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“My land, my life,” spoke out the Rural Women of West Africa

March 8th, 2016 Posted in Agriculture, Burkina Faso, Climate Change, Cote d'Ivoire, English, Food and Security, Ghana, Guinea, Let's tackle hunger, Liberia, Mali, Mauritanie, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tchad

Press release

region 2 ENGLMarch 8, 2016- On March 8th 2012 International Women’s Day was dedicated to rural women’s empowerment in their role in poverty, development and hunger alleviation. Few years later, it is now obvious that challenges previously identified remain an issue! Particularly the issue of land rights. The 08 March 2016 topic has been decided by United Nations and it is “planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality “. This is again another opportunity to stress on the crucial role of women to achieve sustainable development goals, and specifically for the GROW campaign focusing on the two first ones, on poverty alleviation and Zero Hunger.

According to experts, women represent more than 60% of the agricultural labor in sub-Saharan Africa. They account for 60 to 80% of food production on the continent. They make up almost half of the agricultural labor force and are involved in 80 to 90% in food processing, storage and transportation as well as hoeing and weeding. Despite this significant contribution, only 15% of women farmers own their farm, whereas women herders who manage almost alone milk production and play an increased role in small ruminants breeding and poultry farming , do not know at all or have very little knowledge on how to secured protection of breeding pasture.

While rural women are a powerful driver for agricultural development, their potential is still hampered by the disparities between men and women.
“If women farmers had the same factors of production and opportunities as their male counterparts in the world, they would be able to increase their crop yields by 20 to 30% and help prevent millions of people from starving”, comments Kafui KUWONU from WILDAF.
From sustainable goals Development through ECOWAP down to the Malabo Declaration, we noticed that land has always been a challenge for rural women. Land is a right granted to women specifically by legal instruments in West Africa. And states have ratified the law. But in practice, the reality is quite different and sometimes dramatic, especially in terms of inclusive management or equitable access.
For Esther EKOUE from OXFAM, “in West Africa, From Nigeria to Mauritania through Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso or Senegal, rural women still faces three major challenges: equity in access to land, safety of operating and investment by women and the protection and preservation of women’s land rights.”

Furthermore, women’s lack adequate and secure access to land. They are the first victims of land and related natural resources grabbing, All this together seriously threatens the capacity communities to meet the whole challenges of sustainable agricultural and food systems today and tomorrow. Thus not allowing the world to feed itself with healthy and high quality food and nutritional diversity, and also to contribute to poverty eradication. Also to the preservation of biodiversity and natural resources, mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change in a world with limited natural resources.

“Women are not only limited to play major roles in cash crops, staple-food production, processing or marketing. As holders of local and traditional knowledge in farm seed conservation and natural resources management, they also play a critical role in the transmission of traditional knowledge to future generations. For all these reasons, women should be leaders in the transition to sustainable agricultural and food systems”, explains Zakaria SAMBAKHE d’ACTIONAID.

Cheikh OMAR BA from IPAR explains : “our researches show that in some areas of Senegal, women have a good knowledge on how to access land but are limited by socio-cultural barriers, so they don’t address land requests to due instances. Whenever they address land requests, only collective request are accepted… with a very low percentage in most cases. Since women are underrepresented in local decision instances, they are at the end of the day double disadvantaged”.

That is why rural women are continuing to struggle and fight for access to land and decision-making power. They stand again today to ask policy makers in West Africa to move from words to actions. Direct right to land ownership, land use decision-making power, protection against grabbing are all sensitive issues that require major reforms in land rights at regional level and in each AFO country. Similarly, it is key to awaken the rural world to laws adopted on land and especially awaken men on provisions in favor of women, and enforce the aforementioned laws throughout the territory. It is equally important to establish local arbitration committees on land and ensure a balanced membership of the aforementioned committees with … women. When will there be appropriate national provisions on women’s access to land? When will there be a regional guideline on land in AFO guaranteeing women’s rights?
“Having access to land for women is not enough if public funding targeting rural women is not made available or if access to credit for women is not easy”, declares Oulie KEITA from ONE.

As a result, rural women are taking a stand across the region on the 8th of March and will stand up for their #LandRightsNow. In Niger, Mauritania, Ghana and Burkina, they will march and/or protest on March 8th, whereas they will take parts in different other activities in following day in Nigeria, Mali, Benin and Senegal, where the west African caravan of convergences on land, water and seeds will meet. “Beyond popular mobilization, the caravan will put together different kinds of activists, whether they fight for gender, transparency, justice and/or land access. Common messages will be put together within a green book that shall be delivered to Macky Sall, current ECOWAS chair”, explains Mohamed Kanouté de CICODEV.

In AFO, bridging the gap of men/women inequality in terms of land by boosting reforms favorable to the empowerment of farmers and breeders means climbing the first step of the long ascent to empower women … which must also question the quasi-absence of rural women in administrations, key positions, decision-making forums and/or land related dispute resolution mechanisms! “This is why rural women rise today and tomorrow to speak out their claim “my land, my life” and challenge policy makers in the region to take action!”, concludes Imma DE MIGUEL from OXFAM.
#MyLandMyLife press contacts
 Esther EKOUE for OXFAM, eekoue@OxfamAmerica.org, +221 771668448
 Loïs for WILDAF Ghana, loissaddo@yahoo.com, ++233 20 491 7521
 Oulie KEITA for ONE, oulie.keita@one.org, +221 772725666
 Constance Okeke for ACTIONAID Nigeria, Constance.Okeke@actionaid.org
 Mohamed KANOUTE for CICODEV, mohamed.kanoute@cicodev.org, +221 774473861
 Chérif SAMBOU BODIAN for IPAR +221 775525244 cherif.bodian@ipar.sn

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