For farmers around the world, a single piece of paper – their land deed – may be the most important tool they could ever have. It’s their only tangible proof that the land they own is legally theirs. Pressure from commercial entities, archaic laws that exclude women as rightful owners, and displacement due to war are just a few of the threats that rural farmers face in keeping ahold of their property. So that’s why land deeds mean everything.
Women make up half the agriculture workforce in sub-Saharan Africa but own just 2 percent of the land.
Unfortunately, this happy photo of a Rwandan woman and her deed is a rare occurrence. Throughout Africa, many land deeds are rotting away in file cabinets and desk drawers, oftentimes unbeknownst to the land’s owners.
These photographs were taken in Liberia and Rwanda by attorneys Elise Scalise and Deborah Espinosa for Landesa, a Seattle-based organization that works to secure fair land rights for rural populations around the globe. Take a look at the conditions in which they found some of these vital documents – and learn more facts about land deeds:
Thank you to Jennifer Duncan, Elise Scalise and Deborah Espinosa at Landesa for sharing these facts and photographs.