Gatte women demand equal access to land in Senegal
• Land ownership: Men only affair
In Gatte, a village in the rural community of Dangalma located in the borough of Ngoye in the Bambeye region, 25 km north of Diourbel, land is an exclusive preserve of the men. It therefore cannot be inherited by women, a recent study in the area shows.
According to the Serer custom, inheritance of land comes to men who are considered the foster family hands.
“In fact, since our ancestors’ land is devoted to men, the state has never said that the land should be divided between men and women. We continue to live under the custom. Women accessing land would create tensions within the family, “Malick Gallo Diouf, President of the rural community of Dangalma, says.
Also, Diouf, a member of the Federation of Associations for Development and Fulfillment Women ( FADEF ), whose activities revolve around improving the living conditions of rural women says, “The land we farm belong to men who have inheritance. We women, we cannot inherit land. Custom does not allow it. We believe that customary land management such as living here is not conducive to the development of agriculture. …What we are experiencing is the custom which obliges us to submit but in reality it is anomalous that the woman is reduced to being a private land user…”
The outcome of the study, which focuses on the experiences of women in the Federation of Associations for Development and Fulfillment women ( FADEF) indicates that the age-long custom and tradition as well as religious belief combine to frustrate access to land by the women, while existing legislation did little to address the anomaly.
Nestled 5km from the National Route 3, Gatte is at the heart of the Groundnut Basin of Senegal, which corresponds to the natural region, Baol known for its peanut production which is its main industry.
During the rainy season, family farming is the main shared activity in the village. The land is cultivated by families under customary logic. Crops grown on foot revolve around groundnut and millet, sorghum and maize.
The local economy depends heavily on farming activity, which is dominated by women as young people are increasingly attracted to the urban environment. This exodus increases during the dry season. However, young parties always return to their villages to participate in family farm during the rainy season.
“This back-and-forth, eventually makes women the main actors of agriculture in the area,” the study said.
However, lack of access to land limits expansion, resulting in low yield as all village lands are owned by men who inherit them from generation to generation. The door of access to land for women is the family.
• Women accessing land
Women’s access to land is through the household head of the family in which she lives.
The study quotes local women as saying: “the land we cultivate belong to our husbands’ heads of household. They set the dimensions of our fields when they agree to let us use the land. ”
This finding is said to be reinforced by the results of the study of the Study and Research Group Gender and Societies (ACTS) of Gaston Berger University of Saint Louis in 2010 which says “Primarily, women turn to their families to access to land. This is explained by the fact that the land is considered a family asset. A young single accesses land through his father, brother or other male relatives, married woman through her husband.”
However, despite the customary stress, women who want to farm can exploit the lands of their men without special consideration.
Marie Thérèse Niane , president of FADEF said, “Women do not have their own land, but they can cultivate the lands of their husbands with their consent.”
Gatte women use the land during the winter period and peanut farming is essentially the activity on these lands.
Male control on arable land is actually rooted in the collective consciousness so that the issue of women’s access to land is very sensitive.
Women encountered at level seat FADEF, according to the study, unanimously consider that the distribution of roles between men and women in land use jurisdiction of the ordinary and that custom and religion forbids them to have farm land in their names.
The study also shows that women’s access to land is strongly related to the prioritization of the goals of obtaining plots. Between local and rural women elected, there is a difference of priority access to land. Women in the rural community of Dangalma exploit the land primarily for agricultural purposes. Under the project to support agricultural sectors (PAFA), the FADEF is a framework for these women. Marketing gardening activities they undertake jointly involved the prioritization of access to land for farming.
To enhance the vegetable growing, which is the main preoccupation of the women, the FADEF was granted to the rural council Dangalma only 500 m2 of land it operates for transit. Products are harvested for local processing. The proceeds from the sale are then managed by the FADEF which is responsible for the redistributed among the different members of the structure.
According to them having land to perform a profitable agricultural activity is becoming a motivation that drives them to claim more land in the rural council.
To mitigate the inaccessibility of women to land , solidarity between women gave birth to a sharing model of the earth. The woman whose head of household has no land that can grow, may lend field with another woman whose head of household has enough land. The loan is effected by the deposit of collateral. At the end of the harvest, the plaintiff recovers its bail after release of the plot exploited. This technique allows them to gain the best of the land.
But if women reject the unequal and discriminatory land between men and women, sharing their views differ about the prospect of circumventing customary land management.
However, in the opinion of the President of the Rural Council, the habitat is a priority on the family farm and the narrowness of the community (79 km2 total arable and habitable land) grows to make priority choices in the distribution of land. Demand for land for housing is prioritized with respect to obtaining agricultural land. This trend is undermined by women who believe that the rural council plays the same favoritism in granting land for housing. Gatte women say that the majority of land are generally politically affiliated with the rural council and that this is an acute form of discrimination that should be corrected.
To better enjoy agriculture and have arable land, the women of the area have developed the strategy of collective demand for land.
“Individual applications for land by women are not effective because most often the rural council doesn’t act on it. That is why FADEF encourages and supports collective demands.
The study discovered that the issue of women’s access to land is linked majorly to lack of information on procedures and opportunities related to land issue.
Gatte women argued that they are unaware of the content of the provisions of laws or procedures on land.
“Women do not know the laws of the land. The lack of demand for plots is partly due to this factor,” M. T Niane complained.
To make effective land information, FADEF regularly holds forums on land held by the PAFA. These meetings are opportunities to discuss and ask questions on land legislation and procedures for allocating land.
Topics relating to land matters are also discussed to educate rural population on land issues.
Women’s access to land in the rural community of Dangalma raises the question of social justice. The exclusion of women in the possession of real property is an injustice that they criticize.
Women argue for the abandonment of the customary management in favor of an egalitarian and equal access to land, while local authorities should be maintained to avoid creating tension within the family.
• An imbalanced access to land
The study concludes that access to land by women in Senegal is not balanced. It affirmed that land ownership remains more accessible to men than women. It also agreed that land legislation is overused in practice. It also said survivals of the alleged customary management eradicated by the adoption of the Law on the National Estate in 1964 continue to affect access to land rules.
It agreed that ignorance of the laws and administrative procedures for access to land further accentuates the marginalization of women.
It is observed that inaccessibility to land has motivated them to focus on collective demands of plots in place of ineffective individual requests. However, the prioritization of habitat on the farm by rural authorities significantly limits their opportunities. To curb these inequalities, they demand for a more equitable means of land distribution and the establishment of an enabling legislation to take care of their needs.