PRRPB: Women and land rights in Burundi

PRRPB: Women and land rights in Burundi

The Burundi Landscape Restoration and Resilience Project (PRRPB) financed by the World Bank for the Government of Burundi, in its sub-component concerning land certification, which is implemented by the IGN FI/ GEOFIT/ LADEC Group, aims in particular to improve the situation of women in relation to access to land and the securing of women’s land rights.

Burundian women should be able to enjoy full participation in the social, economic and political life of the country, but the reality is quite different. Land is mainly acquired through inheritance in Burundi and constitutes the main means of subsistence for about 90% of the Burundian population, 51% of whom are women. However, the law on inheritance, matrimonial regimes and gifts does not yet exist. Thus, women’s rights over this resource are governed by custom and tradition, which discriminate against women. In the context of a patriarchal culture, women do not inherit the land, they are only usufructuaries and their right to use it depends on the goodwill of their parents, brothers and sometimes their in-laws.

These customs are deeply rooted in the mentality of rural communities and therefore often represent a considerable obstacle to development and to equal rights for men and women. This can have consequences for household food security.

Nevertheless, the country’s authorities have authorised an experiment within the framework of the project: on the basis of the beneficiaries’ voluntary participation, it is proposed to register the names of both spouses on the land documentation and in particular on the certificate attesting to the rights over the plot of land given to the owner(s).

Thanks to a strong sensitisation of the population, carried out in close collaboration with the communal administration, there has been a remarkable appropriation of this experiment.

Thus, in the hills of the communes of Isare, Buhinyuza and Matongo that were supported by this project, more than 70% of the land recognised during the systematic certification process is registered in the name of women, either alone (when they are single or divorced) or with their spouses, with a view to protecting the household assets.

Some of the women we met in Matongo confirm that thanks to the sensitisation on the registration of land in the names of both spouses, they have become aware of the interest and added value of this approach for the families that agree to it. They are pleased that the registration of land in the name of both spouses is an innovation that gives women security and peace of mind: they have rights to access land and will continue to exercise them even in the absence of their husbands. The inscription of their names on the land certificates is therefore a source of pride for them and a guarantee of the security of their estates, they say.

These women also say that before the PRRPB‘s activities, they did not know that with land certification, the owner of a land certificate can use it to apply for credit from financial institutions and invest in their secured land. Women landowners are therefore ready to go and take out credit to accomplish mini-projects for their economic empowerment, they conclude.

Learn more about the project with the World Bank mission that took place in late November:

Burundi: Certifying Land Ownership Protects the Landscape and Women as Well