|Rural women and food security: current situation and perspectives. (1998)|
|3 Constraints faced by women farmers|
In the Near East region, as is the case in most of the developing world, legal, social, and institutional barriers are responsible for the great inequalities in women's access to productive resources such as land, credit, education, research and technology. These inequalities prevent women from reaching their full potential as food producers and as income earners and seriously undermine efforts to achieve equitable and sustainable food security in the region. The following sections examine the extent to which rural women in the region suffer from these constraints.
Since official landownership records do not exist in many countries of the region, very few data are available on how landownership varies by gender. Caution should be exercised in analysing available landownership records since farmers tend to under-report for fear of taxation and government control.
Whatever few data exist indicate considerable variation among the countries. What emerges consistently is that women rarely own arable land, although civil and religious law permit ownership and the buying and selling of land by women. Furthermore, although some women hold land titles, more often than not, they give up their rights to them to male members of the family (sons, husbands, fathers) who control them, in exchange for favours or a portion of the land's remittances.
In Jordan, women own 28.6 percent of the land, while in the United Arab Emirates and Oman, 4.9 and 0.4 percent of land is owned by women, respectively. Surveys in selected regions in Egypt, Morocco and Lebanon show that women own 24 ,14.3 and 1 percent of landholdings. Cyprus stands out as an exception, where 51.4 percent of the land is owned by women. A comparison of women and men landowners in Egypt, Morocco and Oman shows that female landholdings are smaller than male landholdings. In Morocco and Oman, on average, men's landholdings were two and three times the size of women's, respectively.
Many land reform efforts and irrigation and resettlement projects have ignored women as potential beneficiaries (Quisumbing et al., 1995:3). In Egypt, for example, only 7.4 percent of the newly reclaimed land was distributed to women agricultural graduates and, in Morocco, only 4 percent of the land that was redistributed after independence was allocated to women.
Without the ability to exercise their right to landownership, women lack collateral and are thus denied the benefit of policies and institutions designed to alleviate gender inequality and increase their contributions to food security, such as access to credit from rural banks and other means of empowerment (e.g. new technology and more land).