Base de Datos Género y Derecho a la Tierra


In 2005, the estimated population was 1 795 000, out of which 960 000 were female. In the same year, 1 468 000 people lived in rural areas (1). In 2001, women accounted for 50 percent of the rural population (2). Most of the population, 99.7 percent, is Sotho, while Europeans and others account for the remaining 0.3 percent (3).

In 2007, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$1.6 billion; while the per capita GDP was US$798 (4). Although its contribution to GDP has declined to 15.1 percent in 2008, the agricultural sector is the primary or most important supplementary source of income for a large portion of the population, with 86 percent of the resident population engaged in subsistence agriculture. Industry accounted for 46.4 percent of the GDP in 2008 and services accounted for 38.5 percent (5). Only about 25 percent of the country’s land has agricultural potential. Less than 10 percent of the land is arable and the remainder of the agricultural land supports livestock. Much of the land is severely degraded and recurrent drought and hail storms devastate crops (8). Crop production accounts for 70 percent of agricultural GDP and livestock production accounts for 30 percent. Farmers cultivate mainly maize, sorghum and wheat on about 80 percent of the total planted area. Most of them practise rainfed farming and productivity is low (6).

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.496 in 2006, the country ranked 155th out of 179 countries measured (8). In the period between 2001 and 2003, 12 percent of the population was undernourished (1). In 2000-2007, 43.4 of the population lived below the US$1 per day poverty line (4). The adult literacy rate in 2001 was 90 percent for women and 74 percent for men (6). Life expectancy at birth between 2005 and 2010 was estimated at 44.5 years for men and 45.6 years for women (10).

In 2005, women comprised 58 percent of the economically active population; 161 000 of them were engaged in agriculture, accounting for 58 percent of the total agricultural labour force (1). Men and women perform different tasks; men do the work in cases where animals are used. Men plough and cultivate and women and children hand-hoe. In addition to doing agricultural labour and household chores, women play a pivotal role in all community ceremonies that take place after harvesting (11).

Britain colonized the country in the late 1860s; however, the land tenure system was little influenced by foreign practices. In fact, although the land was supposed to be the British monarch’s, the Basotho continued to manage their land as before. Throughout the colonial period, Basotho and their chiefs warded off a number of attempts by Europeans to acquire land rights. In the period immediately after the country’s independence in 1966, the post-colonial government instituted legislative reforms. These laws included the 1965 Land Advisory Boards Procedure Regulations, the 1967 Land Procedure Act, the 1969 Land Husbandry Act, the 1973 Land Husbandry Act and the 1973 Land Act. In 1979, the government again passed a Land Act that contained much of what could be found in the 1969 and 1973 legislation (12). With the passage of the 1979 Land Act, the government attempted to enhance landholders’ security of tenure, with the aim of increasing agricultural production. Under this Act, the customary system of tenure was modified. Whereas in the past, chiefs had the power to reallocate land upon the death of a holder or to accommodate new households, now reallocation is to be done only in cases of abuses or non-use of the land. Implementation of the Act has not been widespread, however, because farmers lack the incentive to comply with the law because of difficulties in securing good land for leasing (13).
Women generally acquire secondary land rights through their husbands. Under both legal systems in use in the country, customary law and common law, a woman is considered a legal minor and therefore cannot own property or enter into any binding contract without the consent of her husband or, if her husband is deceased, the head of the family, who is always male. However, this situation has recently been reversed by enactment of The Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006, which provides that both spouses must agree on whatever is done with the joint estate (14). Although the Land Act is non-discriminatory in nature, its implementation is based on a discriminatory legal instrument, the Deeds Registry Act of 1967. According to the Deeds Registry Act, no land can be registered in the name of a woman married in community of property. This law is in line with the customary law that provides that a woman married in community of property cannot own property (15).

Fuentes: los números entre paréntesis (*) se refieren a las fuentes que están en la sección de Bibliografía