Women's Land Rights and Privatization in Eastern Africa

Article excerpt

LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS Birgit Englert and Elizabeth Daley, eds. Women's Land Rights and Privatization in Eastern Africa. Eastern Africa Series. 2008. James Currey, Fountain Publishers, EAEP, and E&D Vision Publishing. 180 pp. Maps. Bibliography. Index. $37.95. Cloth.

In Women's Land Rights and Privatization in Eastern Africa, ten autiiors explore the interactions among privatization, gender relations, and women's land rights in Eastern Africa. As the editors say in the introduction, "land is the main resource from which millions of people in rural Africa derive their livelihoods [, and women] do the majority of work, producing between 60 and 80% of all food grown. . . . [But] most women ... do not hold secure rights to the land[, and] ... a woman's right to access and control land is still tied to her status as a daughter, sister, mother or wife" (1). How does one comprehend such a situation, in which women do most of the work in agricultural smallholder production but do not hold secure rights to the land they farm? The book analyzes case studies from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda to reveal that women's tenure insecurity is further eroded by challenges of increasing privatization, HIV/ AIDS, conflicts and postconflict situations, internal processes of cultural change, broader processes of commoditization, economic development, and urbanization.

Celestine Nyamu-Musembi discusses the broader policy context within which the debate on women's land rights is situated through her elaborate critique of the writings of Hernando De Soto (The Mystery of Capital, Basic Books, 2000), who argued that "the poor in Africa have remained poor because they have not registered land, which is their only asset." NyamuMusembi examines the case of Kenya, in which land privatization has occurred over the course of seven decades, to question why rural poverty still exists. Judy Adoko and Simone Levine focus on the 1998 Uganda Land Act to demonstrate that the failure of implementation renders good policies useless. The Act recognizes customary land tenure, but broader processes of commoditization and economic and rural-urban shifts have challenged women's land rights; in Apac district, for example, the government also supports a competing policy aimed at promoting die individualization of land tenure for agricultural development and modernization. …