Determinants of women’s secure access to land and forest resources: a case of Kpaatuo, Nimba County, Liberia
Nyaley, Gertrude Korvayan
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The study was conducted with the main objective of providing an insight on the factors that condition secure access to land and forest resources by women in North Western Liberia. The specific objectives were to; (1) investigate the relationship between women’ demographic characteristics and their secure access to land; (2) investigate the relationship between women’s demographic characteristics and their secure access to forest resources. The study used questionnaires to gather quantitative data and focus group discussions. Out of a total population of 1,386 people 196 were selected through systematic random sampling procedure. The study revealed that almost all the women in Kpaatuo did not own or purchase land and lacked the right to resell or pass the land to any one even if they purchase the land. It was also observed that access to land for farming and building purposes were mainly gained through family inheritance. On the whole, about a slightly more than four in five of the respondents believed that women’s access to land was not secured. Close to one-half of the respondents interviewed stated that women could be removed from the land for community project, while nearly three-fifth said women could be removed by in-laws or relatives. However, more than nine in ten of the respondents perceived that women’s right to use land was channeled through the customary legal system. Women’s access to forest showed almost identical patterns to access to land. The study disclosed that the two models (Chi - Square and Logistic regression) to determined secured access to land and forest resources were not significant. This occurred mainly because there were huge proportions of respondents of all the demographic characteristics reported having no secured access to land or forest resources. The study also showed that there was no significant relationship between the age, wealth status and education level of women and their secured access to land and forest resources in Kpaatuo town. Results also indicated that a married woman is significantly and highly likely to secure access to land and forest resource compared to other marital categories. Moreover, poor women were 4.4 times likely to be removed from the land in comparison to women of other wealth statuses. This effect of poverty on women lack of secured access to land was highly significant. On the other hand, the effects of the women’s selected background characteristics on their secured access to land were not statistically significant. From these findings, it is realized that women’s access to land and forest resources in Kpaatuo and by extension much of Northwestern Liberia was almost universal. Women were given the right to use the land but could not claim ownership to the land. But more importantly, they could be removed at anytime from the land through customary/traditional laws, which mainly favors the male relatives or in-laws of the women. This makes women in Kpaatuo much more vulnerable. However, this vulnerability is re-enforced by the women’s demographic characteristics: the bulk of the women were young adults who were poor and of low educational standards. The study recommends that greater efforts should be made by the Government of Liberia to improve women’s social economic status. Generally in rural areas in Liberia, women are less educated and are usually poor. Thus girl child education must be promoted so as to increase women’s role in community and household decision-making. Also the overriding perception in rural Northwestern Liberia is that women are either the property of men or the “weaker vessel”, hence cannot be trusted with the ownership of land and forest should be changed through civic education and sensitization programs by relevant government agencies and non-government organizations.