It’s a fine, windy morning and Sarah Aryee is neatly dressed in a white T-shirt and Ghanaian wrap, her hair tied in a ceremonial scarf. She is here to meet other women farmers who have gathered under a tree near the community school. The women are here to listen to her talk about land ownership and its importance to women farmers.
Ms. Aryee says: “My heart feels glad to educate women so that they know and fight for their right to own land. It is important that every woman who can afford to buy a piece of land should be given the same opportunity given to men because this is our constitutional right.”
Ms. Aryee lives in Kojo Ashong, a small community in Amasaman district in the eastern region of Ghana. She is a member of the Good Female Farmers Group and a strong advocate for women’s rights on many issues, including land.
In the past, women in Kojo Ashong were not able to access land because traditions maintained that land belongs to men. Ms. Aryee says, “We farmed on land that either belonged to our husbands or male relatives. We had no right to talk to our chiefs about getting land of our own.”
She adds that although women are now able to talk to chiefs about access to land, they are still struggling. While it is very easy for a man to approach the chief with a request to buy land, it’s not the same for a woman.
Ms. Aryee explains: “Women find it harder to access land than men because they have to go to the chief with men and without a man accompanying them, their request to purchase land … is usually turned down by chiefs.”
According to Ms. Aryee, most communities in Ghana still have “stool” land available for lease or purchase. Stool lands belong to the community and are mainly controlled by the chief. For women to access this land, they must first consult the chief.
She explains: “The first step to acquire stool land is to meet the chief and let him know your intention to either purchase or lease land. The chief will ask you about the use of the land to know if you want it for farming, building, or for any other activities.”
After engaging the chief, says Ms. Aryee, it’s important for women to visit the nearest Lands Commission with the land registration number of the stool land in order to confirm that it’s indeed available for purchase.
She adds: “When this is settled, you can then go ahead and make payment to the chief. Always remember to take a receipt for every purchase you make because this becomes the guarantee that you have entered into such an agreement with the custodian of the stool land.”
Ms. Aryee says that, although most women are satisfied that they have acquired land after paying the chief, it is important to secure their land by also applying for both the title and deed registration.
Vida Sackey attended the meeting and learned a lot. She explains: “I have learned that I should always deal with the chief and principal elders when buying stool land. I also always deal with the head of the family and the principal family elders when buying family land.”
Mrs. Sackey says that the process women must follow to access land is challenging because it’s very long. But because she wants land, she has no choice but to follow the cumbersome process. Yet she is not discouraged because the reward is secure land ownership.
Mrs. Sackey says, “Once I acquire the land, I no longer fear that my father or anyone will grab or take my land from me.”
Lamley Sackey also lives in Kojo Ashong. She says, “Now everyone knows her rights. I am no longer an ignorant farmer because I can now get my own land without having to take my husband with me.”
Ms. Aryee tells the women at the meeting that they must always follow the right procedures to register and secure their land. This enables them to plan their farming activities and use their land documents to secure loans for farming.
She says, “Know that it’s your right to own land and property. It’s your duty to do what it takes to properly secure it.”
Ms. Aryee says she’s glad that the process of acquiring land is now changing in many villages and areas of the country. She explains: “This situation is still prevalent in many communities in rural Ghana, but is fast changing as both chiefs and women are receiving education on the constitutional rights of women to own land irrespective of their gender.”
This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.