Gender and Land Rights Database


Prevailing systems of land tenure


Land ownership can be categorized into two broad classes: Customary land and Public lands. Customary lands are lands owned by stools, skins, families or clan usually held in trust by the chief, head of family, clan, or land priests for the benefit of members of that group.
Private ownership of land can be acquired by way of a grant, sale, gift or marriage.
Public lands are lands that are vested in the president for public use (24).

Customary tenure is the main form of land tenure. It is estimated that 80 percent of the land is governed by traditional rulers (22).

The country maintains a plural land tenure system. Rights to land can take the following forms, under the 1986 Land Title Registration Law:
  i.    allodial title
  ii.    freehold title;
  iii.    leasehold title; and
  iv.    lesser interests in land.

Allodial title is held or vested in traditional stools or skins, in some traditional areas. In other traditional areas, this held by subgroups such as substools, clans and families as well as individuals. Allodial owners hold their interest under customary law and are not subject to any restrictions on their use rights or any obligations except for those imposed by the law (statutory law). The stool/skin in which the allodial title is vested has complete and absolute freedom in dealing with the land; however, it is subject to the rights of the subjects of the stool/skin who may be in possession.

Freehold title is divided into customary law freehold and common law freehold.

Customary law freehold is an interest held by subgroups and individuals in land owned by the community. Customary law freehold continues as long as the owning group or subject acknowledges the superior title of the stool. The interest is inheritable and devolves to the holder’s family upon the death of an individual holder. The holders have the right to sale, lease, mortgage or pledge their title, or grant agricultural tenancies or shareholder agreements; however, the recipient is obliged to recognize the superior authority of the stool. Holders are required to perform certain services to the stool that owns the allodial title. If holders deny the title of the allodial owner or refuse to perform customary services to the stool, they might have to give up the land. The interest may also be lost by abandonment, sale, gift, compulsory acquisition by the state, or failure of successors to inherit the land. The right of the subject of the stool to occupy any vacant stool land has increasingly faded mainly as a consequence of population pressures and land scarcity. The stool has controls grants of stool lands in order to guarantee fair distribution to all members.

Common law freehold is an interest acquired through a grant made by the allodial owner, either by sale or gift. This grant requires the parties to agree that their obligations and rights will be regulated by common law and that common law will govern any dispute that may arise over the land.

Leaseholds are rights granted a person to occupy specified land for a specified term. A lease may be granted either by the stool or clan or family who hold the allodial title or an individual customary freeholder. The lessee pays for the right to occupy the land, usually with an annual rent and is subject to conditions on the use of the land. The lessee may also create a sublease or assign the unexpired term of the lease, subject to the consent of the lessor. This practice, mainly under sharecropping agreements, is gaining importance as a way of gaining access to scarce land (11).

National and local institutions enforcing land regulations


The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources is mandated with ensuring “the sustainable management and utilisation of Ghana’s lands, forests, wildlife and mineral resources for socio-economic growth and development” by means of:
i. formulation, implementation, and evaluation of policies and programmes of sector agencies;
ii. efficient and equitable land delivery;
iii. promotion of sustainable natural resource management and utilization;
iv. promotion of community participation in use of land.

The Ministry is currently implementing the Land Administration Project (LAP), initiated in 2003, with the aim of improving land administration in the country and improving security of tenure through systematic land titling, establishment of customary land secretariats and customary boundary demarcations (25).

The Regional Houses of Chiefs, under the 2008 Chieftaincy Act, are in charge of dispute resolution, including those relative to stool lands (19).

Land administration institutions and women quotas


The system of land administration in the country is currently undergoing restructuring under the Land Administration Project (LAP), initiated in 2003 (22).

The Lands Commission, established under the 1971 Lands Commission Act, as provided for by the Constitution, is the authority mandated to regulate the size and duration of land transfers as well as to judge their fairness (21). The Commission has the following duties, as specified in Article 258 of the Constitution:
  i. Manage public lands and all lands vested in the President or in the Commission.
  ii. Advise the Government, local authorities and traditional authorities on the policy framework for the development of particular areas.
  iii. Formulate and submit to government recommendations on national policy with respect to land use and capability.
  iv. Advise on, and assist in the execution of comprehensive registration of titles to land (13).

In 2008, a new act was enacted to establish a new Lands Commission to integrate the operations of public service land institutions. The new Lands Commission is made up of the following divisions: Survey and Mapping Division; Land Registration Division; Land Valuation Division; Public & Vested Lands Management Division.

The Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands is responsible for all the activities related to the management of stool land, including the collection and accounting of stool lands revenue, consultation with stools and other traditional authorities on matters relating to the administration and development of stool lands. The Office operates at the levels of National, Regional and District Offices. Currently the Office has seven Regional Offices and 60 District Offices throughout the country (22).

Funding provisions to guarantee women’s land transactions

The Women’s Development Fund was established in 2002 on the initiative of the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs to empower women economically. It is exclusively targeted at women in small-scale enterprises in selected economic activities. Since 2001, micro-credit facilities ranging from 500 000 cedis to 1 million cedis have been granted for various economic enterprises. Access to the fund is guaranteed only by application through the banks where the applicant has an account; however, women need no collaterals to benefit from the WDF, but only to be organized into groups (8).

The District Assemblies’ Common Fund (DACF) is a pool of resources created under Section 252 of the Constitution to enable all citizens to benefit from the use of the nation’s resources (26). Some amount of the District Assembly Common Fund is available for women farmers, making institutional credit accessible to rural women farmers (8).


Other factors influencing gender differentiated land rights


- Most women are not aware of the existence of the Intestate Succession Law and of the guarantees it provides to them. Even when women are aware about its contents, they often lack support in the process for claiming their rights (21).

The expansion of commercial agriculture has driven women out of crop production forcing them into petty trade in order to provide food for their family. Furthermore, women are more likely to be allocated less fertile stool land, where they can only cultivate food crops and not cash crops (21).

Women seldom participate in lineage, clan or stool meetings where men take most decisions on land issues. If women do participate, they are generally listeners or resource persons (14).

Women’s access to bank loans through formal channels is more limited than that of men. Weak access to land limits their ability to provide collateral and makes it difficult to obtain credit. The majority of female farmers derive their capital from informal sources, including loans from husbands or relatives, money lenders or informal financial operators (16). Furthermore, rural women face a physical difficulty in accessing credit because financial institutions are situated in urban areas and transaction costs are too high (21).

Rural women have less access than men to training and technical information, due to the fact that extension services usually target men as heads of the household (8).

Traditional biases limit women’s access to education and decision-making roles in the family and public life. Women’s limited participation in politics and public service does not allow their full integration into national decision-making (8).

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