Women have cultivated and nurtured life on our planet for centuries. Yet while the world enjoys the fruits of their labor, they often have no say or control over the land they work.
To add insult to injury, the twin threats of drought and desertification — intensified by climate change — have reduced the amount of usable land, jeopardizing livelihoods as well as food production. Moreover, unsustainable farming is eroding soil 100 times faster than natural processes can restore it. The UN has classified up to 40 percent of the world’s land as degraded.
Land degradation is a huge challenge, but the solution lies in the people most concerned about protecting this valuable resource: women. When given the chance, women are responsible stewards who use their extensive knowledge and skills to protect and restore the land in their possession. They have also proven capable of building resilience to droughts, which are becoming more severe and more common as temperatures rise.
As matters stand, women are rarely offered such opportunities. Discriminatory practices such as inadequate land-tenure systems, limited access to credit, unequal pay, low levels of decisionmaking autonomy, and sexual and gender-based violence prevent their active participation in land management.
In Chad, the government excludes many women and girls from land allocations, leaving them with insecure tenure. Gender norms that devalue the contributions of women further reinforce their precarious position. The common expression mara sakit, meaning “she’s just a woman,” exemplifies this sexist dynamic.
The problem extends far beyond one nation. Despite comprising nearly half of the world’s agricultural workforce and producing up to 80 percent of food in developing economies, women own less than one-fifth of land worldwide. More than 100 governments continue to deny women the right to inherit their husband’s property.
This imbalance, coupled with the worsening climate crisis, leads to female agricultural workers bearing the brunt of land degradation. They suffer from food and water scarcity, and are often forced to migrate, which is a contributing factor to gender inequality and its expression through violence and discrimination against women and girls. Indigenous women and girls, people with disabilities and female human rights defenders are particularly vulnerable in such conditions.
Frustrated by their lack of agency in decisionmaking, women in some nations have started to fight for their land rights. Sierra Leone, for example, recently passed a new law that grants women the right to own, lease or buy land in the nation.
In Tanzania, women who have been given stronger land rights are earning up to 3.8 times more income and are also more likely to have individual savings. This highlights an important byproduct of equal land rights — economic security for women and girls. Giving women a greater say in land management can have cascading knock-on effects on household income, food security, and investment in children’s education and health.
Equal land rights could also boost food security, as women invest more in agricultural technology and use their indigenous traditional knowledge, resulting in higher yields. If female farmers had access to the same level of resources as men, the number of undernourished people in the world could be reduced by as much as 100 million to 150 million people.
To make this a reality, governments must remove the barriers that prevent women and girls from owning and inheriting land. More broadly, policymakers should involve women in decisions about land management, conservation and restoration.
The private sector also has a critical role to play. By expanding access to credit, for example, financial institutions can make it easier for female agricultural workers to purchase the technology and inputs required to improve yields, protect soils and guard against land degradation.
Yet the most important work, including raising awareness and campaigning for change, falls to local communities. Campaigns like With Rural Women for a Chad Without Hunger have pushed for land reforms and encouraged dialogue with authorities, putting affected women front and center.
The outcome in Chad is promising — after mobilizing more than 25,000 women in seven provinces between 2017 and 2019, 300 hectares of land were allocated to 18 women’s groups.
The UN Convention to Combat Desertification has placed gender equality at the core of its mandate — and for good reason. As the convention acknowledges in its gender action plan, women play a crucial role in sustainable land management. Consequently, securing women’s land rights is not only the right thing to do; it would boost land-restoration efforts, develop long-term resilience to droughts and create more equitable economies. Our planet, and the health of our societies, depends on it.
Tarja Halonen, the first female president of Finland, is UN Convention to Combat Desertification Land Ambassador. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, president of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, is a member of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues and the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and
For Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the military conquest of Taiwan is an absolute requirement for the CCP’s much more fantastic ambition: control over our solar system. Controlling Taiwan will allow the CCP to dominate the First Island Chain and to better neutralize the Philippines, decreasing the threat to the most important People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) space base, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Satellite and manned space launches from the Jiuquan and Xichang Satellite Launch Centers regularly pass close to Taiwan, which is also a very serious threat to the PLA,
During a news conference in Vietnam on Sept. 10, a reporter asked US President Joe Biden about the possibility of China invading Taiwan. Biden replied that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is too busy handling major domestic economic problems to launch an invasion of Taiwan. On Wednesday last week, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office published a document outlining 21 measures to make the Chinese-controlled Fujian Province into a demonstration zone for relations with Taiwan. The planned measures would expand favorable treatment for Taiwanese people and companies, and seek to attract people from Taiwan to buy property and seek employment in Fujian.
More than 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels and aircraft were detected making incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Sunday and Monday, the Ministry of National Defense reported on Monday. The ministry responded to the incursions by calling on China to “immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions,” saying that Beijing’s actions could “easily lead to a sharp escalation in tensions and worsen regional security.” Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that the unusually high number of incursions over such a short time was likely Beijing’s response to efforts