights Mapping component of the ATL project targeted recognition and certification of land held under customary rights by mapping agricultural fields and defining rights under custom in 300 villages in a village landholding plan (PFR) and issuance of up to 75,000 rural landholding certificates to individual holders of land rights. 5

  2. Methodology

    The PFR activity began with socio-anthropological studies to determine local custom and vocabulary in order to contextualize the later land rights documentation.6 Next, field teams that would carry out surveys and a census of landholding rights received training on the standard forms and methods to be used. The forms and methods incorporated mechanisms designed to ensure that the women in the household were consulted independently or alongside the men and that their representations of their status were accurately recorded.7

    Two kinds of rights were documented: administrative (primary—ownership-like) rights and operational rights (secondary—use rights).8 To mitigate the risk of disenfranchisement of people who were vulnerable, the project focused on developing contract forms and processes to document secondary rights and on identifying vulnerable groups and making a plan to protect and enhance their access to land.9 However, the surveys of right holders were not entirely successful in identifying secondary rights holders. Both primary and secondary right holders were often reluctant to identify secondary rights to land.10

    The PFR Program and project activities of parcel surveying, citizen landholder census and household member interviews, displaying the maps and landholder lists for public witness and comment, recording of rights, and issuing certificates had the purpose of accurately recording the rights and obligations of the villagers from their point of view.  The PFR documented customary rights and obligations and then transformed this record into three instruments – a village map with parcel boundaries; a list of landholders (named only as the villagers indicated); and certificates of landholding to be issued upon application by each landholder and based on the mayor’s authority to confirm and verify landholdings.

    In Benin, law, in which the default marital property regime is separate property, not joint property (P&F Code, Art. 185), and custom, which supports a patriarchal, patrilineal land system, work together to exclude women within male-headed households from having recognized rights to land. In addition, policymakers, administrators, and local populations tended to equate the land certificates anticipated following registration of parcels in the PFR to land titles, thus, project intentions to register secondary rights along with primary rights became more difficult politically. Presumably, titling land in more than one name and listing secondary rights would have had permanent implications for continued control over the land, which may not have been politically feasible.  Moreover, the procurement timelines and program priorities meant that the activities designed to address and reinforce secondary rights were largely concentrated into the final year of the Compact.11

    The project recognized mid-stream that three important groups—migrant farmers, transient pastoralists, and women—were not having their secondary rights recorded. At that time, the project developed a supplementary form for the census, a checklist of the rights that were not being documented.  The project also increased awareness-raising efforts and oversight by project managers. However, because this was recognized and implemented late and only in some communities, it was difficult to completely accomplish objectives within the given timeframe.12 A few women took advantage of the Rural Land Plan activities to ask for their legal share of inheritance, or to ask that their names are recorded on land that they had purchased. However, these actions were not responded to positively by their families. Thus, women in male-headed households, who purchased their own land, lost their right to that land in the process of certification. Under the law, this land belongs to the purchaser as her separate property, but under custom all land belongs to the male head of household.

  3. Outcomes

    When women were in the fortunate, though rare, position to have received primary rights to land as a gift from their biological parents because (1) the daughter was thought to have more superior qualities than the son, or (2) the daughter was an only child, the Rural Land Plans clarified their land rights, and made them into official landowners.13 However, for women who were in the more common position of having insecure secondary rights to land, Rural Land Plans formalized these inequalities by failing to formally recognize and record them.14

    Women who moved to land outside of where the Rural Land Plan was developed, may be those women who lost rights to land within the plan area. Understanding this group of women is very important to assessing how the project impacted women.

NOTES
  1. Giovarelli, R., Hannay, L., Scalise, E., Richardson, A., Seitz, V. and Gaynor, R. (2015). “Gender and Land: Good Practices and Lessons Learned from Four Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact Funded Land Projects.” Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights

  2. Id.

  3. Id.

  4. Millennium Challenge Account Benin. 2009. Program Summary.

  5. Elbow, K., A. Zogo, K. Zongo, and A. Diouf. 2012. Emerging Lessons from MCC/MCA-Sponsored Initiatives to Formalize Customary Land Rights and Local Land Management Practices in Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

  6. Valletta, W. 2013. Lesotho/Benin Memo.

  7. Id.

  8. Elbow, K. 2013. Interview with Renee Giovarelli.

  9. Id.

  10. Id.

  11. Elbow, K. 2013. Interview with Renee Giovarelli.

  12. Id.

  13. Benin Consulting Group. Gougounou Report.

  14. Benin Consulting Group. Gougounou Report.

  1. Project Description

    There were three separate projects involved in Rwanda’s titling and registration: (1) a pilot project in 2008 that was carried out in four Cells selected from different Districts identified from four regions of Rwanda: (Musanze District, Karongi District, Gasabo District, and Kirehe District) and funded by DFID; (2) the roll out of the National Land Tenure Regularization Project (LTR), also funded by DFID; and (3) the Land Dispute Management Program (LDMP), which operated in conjunction with the pilot project and was carried out by an international NGO, Rural Development Institute (now Landesa), and RISD, a local NGO and funded by USAID.  The Government of Rwanda (GOR) was a partner in all three projects.

    The Land Tenure Regularization (LTR) program in Rwanda was rolled out in 2009.1 Titles were issued through a low-cost community-based process, securing land assets and facilitating investment to 90 percent of predominantly poor households that own some farming land.

    The basic steps included: an area was declared subject to adjudication and stakeholder sensitization programs were conducted; locally trained para-surveyors conducted land demarcation in the field to identify parcel boundaries in the presence of land owners and all adjoining neighbors; the parcels were marked on an aerial photo to create a graphical record; and, for undisputed parcels, a claim receipt was issued and signed by all adjoining neighbors.

    Information from this receipt, in particular the names of all persons, including women and minors, with a claim or interest on the property, was then transferred to a registry book, digitized, and displayed publicly. If no objections were raised within a period of public display of at least 2 weeks, the information was formally registered, creating the precondition for award of a formal certificate upon payment of a nominal fee.

  2. Methodology

    Non-governmental, governmental, and international actors implemented education and training programs aimed at dispute resolution actors and advocates as well as beneficiaries of the reforms, with a focus on women. Local dispute resolution processes were supported by the Land Dispute Management Project (LDMP), developed and managed by USAID in partnership with the government of Rwanda. Field trainings were conducted to educate dispute resolution actors, including the abunzi (traditional, local dispute resolution bodies), land committees, and land adjudication committees, as well as advocates for women, such as the National Women’s Council, about the new laws.

    Awareness activities aimed at the general population were carried out by a variety of groups. As an example, Haguruka, a Rwandan NGO, has been educating the general population on women’s rights, especially their rights to property and inheritance. Since 1995, these efforts have been supported by the UN Refugee Agency. Haguruka’s campaign included using posters and legal education booklets to educate the population about women’s new rights. In addition, the organization provides legal aid to women attempting to secure their rights, and trains paralegals to give basic advice to women regarding dispute settlement. These activities are directed towards local authorities and women’s organizations, but some services are also directly provided to women. LDMP also conducted education and awareness campaigns in the pilot areas. To ensure that the message being perceived was the same as the message intended to be delivered, LDMP assembled focus groups including single and married adult males, single and married adult women, women legally married in polygamous relationships, widows, and orphans. Awareness activities appear to have been sustained and widespread, although knowledge of the new rights varied with respect to the specific area of rights and from region to region.

    One critical error was made, however, in the understanding of the marital property law during the pilot. While only civil, registered marriages are considered valid, and only then do the automatic protections for property ownership come into play, women within customary or other non-formal marriages still have a right to co-ownership of marital property, specifically of property both contributed to. This misunderstanding of the law lead to a statistically significant reduction of the probability of having documented land ownership for women who were not civilly married. If the correct legal interpretation had been clear to both implementers and land holders, many more women would have had their rights to land documented. The Organic Land Law calls for equal rights to property for men and women.2

  3. Outcomes

    The most important lesson learned from the Rwandan case study is this: even in countries where customary law is the most powerful law in many communities, the formal law matters, and understanding it completely and then informing land holders of their rights is critical to women’s land rights. Each country may define marital property differently. Even community property may only include property purchased by a husband and wife (or cohabitates) and not property inherited or gifted either before or after the marriage. If marriage does not provide protection by law, the law may still provide protection for property acquired by two people together—co-ownership of property is allowed in virtually every country, and if property is purchased by two people or given to two people, that property is co-owned by law, whether they are married or not.

NOTES
  1. Gillingham, P. and Buckle, F., "Rwanda Land Tenure Regularisation Case Study", Evidence on Demand (March 2014).

  2. Organic Law No. 08/2005 Determining the Use and Management of Land in Rwanda, 14/07/2005, Art. 4 para. 2