Socio-Cultural Practices That Impact Women Farmers' Land Ownership: A Case of Sukuma Women in Tanzania

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Virginia Tech

In Tanzania women, farmers are main producers of agricultural food products, yet they don't have legal ownership of land. Customary practices often require women to access land through their husbands, fathers, brothers, or other men who control the land. Men as the heads of household, control everything including the type of crops to cultivate and the price. The fact that women farmers do not have legal ownership of land makes them vulnerable and decreases agricultural productivity. When women lose their connection to this male relative, either through death, divorce or migration, they can lose their land, home, and means of supporting themselves and their families.

In the Sukuma tribe, the subject of this case study, many women do not have knowledge about their rights. Instead, they believe what they are told by their elders according to their culture. In the Sukuma society men are the heads of the household and women have no say in any decision about any family matter. The Sukuma tribe are still very conservative and continue to practice harmful traditions that affect agricultural production and the economy.

This study used qualitative interviews, observations, note-taking and artifacts method to determine how cultural practices impact Sukuma women farmers land ownership. The findings show that large proportion of both men and women in the Sukuma society still lacks formal education, and is ignorant about their rights. Many believe in their subjective norms which are derived from beliefs about what their elders, traditional leaders, and ancestors (because these are the people they trust) say or think the person should do and the individual's motivation to comply with their wishes.

Recommendations are made to put emphasis on education both formal and informal for both women and men so as to understand human rights and to change their behavior and perceptions about women farmers' rights to resources. The Sukuma tribe has many clans with different cultural practices, therefore generalization should be made very carefully. More research should be conducted to identify the differences for easy planning and implementing land programs and strategies in Sukuma communities and Tanzania as a whole.

Agriculture, Culture, Gender, Resource distribution