On 8th of November every year, the world celebrates International Women’s Day, with this year’s national theme being “Cracking the code: Innovation for a gender-equal future”.
Zainab Hamis Hussein walks through her farm in the semi-arid district of Ikungi, Singida region in central Tanzania, carefully moving through a sea of yellow sunflowers.
The sunflowers are slightly bent over, the petals starting to wilt as she demonstrates that this is a sign that her crop is almost ready for harvest.
Just a few months earlier, she couldn’t call her farm her own, with limited options to register land under her name, placing her at risk of losing the land she has farmed with her family for decades in case her husband passed away, or they became separated.
“I didn’t even know that registering the land under both our names was a possibility, and like many other women, I had this fear, because I have seen many women being driven off their land and left with almost nothing,” says Ms. Hussein.
In Tanzania, 70 percent of sunflower growers are women, and although they spend much of their time on agricultural production, their control over the land use remains limited.
According to research by the Tanzanian National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 33 percent of women own agricultural land compared to 47 percent of men. Only nine percent of women have sole ownership of land, and 25 percent have joint land ownership. Furthermore, when women do own land, it’s typically smaller than that owned by men, and have lower yields.
In a KOICA funded UN Women and UNFPA joint initiative, “Realizing Gender Equality through Empowering Women and Adolescent Girls” programme, UN Women partnered with the Ikungi District Council in Singida region to issue land certificates – Certificates of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCROs) – for women’s sole or joint land ownership.
Through the use of advanced technology, the program was able to modernize the practice of land demarcation.
UN Women was able to support Ikungi District to establish digital land use management systems (ILMIS and MAST) and IT infrastructure required for more efficient data processing and the settlement of land disputes.
Young women in each village were trained on digital skills required to be able to act as para surveyors and appropriately demarcate land before the issuance of titles.
District and village-level land governance institutions were further trained to undertake inclusive land use planning and CCRO issuance, and communities in the district were mobilized on women’s right to own land and the benefits of joint land ownership.
Today, 5,360 CCROs have been issued as a result of these interventions, with over 2,000 of these issued to women. With better technology, the land certificates were also issued faster, with more than 5,000 issued in just three months, compared to the past where it took four years to produce 1067 CCROs.
“The issuance of CCROs increased three-fold from 14 percent before the programme to 41percent after its implementation. This significant achievement is a testament to the power of digital solutions in promoting land ownership rights and gender equality in general,” said the Ikungi District Executive Director, Mr. Justice Kijazi.
In addition to the land initiatives, LGA extension service officers – officials within LGAs whose role is to aid farmers to make better decisions to increase agricultural production – were also provided with digital tools, linking 180 women sunflower farmers with farming tips and market information.
“Through the system, farmers are able to get up-to-date and accurate agronomic information, including on market outlets, weather reports and various solutions to the challenges they face in their agricultural practices,” said Mr. Kijazi.
Farmers have also been supported to establish their special networking groups on Whatsapp platforms for networking, which is seeing more women growing and expanding their farming businesses.
After receiving training, Ms. Hussein also began exploring other techniques to increase her income, including the use of climate-resilient fertilizers and seeds, which saw her sunflower yields soar from 5 bags per year to an impressive 16 bags.
She also made the decision to diversify, adding other crops to her farm, and as a recently appointed Chair of one of the Agricultural Marketing Cooperative Societies (AMCOS) in her region, she regularly uses the platform to advocate for women’s land rights.
Many other women in the district have experienced similar successes. A 55-year-old sunflower and horticultural farmer, and mother of 8, Elizabeth Hamis Lala also received the CCRO under her name.
“Now I can access financial loan services using my land as collateral. This has made me more independent in my ability to plan for agricultural inputs on my land,” she says.
For the month of March, the Woman Magazine will feature how the United Nations is working in Tanzania to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women through innovation and technology.