Mainstreaming gender and climate change in land use planning

26May 2022
Deo Mfugale
The Guardian
Mainstreaming gender and climate change in land use planning

RECENTLY, Landesa, an organization that promotes women’s land rights and Mufindi District Council teamed up to draw and implement land use plans for villages in the district. Another non-governmental organization, PELUM is also a partner in the project.

The district has 121 villages out of which only 60 have been surveyed and two are in the pilot for land use planning. Tanzania has 12, 319 villages and only 2, 555 have been surveyed and provided with title deeds.

Land use plans are important as tools that promote conservation of land and maintain its fertility while making it more productive. Beneficiaries include village governments and individuals as they can decide how best to use their land in order exploit its maximum potential. However land use plans must draw the participation of all groups in the community for such plans to be effective. At family level, all members of the family, men, women and the youth must be involved in deciding how to use the family land for the benefit of the entire family.

“Culture and traditions still bar some women from participating in land issues. They are left out in the decision-making process and ultimately lose their land rights. Land use planning should overcome these barriers and make the process participatory and inclusive,” said Dr. Monica Muhoja, Executive Director of Landesa. She was speaking at a workshop to incept the village land use planning project in Mufindi District held in Iringa recently. Dr. Muhoja explained that land use plans whether for village land or family land should leave no one behind because everyone has the right to participate in the process and their concerns must be incorporated in the final decision.

Land use planning is one of the solutions to land-based conflicts hence all users must participate in the process to avoid quarrels among families or between villages. It also protects ownership of land and the rights of the owners to use the land according their needs.“Let it be clear that everyone has the obligation to conserve and manage land. Land use plans could go a long way towards limiting loss of ownership and rights, but these must be made in a participatory manner; it must be inclusive so as to address the concerns of the owners. Implementation of the plans must be effectively enforced,” says Dr. Sixbert Mwanga, Executive Director of Climate Action Network (CAN Tanzania).

This calls for mainstreaming gender issues and gender equity in land use planning. Gender mainstreaming may lead to equitable benefit sharing and participatory land use planning must fully address gender gaps. “Women are usually underrepresented and ill-equipped to participate in the land use planning process and relevant decision making processes,” says Prof. John Jeckoniah of Sokoine University of Agriculture.

 Land use planning and management are upheld by gender relations thus should promote equality, equity and inclusion. Failure to mainstream gender to land use planning may lead to exclusion and failure for women to realize benefits.It is important, therefore, to recognize women as land users, managers and contributors to conservation and they must be given opportunity to enjoy their rights to own land, manage it and participate fully in all decision-making processes relating to land.

However for women to participate fully in land use planning and other land issues, they must have access to information about land. “Government, civil society organisations and other stakeholders must build women’s capacity to seek and get information so as to enable them to participate effectively in decision making,” says Prof. Jeckoniah.“But we must go a step further as women’s inclusion or participation does not guarantee their involvement in decision making. Women must be guaranteed of land tenure rights for them to effectively participate in land use planning.We must ensure that women’s voices are heard in all decisions related to land issues, particularly in land use planning.”

In order to benefit effectively from inclusive land use plans, beneficiaries must know what they stand to gain by participating in the process and what they are likely to lose by being left out.

 Land use planning should focus on building resilience and capacity to adopt for all groups of community members short of which such plans may foment conflicts instead of solving them. Making land use plans that consider impacts of climate change should also promote women’s land rights and enhance gender-sensitive land governance.

Climate change is the most urgent crisis facing humanity today. Efforts to prevent or adapt to climate change are highly dependent on the land. Climate change impacts agricultural production, water availability and distribution thus straining the lives of women and youth who are employed in the agriculture sector. There is a need, therefore, to undertake land use planning that provides for full participation of men, women and the youth. To a great extent, women and youth are victims of climate change impacts but they are also agents of change; those who suffer are more likely ready to turn around the situation in order to reduce or end the suffering.

According to SDG Reports,women make up about half of the agricultural workforce in developing countries, so the fight for gender equality is an essential step in accomplishing SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).

Securing legal land rights over agricultural land and increasing the proportion of women who are owners or right-bearers of agricultural land directly supports this target and the larger goal of gender equality.

In addition to the direct contribution towards gender equality, land certification programmes have positive impacts on agricultural productivity in developing countries. With the establishment of legal land rights, women are encouraged to integrate more sustainable practices on their land, including planting trees and implementing practices to prevent soil erosion such as terracing and so adapt to impacts of climate change.

Women in the rural areas have deep historical knowledge of their community lands, and as the ones responsible for working the land, they know how to manage it, and ensure it stays productive. "When women have a seat at the table of decision making, their communities see benefits including ... food security, investments in children's health and education, and land management – all of which contribute to a community's ability to be resilient to climate change," says Celine Salcedo-La Vina, a research associate at World Resources Institute.

A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the link between gender and climate change revealed that 80 percent of those displaced by climate change are female. That is, for every impact of climate change, there is a burden for women and girls to bear.

Women’s land rights have a wide reaching impact on food security, eliminating hunger and poverty, reducing gender-based violence, and on tackling climate change. By reinforcing land rights, women and their children are empowered. Involving women and girls in solving the climate crisis could mean food security, zero hunger, an end to poverty, and improved education.

“One the reasons progress has been slow when it comes to climate action is because of the limited rights of women. This barrier towards access to resources disempowers women’s ability to participate as solution makers,” says Ms. OladosuAdenike, a climate justice leader.

A World Bank report notes that the UN Climate Change Conference COP24 in 2018 had only 38 percent representation of women, with only one percent increase from the previous year. “These numbers demonstrate the lack of participation of women in key policy- and decision-making, limiting their ability to advocate for climate solutions,” reads part of the report.

“Two-fifths of countries worldwide limit women's property rights; in 19 countries, women still do not have equal ownership rights to immovable property. Disregarding half of the world's population and their needs will not bring sustainable, inclusive or holistic climate-mitigation actions,” the report adds.

Thus including women in more decision-making positions, educating them with transversal skills and involving them in climate-resilient projects will not only empower women in disadvantaged communities, but promote them as equal stakeholders in finding solutions to climate catastrophe, said Gunawardena Tharanga  during the World Economic Forum 2020.

Land use plans are also important in checking desertification. Planning available land for various uses may be applied in both farmland and pastoral lands. The plans must respond to gender concerns and focus on making communities resilient to climate change.  Designating parts of land for specific areas can lead to appropriate land management which may result in preventing desertification.

When land use plans incorporate issues of climate change, it is also important to build the capacity of women and youth to access land whether through customary or legal channels and such ownership should be evidence by documents that are recognized by the various authorities. Land use plans that mainstream gender and climate change should guarantee security of tenure as a motivation to manage land and ensure climate change resilience.

Top Stories