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Land reform can increase both equality and output. But to be successful, the design and implementation of policy and related programmes must occur in a participatory manner at the national, institutional and local levels.

At the national level, policy makers design policies, pass legislation, mandate programmes to implement the policies and provide resources. The advice of international donor and development agencies plays an important role at this stage. Then it is the turn of state agencies to translate the laws into programmes. These programmes should include gender training for staff to ensure that gender equality is integrated into land programmes. At the local level, stakeholders should participate in the implementation of appropriate policies.

At each stage of the process, it is important that implementers and stakeholders share experiences. Otherwise, unexpected results can occur. For example in Burkina Faso, the introduction of irrigation development projects had the unintended effect of putting more land under the control of men. This was because under customary tenure systems, men obtain control rights to irrigated plots. Women lost some of their rights when the land they were working was affected by these projects.


Formal titling of land has been advanced as an adequate mechanism for ensuring tenure security for landholders. Nicaragua has made significant progress in increasing the number of women as landowners.

This was achieved through legislation initiated in the 1980s establishing equal rights for women and men to benefit from land tenure programmes. A further boost came from a joint titling law in 1997 mandating that titles received by families through a land reform programme be issued in the names of both spouses. Vigorous dissemination, training and promotion of joint titling paid off. Whereas in the 1980s only 10 percent of land titles were issued to women, by 2000 that number had increased to 42 percent. Work remains to be done: although more women are receiving titles, their land parcels tend to be smaller than those granted to men.

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