Gender and Land Rights Database



In 2008 the total population was 13 066 000, of which 6 700 000 were women (1). Of the total number of women, 85 percent lived in rural areas in 2004 (2). The rural population attained 83 percent of the total population in 2004 (3). The population density in 2008 was 139 people per square kilometre (4).

In 2007, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$3.6.billion while the per capita GDP was US$256 (5). The country’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture, with the agriculture sector accounting for approximately 39.2 percent of the GDP in 2008 and for 90 percent of export revenues (6). In 2008, industry contributed 16.8 percent of the GDP and services contributed 44 percent (6). Tobacco is key to the country’s economic growth as it accounts for more than half of all exports; exports commodities comprise mainly agricultural products such as tea, sugar, cotton, coffee and peanuts (6). The agricultural population accounted for 73 percent of the country’s total population in 2004, with a per capita agricultural GDP of US$72 (7).

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.484 in 2006, the country ranked 161 out of the 182 countries measured (5). In 2004, 22.3 percent of the population lived under the US$1 per day poverty line (8). More than 90 percent of those living under the poverty line reside in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming for their livelihoods (9). Almost 4 millions of people were undernourished in 2001−2003, accounting for 34 percent of the total population (7). Female-headed households constituted 26 percent of all households in 2005 (10). The country is one of the countries hard-hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in the southern region. The total number of people infected with HIV was estimated to be between 700 000 and one million people in 2003. Two-thirds of those infected live in rural areas (8). Prevalence rates are higher for women, especially in the age group from 15 to 24 years, where the rate was 14.2 percent in 2002 (10). Life expectancy at birth is estimated at 40.6 years for women and 41.6 for men in 2005−2010. Literacy rates are low and show a wide gender gap. The literacy rate was 64.6 percent for women and 79.2 percent for men in 19997-2007 (5). Illiteracy is much higher in rural areas where 31.1 percent of the women and girl aged 6 and above had no education at all compared to 11.7 percent among urban women and girls (2).

Women constitute almost 51 percent of the economically active population (1). Ninety-four percent of the economically active women work in agriculture, accounting for 59 percent of the agricultural labour force (11). Rural women play a significant role in the sustenance of family livelihoods and in the communal life. They contribute to about 69 percent of the agricultural labour compared to 31 percent of men, and produce 80 percent of the household food compared to 20 percent of men and process 90 percent of the food in the country. Women also contribute 71 percent to casual labour in the tea and tobacco estate sector. Although farming roles are shared between men and women; women spend nine hours per day on agriculture work compared to five hours spent by men (12).

The country has a total 9.8 million hectares of land. Agricultural estates occupy 1.2 million hectares and the area potentially available for agriculture by small farmers is approximately 4.5 million hectares with the exclusion of wetlands, steep slopes and traditional protected areas (13). In spite of the heavy dependence of rural communities on agricultural land, 55 percent of smallholder farmers have less than 1 hectare of land to cultivate, which does not meet their basic food needs. Population growth and land pressure have increased land tenure insecurity. In 2002, the Government issued the National Land Policy with the aim of “of ensuring equal opportunities for the acquisition, use and enjoyment of land for all citizens”. The policy intends to increase the security of land rights for the people living on land under customary tenure, by promoting registration of individual and family titles (13). Family land is to be registered in the names of all members of the nuclear family: husband, wife. The policy provides that upon the death of a husband or wife, the spouse inherits the land and that customary rules cease to apply (2).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography