Researchers call for a gender-transformative approach to foster more inclusive and sustainable land use
In Africa and Asia, smallholder farm systems use about 83% of agricultural lands. However, the livelihoods of these smallholder farmers depend majorly on effective land management and allocation.
In rural areas, many household members often cultivate land, yet its allocation decisions depend heavily on a few dominant household members’ interest and approval. Researchers have carried out various studies on this subject. However, only a few focused on intra-household decision-making dynamics and systematically disentangled the interests and power positions of the various household members. A recent study, published in Land Use Policy (February 2020), was carried out in Northern Ghana to understand better how different interests, negotiation patterns, and power positions affect land allocation decisions and outcomes.
To make the research more engaging, study leader Dr Mirja Michalscheck, Natural and Social Systems Researcher, Wageningen University (WUR), used a gaming method to simulate a negotiation process among household members. They grouped the participants based on gender and household position, i.e., male household heads, wives, and eldest sons. Each group developed a plan for land use while a spokesperson from the group engaged in the negotiation process, representing the group’s interest. Aside from the negotiation process, researchers observed the spokesperson’s body language, shares and sequence of speech, interruptions, and disagreements.
The study revealed that participants evaluated the male household head as the most influential on the land allocation decision, with 74% of the total power, followed by the wife having 14%, and the son, 12%. Though the head held the strongest position for decision making, he still gave considerable room to the wife and the son to bring forward their interests, possibly because of his dependency on their labor and financial support. The study also showed that the influence of the wife and the son rendered the decision-outcome more sustainable. The research team, which also featured, IITA Social Scientist and Gender Expert Gundula Fischer, therefore concluded that gender-transformative approaches and policies made to empower women and the youth through education or agricultural training would likely lead to more equitable decision-making. They also believe these would possibly lead to more profitable, diverse, and sustainable land-use decisions at household levels. Here is a similar article from Africa Rising: https://africa-rising.net/serious-gaming-offers-insights-into-land-use-decision-dynamics-in-northern-ghana/