Women’s access rights to resources: a case of indigenous fruit trees in Fissebu Region, Liberia.
About 80% of food production in Sub-Saharan Africa is carried out by women, who own less than 20% of the region’s land. Also, women rights to land and land-based resources are tied up in the state of tenure insecurity. These situations are no different to Liberia. After twenty-six years of civil wars, securing women’s rights over land and its associated natural resources is one of the core objectives of the tenure reform initiative of the government. This study sought to explore the role of indigenous fruit trees in women’s livelihood and its implication for women’s land tenure security in Fissebu, Liberia. Specifically, the study identified the different livelihoods and modes of access to land and other land-based resources; investigated the indigenous fruits harvested by women and the property rights to fruit trees under the different land tenure systems; and investigated the factors that govern women’s access to fruit trees. Literature reviews, focus group discussions and household interviews were the data collection methods used. The results of the study revealed that household mainly involved in subsistence farming and indigenous fruits trade as major livelihood activities. Although men were often involved in the marketing of fruits to support livelihoods in the household, women were however the main trader of fruits and fruit products in the community. Farming and indigenous fruits harvesting were done by household under two main tenure regimes, which included common land and family land respectively. At the household and community levels, although women had some form of access to land under these two tenure regimes, the different mechanisms of land acquisitions which included allocation by the chief, inheritance and borrowing mainly favored their male counterparts. The results further revealed that, while men mainly harvested fruits of high economic value and social-cultural importance, women were mainly involved with fruit harvesting for domestic use. With the exception of economic fruit trees reported to be associated with property rights, the results revealed that individual household members had free access to fruits and other tree products from fruit trees reported to be open access resources. The results of the study finally revealed that women’s access to fruit trees were governed by their marital relationship with men and their adherence to society norms that operated at the household and community levels. From the empirical findings, the study concluded that women’s access rights to indigenous fruits were limited as they had indirect access to land and economic fruit tree resources through their male counterparts who were often reported as chief and family head respectively. Women’s access rights to fruit trees were also limited given that the transmission of property rights over economic fruit tree resources at the household and community levels was patriarchal, which mainly favored their male counterparts. Therefore, it is recommended that government and stakeholders should devise policy at the local community-level to improve women’s access to land and hence indigenous fruit trees, given the role of indigenous fruit trees in the livelihood of women.