Securing Women’s Land Rights

It’s all about transforming power relations — the case of Madagascar
Responsible Land Policy
Malagasy women displaying their land certificates  ⎮ © Angelika Jakob 2018

Secure land rights are an essential part of sustainable rural development as they are the backbone of a functioning rural economy, food production and peace and security. Pressures on land and other natural resources are increasing globally and securing access to land for those who live and farm on it is becoming an ever more important issue. Smallholder farmers directly depend on their land, which means secure land rights are also a matter of being able to make investments in soil, seeds and products in the long run. Long-term investments are impossible when people are threatened with evictions and land is lost due to lacking documentation of land titles.

The purpose of the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy

Securing access to land and land rights for smallholders and rural communities is a key objective of the GIZ Global Programme Responsible Land Policy. In working towards secure land rights, the Global Programme focuses specifically on improving women’s land rights as a prerequisite for their empowerment and an important step in achieving SDG5 on gender equality.

The project was initiated in 2015 as part of the special initiative “One World – No Hunger” by BMZ and will be finalized in 2026. Currently, the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy is operating in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d‘Ivoire, Ethiopia, Laos, Madagascar and Uganda. Up to now, the Global Programme has secured the land rights of 67,809 households that are either female-headed and registered in this way or where the names of husband and wife are both registered in the household’s land document.

The approach

In its approach, the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy considers the structures and underlying power relations that reinforce inequality at each of its intervention sites through the so-called quadrants of change model. The four quadrants of change are used as an analytical tool to differentiate between different levels, i.e. the individual, relational (interpersonal), socio-cultural and the level of systems and structures.

Building on this analysis, the “Reach–Benefit–Empower” framework serves as a guiding tool together with the overarching do no harm principle. While activities like the inclusion of women in formal documents like land titles or certificates are an important part of the work of making sure that women are reached, they alone do not automatically lead to an improvement of the situation in the lives of the women. For them to benefit from such measures, further activities are required that enable women to make use of their documented land rights, i.e. by making sure they have the knowledge and possibilities to make good decisions on the use of their land.

Therefore, the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy conducts additional measures that improve women’s technical and personal skills and contribute to empowering them. This includes awareness raising on the village level on land-related legislation (equal land rights for women and men), sensitization of traditional leaders, training of women organizations to improve advocacy skills, as well as including women in decision-making bodies, in surveying teams and alternative dispute resolution teams. Moreover, the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy is integrated with other projects to use synergies for women’s empowerment.

Responsible Land Policy
The four quadrants of change: examples from the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy to promote change ⎮ © GIZ 2022

Country case Madagascar

In Madagascar, the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy works on the development of training curricula for women’s civil society organizations to contribute to the empowerment of its members. Topics like positive masculinity, gender and land tenure, women’s economic empowerment and economic violence against women and vulnerable people are included in the training.

Moreover, establishing and deploying a so-called feminine mobile land survey team has helped secure 11,000 hectares of land of which 1,215 hectares were exclusively held by women. The overall area was subject to a transfer of resource management rights to a community within the municipality of Mariarano through a management contract that allowed for surveying as needed. This initiative took place in collaboration with the environmental project Conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in Madagascar, as well as the Ministère de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable and the Ministère de l’Aménagement du Territoire et des Services Fonciers.

Through a positive masculinity approach, the project sets out to sensitize traditional authorities to issues of gender discrimination, as well as enable women to exercise their rights to land. This takes place next to a general strengthening of women’s associations to advance women’s rights and to advocate for a sustainable and responsible land policy. Relying on these approaches, the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy in Madagascar does not only secure and survey land rights for women. It also contributes to their empowerment as well as to changing interpersonal and structural discrimination against women.

Introductory video to the Global Programme Responsible Land Policy

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Jonas Kramp, Junior Advisor, Sector Project Rural Development & Global Programme Responsible Land Policy

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