Empowering women through land rights: Insights from Fifth edition of the Conference on Land Policy in Africa

By Esther Muhozi
On 25 November 2023 at 12:22

Friday marked the last day of the Fifth Edition of the Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA), which unfolded over five days starting on November 21 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference, organized biennially by the Africa Land Policy Centre (ALPC), serves as a crucial platform for member states of the African Union to deliberate on pivotal land-related matters and craft actionable recommendations.

Rwanda, a notable participant in this conference, showcased its commitment to advancing women’s land rights. The overarching theme of this year’s CLPA was "Promoting Sustainable Land Governance in Africa for Accelerating Implementation of the AfCFTA" – the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Leontine Kanziemo, Advisor at the African Natural Resources Management and Investment Centre, emphasized the significance of the AU’s 2016 campaign aiming to allocate 30 percent of land to African women by 2025. She viewed this as a catalyst for Africa’s economic transformation, stressing the importance of continued government investment in supporting women farmers.

Investing in agriculture, according to Kanziemo, means enabling women farmers to overcome obstacles, build capacity, and access markets. Research shared at the conference revealed that women constitute a significant portion of cross-border traders, comprise 50 percent of the agricultural labor force along the value chain, and represent 90 percent of the labor force in Africa’s informal sector – a sector contributing 85 percent to the continent’s total economic activity.

The prevailing suggestion is that integrating women’s land rights into the AfCFTA represents a pivotal opportunity to advance gender equality, empower women economically, and foster sustainable development in Africa. By addressing the unique challenges faced by women in accessing and owning land, the AfCFTA can create an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs, facilitate their participation in cross-border trade, and contribute to poverty reduction and inclusive growth.

Rwanda’s success story in this realm is attributed to the implementation of reforms that grant women equal rights to own and use land. Officials stress that it’s not just about establishing national legal frameworks but also aligning them with international human rights standards and enforcing them effectively to protect women’s land rights.

Dr. Didier Milindi Rugema, a Rwandan specialist in land administration and management, who was also a member of the scientific committee that organized the CLPA2023. emphasized the need for ongoing monitoring of implementation on the ground to ensure women truly benefit from their rights.

Dr. Monica Elias Mhoja, Landesa Outreach Director-Africa, proposed specific measures to support women’s land rights further. This includes creating safe spaces for women, documenting their issues, providing legal aid, and sensitizing communities on women’s rights to own land. Addressing social issues such as women’s land rights, HIV/AIDS infections, the status of single women, and women’s ability to work and be breadwinners for the family is also crucial.

The call has been made for more African countries to follow suit, ensuring that women’s land rights are fully integrated into the AfCFTA’s policies, programs, and implementation mechanisms.

This move is not only perceived as benefiting women but is also seen as contributing to the overall success and sustainability of the AfCFTA and accelerating Africa’s broader development agenda.

The 5th edition of the Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) was held in Addis Ababa from November 21 to 24.