Gendered Livelihoods and Land Tenure: The Case of Artisanal Gold Miners in Mali, West Africa

Citation:

Brottem, Leif V., and Lassine Ba. 2019. “Gendered Livelihoods and Land Tenure: The Case of Artisanal Gold Miners in Mali, West Africa.” Geoforum 105 (October): 54–62.

Authors: Leif V. Brottem, Ba Lassine

Abstract:

Artisanal small-scale mining (ASM) is an important source of income for millions of sub-Saharan Africans. Scholars from various disciplines have demonstrated that urban and rural Africans take up mining as a response to unemployment, lack of credit and poor income prospects in the agricultural sector, and as a way for young people to achieve a degree of personal autonomy. Although several studies have investigated the role of women in artisanal mining, little attention has been given to the gendered land tenure rights that govern mineral resource access and that shape the prospects for mining as a viable livelihood strategy. This article presents evidence that women exploit artisanal mining opportunities in ways that differ from those of men based on gender differences in land tenure relations. Customary and freehold tenure regimes—through their flexibility and place-based functionality—create unique income-generating and investment opportunities for women at artisanal gold mining sites in western Mali. Specifically, the unique labor demands and commercial aspects of artisanal gold extraction interact with the host-stranger dynamics of customary tenure regimes to create labor market opportunities that women are able to exploit. Mining income invested in freehold land property enables women to achieve or at least strive for a degree of financial autonomy that is difficult or impossible within the unequal gender relations that characterize other rural economic activities, especially agriculture. Customary and formal land tenure institutions play a complex role that both constrains and enables these livelihood strategies, which are based on geographic mobility and power-laden social relations within rural economies that are increasingly monetized.

Keywords: artisanal mining, land tenure, gender, political ecology, livelihoods, West Africa

Topics: Economies, Informal Economies, Extractive Industries, Gender, Gender Analysis, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Households, Land Tenure, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Mali

Year: 2019

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