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ECOWAS pledges improvement of women's access to land
December 14, 2017, 2:50 pm

Women account for up to 80 percent of small holder farmers but gender inequalities make it difficult for them to access land in Africa. The second ordinary session of the parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sought solutions to this challenge, under the theme, ‘Promoting gender equality in agricultural investments on the continent’.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that in the face of famine and starvation, empowering women in this sector can increase yields on farms by up to 30 percent.

The Economic Community of West African States, OXFAM, and the Food Agriculture Organization all agree that enhancing policies so as to close the gender gap in access to land is critical to empowering women in the agriculture sector.

“Normally the rule across many countries in Africa is that women inherit one part and men inherit two parts; even if this unequal inheritance rule was accepted women should be owning at least 33 percent of land, but this is not the case,” said Tacko Ndiaye, senior officer for gender equality at FAO.

“In many of our countries the percentage of land ownership for women might be 10 percent, 14 percent, so for me it’s not about the religion and culture, it’s more about mindsets and the commitments to achieving these goals which will require women’s more equal access to land”.

It is a problem that mostly affects rural women, but if poverty is dealt away with and equity among farmers is achieved, agricultural productivity would increase substantial and this would have an impact on economies of countries. Currently, according to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, agriculture accounts for one third of gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Africa.

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