Over the past few years, large-scale acquisitions (purchases, leases, or other arrangements) of farmland in developing countries by individuals, corporations, and foreign governments have presented both economic opportunities and threats to traditional livelihoods. This trend has reduced access to key resources, like water and grazing land, upon which small-scale farmers in developing countries depend. Complicating the picture is the patchwork of customary laws, legal frameworks, institutions, and various authorities regulating land ownership and use.
The livelihoods of people are complex, multi-layered, and interconnected, so focusing accountability action on only one field or issue, which is the traditional approach of marginalized rural groups, limits any accountability strategy. This shortcoming is especially pertinent when the intricacies of customary, gender, and generational dynamics are also taken into consideration.
Under the leadership of FIAN-International (Foodfirst Information and Action Network), with the participation of researchers and civil society groups from Mali and Nigeria, this project seeks to establish new accountability strategies that will can address these overlapping legal and institutional contexts. It will also examine the difficulties surrounding women and youth in achieving land and associated resource tenure rights in rural communities that are governed by social and cultural norms that prevent women from exercising their rights.
The researchers will use a participatory action research methodology with a feminist approach. Expected results include development of inclusive accountability strategies and tools that account for women and youth’s perspectives. At the regional level, the project intends to influence the land guidelines that are currently being negotiated to advance customary land rights. It also aims to strengthen strategic alliances through the West African Convergence of Land and Water Struggles to secure community land rights, particularly women’s land rights, in West Africa. This project is part of a group of IDRC-supported projects in sub-Saharan Africa entitled “Using Action Research to Improve Land Rights and Governance for Communities, Women and Vulnerable Groups”.