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Gender and access to land and natural resources in Mali and Niger

In some West African countries, decentralisation and the establishment of local government are opening the way to more representative democratic processes. One hope is that, as a result, women will get more involved in public life.

Access to land and natural resources in Mali and Niger is a prerequisite for secure livelihoods for the vast majority of people. Better participation in decision making, therefore, should mean that women are able to improve and secure their access to natural resources (including land) as well as to public services. Using gender and generation as a lens to see how access is differentiated helps us to understand how better to support rural families.

This paper outlines research carried out in Mali and Niger on how women’s access to land and natural resources is changing. In depth case studies in many different agro-ecological regions were carried out. These ranged from densely populated areas with relatively high levels of rainfall, where crop cultivation is the main activity to more sparsely populated zones where rainfall is low and pastoralism is the main activity.

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Gender is still largely considered to be about women rather than about a vital dynamic in society. And often gender issues are seen as a concern of the global north. The interlocking of production and social reproduction, the formal and informal sectors, and the constantly evolving relations between men and women, and between younger and older generations, are at the heart of this dynamic. A strong analysis of gender and generation is crucial to understanding power imbalances and being able to influence them.

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Making Gender and Generation Matter