In some parts of the world, owning land is the key to sustainable food security and the assurance of being able to provide for one’s family. But with women – 50% of the population – denied access to land, incomes are meagre and families struggle to make ends meet. A project on access to land for women in Guinea-Bissau aims to restore an equality and improve the agricultural diversification of families.
The objectives of the project are to achieve a secure food supply for the target population through the sustainable improvement of agro-ecological production, the safeguarding of land ownership rights for women farmers and the institutional strengthening of women’s associations.
This project is co-financed by the SDC program contribution.
In Guinea-Bissau, poverty is particularly pronounced in rural areas. 60% of the people in the regions of Oio, Bafatá and Bissau live on less than USD 1.90 per day. These people depend on subsistence farming for their survival. There are hardly any alternative sources of income for them. The effects of climate change, for example long periods of drought and heavy rainfall, but also the overuse and erosion of the soil, lead to massive crop failures. As a result, the food security of families is increasingly at risk.
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An inequality that affects everyone
The situation in rural Guinea-Bissau is particularly critical, as many women do not own a field and thus cannot grow anything themselves. They have no right to land – either through marriage, inheritance or purchase – and thus often remain powerless. The families’ income therefore depends solely on their husbands. “The biggest difficulty for us was to earn money. I grew millet, my wife helped me. But we only had a small piece of land and not enough money to expand it. My wife actually wanted to grow vegetables, but could not do so,” explained Tore J. Mbunde, 45 years old and father of nine children.
The inhabitants of these regions are permanently threatened by hunger. To fight against this, SWISSAID has launched the “Access to Land for Women” project. Isabela Inbali, a farmer in the Oio region, has been involved in the project since it was launched. When she was looking for a way to make ends meet financially with five children, she asked her father to lend her a piece of land to grow vegetables. Despite her hard work and even though she successfully grew aubergines and onions, her unstable situation kept her in precarious circumstances. She was not the only one who felt this way; all the women in the village complained about this situation. “We decided to organise ourselves into a group to pool our seeds and obtain land,” she explains.
“The biggest difficulty for us was to earn money. I grew millet, my wife helped me. But we only had a small piece of land and not enough money to expand it. My wife actually wanted to grow vegetables, but could not do so.”
Tore J. Mbunde, 45 years old and father of nine children.
Strengthening advocacy and self-confidence
The project accompanied their and 18 other farmers’ associations in the legal acquisition of land for the women. It involves 38 hectares of agricultural land. For this, long sensitisation work was done in the communities and with the local authorities. “The project has done advocacy and sensitisation work with our community leaders. This has made it easier for them to decide to grant us land on behalf of our community,” explains Isabela. The project has also created a national women’s platform: “Plataforma Politica da Mulheres”. This represents women’s interests and land rights at the national level and aims to systematise access to land for women. “The project and the platform help us to understand our rights and has also helped men to understand that we women also have a right to land,” she continues.
Isabela Inbali, woman farmer in Guinea-Bissau, participated to the project from its begining. With other farmers from her village, they formed an association and asked support from SWISSAID project.
Tore J. Mbunde affirms the positive changes the whole family felt when his wife was finally granted land. “Before, we had a small field that I farmed. We only had this one field to feed the whole family and no other ways to earn money. When my wife and her group got a piece of land, she was finally able to realise her dream of growing vegetables. This is a great benefit for the family”. Soon, the family was able to generate additional income from the surplus vegetables that his wife had grown and was now selling at the market. “With this money, my wife buys food for the family as well as school supplies – books, notebooks, pencils – and clothes for the children.”
These changes in the project also had a positive side effect: strengthening the women’s self-confidence. Salimato Balde, a 32-year-old farmer, reports that she now has a stronger social position in the community. “The project has brought about a change in mentality among us women. We have become more self-confident,” adds Isabela, smiling in the middle of her green field.