Gender, Property Rights, and Natural Resources


Meinzen-Dick, Ruth, Lynn Brown, Hilary Sims Feldstein, and Agnes Quisumbing. 1997. “Gender, Property Rights and Natural Resources.” World Development 25 (8): 1303–15.

Authors: Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Lynn R. Brown, Hilary Sims Feldstein, Agnes R. Quisumbing

Keywords: natural resources, intrahousehold, land tenure, water resources, trees



Attention to gender differences in property rights can improve the outcomes of natural resource management policies and projects in terms of efficiency, environmental sustainability, equity, and empowerment of resource users. Although it is impossible to generalize across cultures and resources, it is important to identify the nature of rights to land, trees and water held by women and men, and how they are acquired and transmitted from one user to another. The paper particularly examines how the shift from customary tenure systems to private property - in land, trees and water - has affected women, the effect of gender differences in property on collective action, and the implications for project design.


“The maximization of one output from a resource, for example fruits, may be in conflict with the maximization of another, for example logs, and thus hard choices may have to be made... there may be gender differentials if, for example, logs are marketed by men and fruits are gathered by women and provide a source of income and/or food” (p. 1305).

“Lastarria-Cornhiel’s paper in this issue points out how the spread of Islam and colonialism have eroded traditions of female inheritance in parts of Africa. But looking narrowly at inheritance patterns for one resource may be misleading. For example, in rural areas of the Philippines, transmission of land to men through inheritance is balanced by favoring the education of girls (Wuisumbing, 1997)” (p. 1308).
“The policy implication is that privatization programs need to be designed so that women can obtain title, but this may not be sufficient to allow women to intensify production. That requires access to credit and other inputs in support of resource utilization. Limited access to markets, credit, and inputs may be because they are not there at all; or skewed because of normative or legal gender bias restricting women’s access. This implies a need for complementary programs to provide credit and legal assistance along with appropriately designed rules” (p. 1309).
“A related question is whether women are better off by integrating into existing male-dominated groups or in setting up their own groups for resource management (e.g. nurseries, social forestry action, etc.)? Examples from other arenas tend to indicate that the different roles and responsibilities of women can prejudice their ability to integrate successfully in mixed groups” (p. 1311).
“Legal systems need to be developed and adapted to assist women in obtaining or protecting their rights. In many cases this requires moving beyond simple ownership, to a recognition of flexible, multiuser tenure arrangement” (p. 1312).

Topics: Economies, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Land Tenure, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 1997

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