UN Conference Identifies Land Ownership As A Major Problem for Women In Cameroon

Environment actors have pledged to accelerate the restoration of 1 billion hectares of degraded land by 2030, and boost drought resilience.

They took the commitment at the end of the United Nations 15th Conference of parties to Combat desertification which ended Friday May 20, 2022 in Abidjan Ivory Coast.

During the two weeks event, the Cameroonian delegation headed by Cameroon’s Ambassador to Ivory Coast, Mme Kolokou Marie Yvette Nkuo, during the UNCCD COP 15 “Gender Caucus”advocated for Women’s access with regards to land ownership which is still a major concern in Cameroon.

“Less than 20% of all landholders globally are women,” New Study Finds

A new study published by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) says that less than 20 percent of all landholders globally are women.

Speaking at a press briefing from the ongoing UNCCD 15th Conference of the Parties, a senior international consultant argued that without women’s access to land, there can be no equitable development.

There can be no gender equality without access to land,” said Ms. Loreno Aguilar, a former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica. Ms. Aguilar now works for the UNCCD.

Women and the challenge of land ownership in Cameroon

Women in Cameroon constitute about 70% of the agricultural work force but less than 1% of them own land in the country.

The customary law of Cameroon only grants them access to land but no rights to own the property.

More over the 1974 ordinance which establishes that registration is the only proof of ownership further complicates the situation for rural communities.

But, Land remains an intergral part in the socio political development of communities and it is fundamental that women be intergrated in policies with regards to land ownership since they carry out most activities on land.

The country’s 1996 constitution recognises equal rights for land owbership irrespective of sex.
In reality, women in the North West of Cameroon are subjected to a typical patriachal system, which gives them little or no access to land.

Most women in the region are only offered land for cultivation but the property belongs to their spouse or family. Only few women in urban areas buy and own land but most of them find difficulties acquiring full land tenure.

Desertification heightens

Delegates from 196 countries including Cameroon at the 15th Conference of parties of United Nations to combat desertification, holding in Ivory Coast have identified “Tenure security as a crucial enabler for land degradation neutrality”

Without the rights to own property, Women are discouraged to invest time and energy in ecosystem restoration and community based adaptions.

Lovees Aferbombi an environment expert in Bamenda opines that women in the region are resource managers and their role in fighting land degradation and desertification cannot be minimised.

The Coordinator of Cameroon youth for sustainable Development and Environmental Protection, Elvis Tata Fonyuy, says it’s important to get women on board in policies regarding land and the fight against desertification.

The gender rights advocates opine that gender disparity hinder equality to land rights.

As the UNCCD Conferece ends , there are calls for the populations to take urgent action in land restoration and this can be achieved with the full participation of women in land policies.

This story was produced as part of a virtual reporting fellowship to the UNCCD COP15 supported by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.

Sylvie Bantar

Elvis Teke

Journalist, Online Reporter, News Presenter, Programme Anchor, Peace Advocate, Geo-strategist,

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