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DIIS Working Paper 2014:01
Ghana has been implementing a land administration reform since 1999. The Land Administration Project (LAP), an ambitious programme supported by donors, aims to strenghten land administration institutions and increase land holders' security of tenure on both state and customary land. This working paper reviews the literature on this land reform process, with a focus on issues related to gender. At first absent from the 1999 Land Policy, gender concerns were later incorporated into the project and a gender strategy was developed in 2009, with the goal to mainstream gender in land-related agencies and activities. Although donors have contributed to the gender strategy, the inclusion of gender equality has not been at the forefront of their priorities. At this stage no conclusive evidence has come to light with regard to the impact of gender mainstreaming on women's access to land and landownership, although an increase in female ownership and titling has been reported in some pilot areas. Most of the land in Ghana is held under customary tenure, and although some state laws, e.g. on inheritance, aim to regulate succession for spouses under customary marriages, they do not seem to have had much influence in the rural areas. Similarly, the impact of the reform in relation to landholders' insecurity of tenure due to multiple land sales, lack of or unclear boundaries, and issues related to chieftaincy disputes is difficult to assess. The role of the recently introduced Customary Secretariats, among other formal institutions, will be crucial and very interesting to observe, as these are an illustration of the wish of the government to work hand in hand with traditional authorities. In relation to this, this paper examines the shifts that have taken place in development policies with regard to both customary land tenure and gender. The land administration project in Ghana is indeed illustrative of how donor policies are advocating the recognition and involvement of traditional authorities as main actors in the reform’s implementation. These policies have also recently taken gender issues into account. Although the impact or success of these policies is difficult to assess at this stage, as the reform is an on-going process, the evidence available shows that registration or titling is not always clarifying rights or simplifying the very complex tenure system in Ghana but exacerbates existing conflicting rights. It also shows that the recognition and involvement of traditional authorities may not be the panacea it is claimed to be, especially if left unchecked. Moreover, the recent inclusion of gender or the call for more attention to be paid to women’s situation with regard to access to land shows that despite a progressive legal framework, gender equality is facing challenges in a context of entrenched discriminatory cultural and social practices. Donors and policy makers have so far paid limited attention to the issue of gender equality in their land administration reform efforts. Future research will be useful in examining how the gender mainstreaming of the LAP activities will address issues of land access and also, crucially, of land dispute settlement, for both men and women.
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