MANILA -- Despite its status as one of the top countries where gender gap is the narrowest, women in the Philippines who own land only account for a little over 10 percent of all landowners in the country, according to a study recently released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In its report, titled “Gender Equality and Food Security—Women’s Empowerment as a Tool Against Hunger,” the Manila-based multilateral development bank said, however, that the country already had one of the most women landowners among its peers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
This means that if the country has a total population of approximately 92 million, based on the 2010 census of population, there are a little over 9.2 million women landowners in the country.
“Land is the most valued form of property and a source of livelihood security in rural areas. It acts as a buffer against economic shocks, providing almost complete insurance against malnutrition, as it reduces the dependency of the household on market prices for food commodities. For women, land is a pivotal resource for meeting subsistence needs, and for accessing other goods and services, such as credit. Access to credit often depends on the ability to use land as collateral,” the study stated.
The Philippines was second only to Malaysia where women landowners comprise about 12 percent to 13 percent of the total number of landowners. In other Asean countries like Indonesia and Vietnam, women comprise less than 10 percent of the total number of landowners.
The report stated that more than 15 percent but less than 20 percent of all landowners in countries like Tanzania, the United Kingdom and Argentina were women. Those countries with women landowners comprising above 20 percent but less than 30 percent were France, Spain, Chile and Ecuador.
Botswana was the only country cited by the ADB with women landowners comprising more than 30 percent of the population who own land.
“The overall pattern is disquieting. In the Indian southern state of Karnataka, a survey collected asset ownership information for all physical and financial assets at the individual level,” the ADB said.
“[The data] compares women’s ownership of land in a sample of Asian countries to that in countries in other regions, using the percentage of deeds including the name of the woman as an indicator of ownership,” it added.
In a statement, the ADB said women have the potential to become assets in food production but labor and land ownership laws throughout the Asia-Pacific region prevent them from reaching their full potential.
The ADB said a FAO study estimated that closing the gender gap in access to productive resources such as land, credit, machinery or chemicals could eliminate yield gaps of 20 percent to 30 percent among women and men, increase domestic agricultural output by 2.5 percent to 4 percent, and mean up to 100 million fewer people living in hunger.
“Removing the barriers women face in their roles as food producers, farmworkers, and primary caregivers is achievable and inexpensive,” ADB Regional and Sustainable Development Department Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development Practice Leader Lourdes Adriano said.
“Paying women a decent wage, improving their access to tools, fertilizers and credit, and guaranteeing their right to own and access land will have a huge multiplier effect on food security and hunger reduction,” she added.
The report was authored by UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter and takes an in-depth look at women’s role in food production, nutrition and access to food in the region, and the steps needed to remove the barriers facing them.