Land Rights, Women’s Rights: Stories from the Evidence and Lessons from Latin America programme

This article was written by Mark Lewis, ELLA Programme Director.

David Muntet in Arequipa during ELLA's study tour to Peru

David Muntet in Arequipa during ELLA’s study tour to Peru

David Muntet surveys his cattle grazing the dry rangelands of Narok County, home to the Naroosura Group Ranch in the South Rift Valley Region of Kenya. David is a Maasai and comes from a long line of pastoralists who have grazed land in this area over the centuries. He knows he has been lucky. He has a large herd and his Group Ranch has so far been able to maintain collective access rights to enough contiguous land to sustain their pastoralist livelihoods: moving livestock with the seasons, and opportunistically to new pastures to cope with the uncertain rainfall patterns in these drylands.

But David knows that for many pastoralists, life is proving more difficult. As a Director in the South Rift Association of Land Owners, he has seen how competition for land, population pressures and national policies promoting individual land ownership are creating unsustainable pressures. In much of this region, a bridge between the world famous Amboseli National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserves, the sub-division of land is making life impossible for pastoralism which needs access to extensive land resources. The drylands are unsuitable for more intensive farming. Climate change threatens, environmental degradation is on the horizon and pastoralists, often among the very poorest and excluded in Kenya, face a bleak future.

David Muntet in Arequipa during ELLA's study tour to Peru

Participants of the ELLA study tour to Mexico discuss policies to support domestic violence survivors.

Adwoa (a pseudonym) is a rape survivor in what was in 2016 Ghana’s one and only shelter for women survivors of domestic violence. She was regularly raped by her stepfather, and found little support from her mother “When I wake up I will be wet and when I tell my mother, she will tell me not to let anyone know about it. She also said that I have no family and my stepfather is the only person who caters for me…”.

Adwoa and her fellow survivors found their way to the shelter through their family, friends, neighbours or church members. The police were rarely supportive when the violence was reported. The women had to meet their own expenses for medical treatment. This was the reality in Accra some eight years after the passage of Ghana’s Domestic Violence Act. The law contained provisions for legal and medical support, and proposed a fund for shelters, but over a decade later, little progress had been made to protect the many Adwoas in the country.

What do David and Adwoa have in common? They were both ‘participants’ in the UK aid-funded ‘Evidence and Lessons from Latin America’ programme (ELLA): a diverse programme, facilitating research, exchange and learning between Latin America and Africa on economic and social issues.

Adwoa participated in research which examined the progress in implementing laws to tackle domestic violence in the two regions, undertaken by the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA) at the University of Ghana, Legon and the Fundar Centre for Analysis and Research in Mexico City. Both Ghana and Mexico passed domestic violence laws in 2007 and CEGENSA and Fundar’s Africa and Latin America Regional Paper examine progress since then in the two countries. Perhaps unsurprisingly the research found that both countries had a huge way to go to provide more effective protection services but in comparison, Mexico had achieved much more. The Comparative Evidence Paper shifted to explaining why this was the case, and found much of the explanation lay in the extent of women’s political representation in Mexico, in Congress, in civil society, and in their working together with an explicitly feminist agenda.

Based on the research work, the ELLA programme ran dissemination events and an online learning community, linking Latin American and African peers from government, civil society and the research community (report here), and enabled Ghanaian and other African participants to experience first-hand the issues discussed in the online community (visit report, video). Several Africans were also beneficiaries of awards to put learning into practice, among them a leader of the National Sudanese Women’s Association, a woman promoting a coalition against gender based violence in Abuja, Nigeria, and in Ghana itself an award has gone to support the evidence-based advocacy work of the country’s Domestic Violence Coalition.

David Muntet was himself a beneficiary of an ELLA ‘Learning into Practice’ award. He had participated in the ELLA peer to peer online learning community on Pastoralism and Land Tenure, and in Peru had seen how llama, alpaca and vicuna livestock owners managed collective land access in the Andean altiplano (report, video here). These exchange activities were based on the comparative research undertaken by GRADE, Peru and the Tegemeo Institute at Egerton University in Kenya: Andean Altiplano, African Savanna and Comparative research papers. Despite the differences between the regions, the research could single out the importance of collective land access rights in ensuring the sustainability of pastoralist livelihoods and of the natural environment.

In joining the ELLA exchange community, David was keen to learn how collective land access rights had prevailed in much of the Andean altiplano. He saw how the land tenure system in Peru had sustained a combination of collective and individual rights to land access and livestock management. Inspired by this, David was supported by ELLA to use land use mapping and planning in ways that will maintain collective access and in the livelihoods of the group ranches in Narok County. The South Rift Valley Land Owners’ Association has used the award to prepare maps and plans for the County, through participatory surveys, key informant interviews and many meetings with local pastoralists making the case for sustaining collective access.

The ELLA research on pastoralism was timely in Kenya, as the country was preparing a new Community Land Act which was passed in late 2016. Tegemeo Institute was active in feeding in research in the drafting of the Act. Since it was passed, Kenyan ELLA awardees have been working on a fair and effective implementation of the law: in addition to David, a Ministry of Lands official has been sensitising Land Adjudication officers to the Act and the needs of pastoralists, and a civil society activist has been pushing for the equal rights of female pastoralists.

Pastoralism and Domestic Violence are two of the six topics that were the focus of the ELLA programme during 2014-2017. The two stories here illustrate how the programme research has been taken up and used to inform policies and practices in Ghana and Kenya. More information on the programme can be found on the ELLA Network site, in a Results report, in a Reflections report and in Six Stories of ELLA Impact.

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