Nelly Bassily | December 7, 2009
The community of Thiénaba is located in western Senegal. Here, as in other Senegalese communities, most of the farmland is controlled by men. But there are five acres under the control of women. A women’s group called Fass Jom (which means “make do” in the local language of Wolof) has secured this land for its members.
Nogay Sow is the secretary of Fass Jom. She says poor access to land is one of the problems preventing women from fulfilling their potential as farmers. Her group includes 250 members. Together, they cultivate five acres of land. Local authorities granted the land to the group in 2008, after they lobbied for it with the help of an NGO called Green-Senegal. It placed the women in a rare position.
Only about 10 per cent of the land in Senegal is owned by women. This is despite the fact that women are responsible for 70 per cent of food production.
Mariétou Dia leads a women’s rights program for the NGO Action Aid. She says that when women gain control of land, it is usually small plots of little value. Ms. Dia adds that women are the bedrock of family farming, so governments should reserve a quota of land for women.
Women’s advocates across the country want laws changed to make it easier for women to access land.
Ibramima Sène is an agroeconomist. He explains how current laws and cultural practices prevent most women from controlling land. Under the laws, agricultural land is considered family land. However, Mr. Sène stresses that the lower status of women in families prevents them from exercising equal access. Wives only have access to land through their husbands.
In October, rural women presented authorities in Dakar with a charter. They demanded that the government provide better access to land and other productive resources. They are still awaiting a formal response from the government.