COMMENT on G7 Charlevoix Summit Declaration – “Advancing Gender Equality and Women´s Empowerment” & “Innovative Financing for Development”

By Carolin Sperk and Serah Kiragu


Key Messages

Ø  Securing access to land as one of the key pre-conditions to ensure women´s economic empowerment and gender equality & sustainable development.

Ø  Striving for women empowerment, we need to go beyond targeting “female headed households” [and ensure all women can benefit from agricultural services]


With the G7 Summit Declaration, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union recognize not only the imperative of gender equality as fundamental for human rights, as well as economic and social development. In the “Commitment on Innovative Development Financing”, the leaders of the G7 also “commit to provide leadership to support innovative financing for international development and reinforce gender equality and women’s economic empowerment”.

They want to increase women´s access to capital, and support business activities that would provide women in developing countries with access to […] products and services that enhance economic participation and access for women. Development finance programmes will be supported that “strive to advance women’s economic empowerment and gender equality”, including by “providing access to capital, jobs, skills, and services that enhance economic opportunities for women”[1]. This echoes the principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of “Leaving no one behind”.

Agriculture is the largest sector for employment in most of the developing world, and women in developing countries are responsible for a major share of the work in agriculture.

  (SOURCE: SOIL ATLAS 2015)

(SOURCE: SOIL ATLAS 2015)

In Burkina Faso and Kenya, roughly 80% of women are working in agriculture, in Ethiopia FAO Stat2010 state 18.7% and 32.4% for India. Women account for 43% of global agricultural workforce (FAO Stat2010).

At the same time, women in developing/ less industrialized countries (…) only hold fractions of the land they farm:

o In Kenya, the share of women among landowners form only 5%;

o Burkina Faso – female land rights holders 8,4%

o Benin, percentage of female land rights holders – 11-15% (FAO & LGAF Worldbank)

o The total share of female land-holder in Sub-Sahara Africa is about 18% (less than 20%) [2]

And despite doing a substantial part of the work on the family fields, and additionally farm plots to provide the food for their families, they have only very limited decision-making rights; and often their access is insecure and depends on the goodwill of families and husbands.

Yet, women are not a homogenous group, variations in status hugely influence their entitlement to land, and access to services, finance etc. Depending on marital status and customary system, e.g. in some systems widows can have a lot of power, while especially married women, and unmarried women face enormous difficulties in accessing and managing land. In cultures with polygamy, this results in additional differentiations in tenurial rights.

Female farmers also receive only 5% of all agricultural extension services (review on 97 countries; FAO Stat 2010) and 10% of total aid for agriculture, forestry and fishing goes to women (ibid). Only 15% of extension agents are women (ibid), which makes it difficult to reach out to women in some cultures.

To achieve the goals of the G7 Charlevoix Summit Declaration, and the 2030 Agenda, agricultural development programmes seeking to advance economic empowerment and gender equality of women in developing countries thus need to follow much more diversified strategies and approaches that consider local realities.

Securing women´s access to land

Securing women´s access to land, with defined user rights, is a key pre-condition to support the economic empowerment of women. Thus agreed security of access to land enabling women to take decisions on what crops to plant, how to manage the land, and to dispose over the benefits and revenues from the land, will contribute to women both achieving more independence and can increase their contribution to household and local economies. It would also support them in gaining access to financial capital, if the land or a certain amount of revenues can be provided as collateral for loans, for example.

Initiatives aiming at agricultural development, including programmes for sustainable land management (SLM), must integrate components on land tenure security or at least strive for integration with such programmes. They need to consider local customary systems and how existing legal frameworks are implemented: the existence of legal frameworks or rules is not a guarantee to security of access to land, especially where customary or traditional norms prevail.

Special attention must be given to conflicts and challenges at household level: often limitations and conflicts regarding land access are intra-household problems and most affected are married women and unmarried female household members.

  (SOURCE: ADAPTED FROM  CENTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND TRAINING IN DRYLANDS (CETRAD), SURVEY ON INTRA-HOUSEHOLD SECURITY IN WESTERN KENYA, 2017 (UNPUBLISHED).)

(SOURCE: ADAPTED FROM CENTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND TRAINING IN DRYLANDS (CETRAD), SURVEY ON INTRA-HOUSEHOLD SECURITY IN WESTERN KENYA, 2017 (UNPUBLISHED).)

Beyond “female-headed households”

This illustrates how generic indicators on gender in agricultural development programmes, like quota of women “reached”, are highly limited regarding the achievement of “women empowerment” and “leaving no one behind”: differences in rights between women of different (marital) status in many systems excludes them from enjoying basic tenurial rights.

The indicator of “female-headed households” does not necessarily respond to calls for “leaving no-one behind” and targeting the most vulnerable or resource-poor: programmes or services reaching out to these types of women only will both reach out only to a very limited number of women and in addition, often not to those women most in need of support.

This means, targeting and approaches involving women must change, and follow locally-led, socially sensitive, innovative processes to co-identify entry points and co-develop solutions: with strong local partners, we need to understand the conditions women need to make decisions about their farming activities and, even more so, the conditions they need to act.

In case of SLM programmes, for example, technologies need to be selected and adapted together with women, to ensure their long-term uptake and practice, by taking their labour capacities, land tenure situations, and other factors like availability and access to inputs into account. In addition, access of women to agricultural services must be increased according to their needs.

Locally-led adaptive processes help overcome deep-rooted challenges

Innovative, socially fit and adaptive approaches are needed to address the challenges outlined and support achieving goals of women empowerment in agricultural development. Locally-led processes that put the most affected people and their needs in the centre and focus on co-developing solutions can work even in contested environments or with entrenched problems, like conflicts over land access. In contexts, where legal frameworks are existing, but not locally implemented, they support social legitimization and help build local capacities for implementation: for example, for women´s land rights.

In the context of the Special Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, “One World No Hunger”, TMG Research works to co-develop localized solutions to overcome known and deep-rooted challenges to SLM and livelihoods of resource poor smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and India.

In Kakamega county, Western Kenya, in close partnership and with leadership of a local community-based women´s organization, the Shibuye Community Health Workers we developed “Community-led Lease Guidelines”. Despite the existence of a national land law, lease arrangements, which are the main way for many women in Kenya to get access to land, are very insecure and often result in conflict. Through the community-led process of developing land lease guidelines based on local communities` conditions and needs, security of access to land for women in Kakamega county was increased and the implementation of the national land law was supported. The involvement of key local actors, including land owners, and local authorities, and village chiefs was crucial for the success of the process. By involving county officials in the discussion on the lease guidelines, attention to the potential for upscaling was achieved.

Similarly, in Burkina Faso, in the Province of Houet, in a village in the commune of Satiri, we piloted a process to overcome the problem of “forced rotation”: this refers to women being forced to move to a different plot after they had improved soil quality on a plot they had been given by their husbands or family. Led by the local civil society organisation “Groupe de Recherche et Action Foncière” (GRAF), in a process aiming at increasing intrahousehold tenure security for women, we co-developed with the household heads, the village and local authorities and the women in the village, the conditions of giving pieces of land to the women on a more secure basis. Again, it was crucial to involve all relevant actors, most importantly, involving the men to ensure that any kind of solutions are really “from within” and thus socially legitimized.

With a commitment on “innovative financing for development” that “advances gender equality and women´s empowerment”, programmes that are designed to support its achievement, should support initiatives that foster locally-led social innovations. It is crucial to understand local context and conditions, and to adopt differentiated inclusive approaches, that are less technology-driven and allow for making distinctions between women with different status and adapt to their needs. Pro-active targeting of women who are not household heads is essential in agricultural extension and advisory services aiming at empowering women.