Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures2016 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Target 5.a: Economic rights for Women

Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.

Despite the global consensus that women’s land rights are fundamental to the realization of food security and rural development, accurate and reliable statistics to monitor the attainment and realization of these rights are still lacking. The lack of robust statistics on land ownership and land management, disaggregated by sex, poses a challenge for the development of policy responses addressing the inequalities faced by women and men in rural areas (Doss et al., 2015). In discussions regarding women’s land rights, the concepts of agricultural holders and landowners are often used interchangeably. Both are important complementary components of women’s land rights and control over land resources, but are different and should not be confused with one another.

Global share of share of female agricultural holders is 12.8 per cent.

The Inter-agency Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDG) has proposed using two indicators to measure progress towards this target: (a) The percentage of people with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land (out of total agricultural population) by sex; (b) The share of women among owners or rights-bearers of agricultural land by type of tenure. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) compiles and makes available on its Gender and Land Rights Database a series of indicators that address these targets, namely: (a) distribution of agricultural holders by sex; (b) distribution of agricultural landowners by sex; (c) incidence of female and male agricultural landowners; (d) distribution of agricultural land area owned by sex. The Organization also makes available information on the value of agricultural land owned by sex.

The distribution of agricultural holders by sexThe distribution of agricultural holders by sex measures the percentage of female agricultural holders out of total agricultural holders and the percentage of male agricultural holders out of total agricultural holders.
is designed to illustrate the management of agricultural holdingsFAO and Food Policy Research Institute (2005) define an agricultural holding as an economic unit of agricultural production under single management comprising all livestock kept and all land used wholly or partly for agricultural production purposes, without regard to title, legal form, or size. Single management may be exercised by an individual or household, jointly by two or more individuals or households, by a clan or tribe, or by a juridical person such as a corporation, cooperative or government agency.
by sex and thus identify the extent to which women and men hold management responsibility for agricultural production resources. A holder may or may not, of course, also be the owner of a holding. While agricultural holdings are typically land holdings, they may also comprise other agricultural production resources, and in some cases only non-land resources (for example, landless holdings such as livestock). FAO notes that this indicator is the most available and comparable of the gender-by-land indicators, but also notes that it does not capture the management complexities of holdings comprised of several plots, and thus may underestimate the management role of household members. FAO also notes some limitations regarding minimum size thresholds employed in some censuses that may bias against female agricultural holdings. Nevertheless, data5.11 are available for 104 countries or territories around the world.

Figure 5.4 demonstrates that gender inequality exists in the management of agricultural holdings for both developed and developing countries. The overall global share of female agricultural holders is 12.8 per cent. Despite data gaps, it is evident that inequality is particularly acute for many North African and Middle Eastern countries. But even in this region, wide disparities exist; for example, the share of female agricultural holders ranges from 0.8 per cent in Saudi Arabia to 51 per cent in Cabo Verde. The region showing the narrowest gender gap is Europe, although here too, wide disparities between countries are evident.

Figure 5.4. Distribution of female agricultural holders (Percentage of total agricultural holders) Download data

The distribution of agricultural landowners by sexThe distribution of agricultural landowners by sex measures the share of female and male agricultural landowners in the total population of landowners.
is designed to measure what proportion of agricultural landownerAn agricultural landowner is defined as the legal owner of the agricultural land; however, definitions of ownership may vary across countries and surveys. The indicator may not necessarily reflect documented ownership certified by a legal document.
are women. Because multiple owners can be identified within a household, this approach better reflects land rights at the level of the individual. The comparability of this indicator is compromised by the variety of differing definitions of ownership and low availability and quality of data. For the moment however, these are the best data available.

From the limited data available, gender inequalities in agricultural land ownership exist. However, the gender gap appears to be narrower compared with the management of agricultural holdings (See FAO Gender and Land Rights Database).