To Foster Food Security Support Women’s Land Rights

Posted on 30 April 2012


by Jessica Pieklo
April 30, 2012

Millions of people across the world suffer from food insecurity, but a growing body of evidence is uncovering one way to address this problem: land rights.

Take India, for example. A preliminary study of a land purchase program in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which provided beneficiaries with plots of land of up to one acre, found that beneficiary households experienced significantly higher levels of food security. What does that mean? It means that 76% of beneficiary households reported having two meals a day, compared to only 50-57% of non-beneficiary households.

It doesn’t even take that much land to help create food security. Secure rights to “microplots” of land–plots as small as one-tenth of an acre-protect against household food insecurity and improve nutrition. A study of wage-earning families in the Indian state of Kerala revealed that the value of microplot production was the most “consistent positive predictor of child nutrition”.

This link is even more pronounced when women in households have secure land rights. When women have secure property rights, including rights in the land they cultivate they gain improved status within the household which leads to more involvement in those household decisions. The World Bank has concluded that when women have direct control over assets like land and the income from those assets they are more likely than men to spend that income on the next generation.

But even though they comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries and nearly half of the agriculture labor force in parts of Africa and Asia, women are significantly less likely to own land than men and when they do own land those tracts are likely to be smaller and of poorer qualities than those owned by men.

The challenges that come from women’s insecure rights to land are directly tied to the challenges of food insecurity in many communities. But governments, the private sector and international development organizations can change that. Addressing land rights issues, and in particular women’s land rights, in policies designed to address hunger and nutrition can deepen the impact of those policies and promote long-term, sustainable solutions to both.