Women denied access to farmlands in Vea Irrigation project communities

By Anthony Apubeo, GNA 

Vea (UE), Sept 10, GNA – Customary land
tenure system of the Vea Traditional Area in the Bongo District has denied many
women access to farmlands to participate in agricultural activities especially
during the dry season, a research has revealed.

The research conducted in the Vea Irrigation
Project communities including Vea, Gowrie, Zaare, Yikine, Yorogo, Sumbrungu and
Nyariga revealed that majority of women in the communities did not have equal
opportunity as men, to access irrigation lands for farming during the dry

It was conducted by the Ae-ebise Women
Association (ABIWA), a women farmer group with technical and funding support
from the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund and its donors, Danish
International Development Agency (DANIDA), United States Agency for
International Development (USAID) and the European Union (EU).

Mr Patrick Anamoo, the Focal Person of the
group, who disseminated the findings in the Vea Community, explained that the
study sought to understand how women could access irrigated land in the Vea
Irrigation Project area considering the patrilineal customary system practiced
in the area and also ascertain the perception of individuals and communities’
about women limited access to irrigated land and the effect on their

He said ABIWA was formed in 2013 with the
idea of promoting gender equality and equity in the Bongo District of the Upper
East Region and currently had 378 women engaged in dry season farming, animal
rearing and petty trading.

“The main economic activity in the area
during the prolonged dry season is dry season farming and the inability of the
women to have equal opportunity to access land in the Vea Irrigation Project
areas is adversely affecting their livelihoods”.

The research showed that customary practices
on land ownership, inheritance and sacrifices to the ancestral land gods were
the major factors serving as stumbling blocks to women’s access to ownership of
irrigated land in the Vea Irrigation project areas.

Only men inherit land and properties and the
eldest son usually got the bigger portion of the land, implying that even if a
woman was the eldest of the children in the family, she did not qualify to
inherit her father’s property especially land.

In a situation where the deceased’s children
were minors, the properties were inherited by the deceased’s surviving brother
to be held in trust of such minors.

The research also found out that the
management of the Vea Irrigation facility gave preferential treatment to the
original owners of the land in the project areas before considering women, and
86 per cent of the women in the area did not know anything about land rights
and were of the view that they did not have the right to own land since the
tradition did not allow them.

According to some male opinion leaders in
the area, men were heads of the family and had sole responsibility of taking
care of women and provided their basic necessities such as shelter, food and
clothing as demanded by tradition.

“Women are not part of the family. We
married them from different families in different communities. They have no
right to own land. They are just to help their husbands in whatever they do and
to also cook for the family and not to struggle for land,” some of the opinion
leaders said.

The research recommended that seminars and
workshops be organized by the appropriate bodies to educate chiefs, family
heads, elders, opinion leaders and traditional landowners, Tindanaas, on the
current reforms in the customary land tenure system.