Gender and Land Rights Database


Prevailing systems of land tenure


Three major categories of land tenure can be distinguished: customary land, public land, and private land.

The 2002 Land Policy further made the distinction among: i. Government land, acquired by the government or agencies of the government to serve a specific national purposes including land reserved for government buildings, schools, hospitals; and ii. Public land, which is land held in trust and managed by the government or Traditional Authorities and openly accessible to the public at large, such as land gazetted used as national parks, recreation areas, forest reserves, conservation areas, historic and cultural sites, etc. (13).

In the past, the absence of any distinction between the two caused a lot of confusion among citizens and land administrators. The distinction is also necessary for separating land held in trust by the Government from land acquired by the Government for which ownership is actually transferred to the Government (13).

Customary land accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the country’s total land and is where most of the smallholder farmers are located (20). Before the 1965 Land Act, land was classified in the same way except that what is now called customary land was referred to as African trust land.

The customary system of land tenure has the traditional concept of considering land in a village as belonging to the community, although the individual in the community has the right to cultivate it and use it.

The individual uses the land and has the right to dispose of it, although within the limits set up by the customary law of the tribe or clan. In this case, therefore, the individual does own the land. The chiefs, sub-chiefs, and village headmen are there to protect the customary land against outsiders (17).

National and local institutions enforcing land regulations


Under the Ministry of Lands, Housing, Physical Planning and Surveys (MLPPS), the Policy Planning Unit (PPU) has the responsibility of overseeing the National Land Policy (NLP), providing the technical services required for the implementation of the LRP.  

The Technical Land Services Secretariat (TLSS), made of a special team of professionals from the three technical departments of the Ministry, and at the moment of research, was working as part and parcel of the PPU.  Ultimately, the MLPPS will establish the TLSS as a separate unit of the Ministry, to co-ordinate and implement the LRP (22).

Land administration institutions and women quotas

The Ministry of Lands, Housing, Physical Planning and Surveys (MLPPS) is the Government agency responsible for land management. The Ministry is mandated to “ provide land services to the public in an efficient and effective manner in order to promote and encourage sustainable management and utilization of land and land based resources.”

The Principal Secretary (PS) heads the Ministry’s administrative function, assisted by a Controller of Land Services (CLS) who advises the PS on land technical land matters and is responsible for co-ordinating the functions of the three technical departments of Lands and Valuation, Physical Planning and Surveys, as well as the Policy Planning Unit (PPU).
The Ministry has three main technical departments of Lands and Valuation, Housing, Buildings, Physical Planning and Surveys (22).

At the local level, the Planning and Development Directorate in the district assemblies has land administration functions and is responsible of the management of land development. 
Under the 1998 Decentralization Policy, District Land Services Officers (DLSO) set up by the local assemblies in each district will manage land services that are at present being performed by the Regional Offices and Headquarters.  The DLSO will report to the District Commissioner through the Director of Planning and Development.  He will assist the local assembly in its planning responsibilities (22).

Funding provisions to guarantee women’s land transactions


Other factors influencing gender differentiated land rights


Women are not informed of their rights. The high female illiteracy rate contributes to their not being informed and hinders their access to land (2).

The HIV/AIDS pandemic increases the land tenure insecurity of women and children who are increasingly being dispossessed by patrilineal kin upon the death of male household heads (2). Furthermore, in affected households, where prevalence rates are higher for women, due to the declining ability to work the land, there is reduction in the amount of land worked and conversion to crops that require less labour and less expertise. Children of school age in affected households take greater responsibility for agricultural work with less supervision. As a consequence, affected households may have to relinquish land to relatives where there is a high labour to land ratio resulting in smaller shares of land (20).

Because of the high percentage of people affected by HIV/AIDS, it has been estimated that the country will have 20.1 percent of all its children orphaned by the year 2010.  There will be an increase of in child-headed households or grand mothers-headed households that are likely to be landless because the land and inheritance laws focus on marriage-based families only, leaving out the interests of people who are outside formal marriage arrangements (12).

Joint registration of land ensures women land tenure security. Nevertheless, if the widow remarries on the inherited land, she may experience social tension with the in-laws, which could also lead to the children losing land (2).

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