Land rights are essential to sustainable and equitable economic, social, political development. To make all of this happen, we believe that rural women, men and communities need voices and choices regarding their rights to land.

We recognise that working on land, means working on big changes in a broader governance system with multiple socio-political, economic and environmental interests.

Photo: Eduardo Martino/OxfamAUS

“I have learnt that nothing is impossible if you persevere.”

Suresho from Sharanpur
Proud owner of 1 hectare of agricultural land in UP, India

Land is so much more than a mere economic resource and a means for production. Securing rights to land allows women greater political power, community representation and economic security. Land rights reflect the relationships between people and the land, and between each other. Transforming women’s land rights in rural societies implies strengthening their position within their families, communities and societies.

As well as providing food, livelihoods and income, land provides people with social status, access to power and decision-making. It is a key tool in advancing the socio-economic rights and well-being of women, their position in society and the cohesion and development of entire communities.

Globally, there is a great disparity between the genders in their access to land, which greatly diminishes women’s ability to gain autonomy and to develop greater power and representation. The gender disparities in land holdings exist in all regions. This inequality is not just an issue for women, but greatly impacts men, children, and society as a whole.

Oxfam continues to play an important role to advance women’s land rights. We help to bolster female leaders within communities, which boosts women’s representation in a broad and profound way. We also engage with international initiatives, like the Kilimanjaro initiative, to drive women’s land rights as an important issue. We advocate for gender-sensitive policy formulation and implementation. We lobby companies to ensure more responsible and sustainable gender-sensitive land investments, which in-turn support the rights of rural women and their communities globally.

Malawi: Empowering women to claim and demand their land rights

Southern Africa #women2Kilimanjaro Caravan

My Land: My Life (WiLDAF Ghana)

Women's Land Rights Learning Journey

Photo: Saul Martinez/Oxfam

It affects more people than you think.

Up to 2.5 billion people, including 370 million Indigenous People, depend on lands and natural resources that are held, used or managed collectively. They protect more than 50% of the land on the planet but legally they own just one-fifth (Who Owns the World’s Land? RRI, 2015).

In 2016, a group of organizations (convened by Oxfam, the International Land Coalition, and the Rights and Resources Initiative) launched a global call to action to secure indigenous and community land rights. A number of initiatives, such as the Land Rights Now alliance campaign, were created to put pressure on governments and others in power to take action. Over 800 organizations have since joined Land Rights Now which mobilizes the public around national campaigns and yearly global weeks of action.

Our approach for achieving systemic change

We envisage a future in which land-based investments are made in a context of secure land rights and citizens realising their full potential. Female smallholder farmers, food producers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples and local communities should be able to decide for themselves how their land is used. Youth should have opportunities to thrive in rural areas. If local communities choose to welcome agriculture investments, they should receive an equitable share of the benefits. We stand with and for the community and their genuine interests as the starting point, even if that means supporting their rejection of external investments.

We have a long track record on engaging with the private sector through an insider or outsider approach. This can include public campaigning to press companies to commit to take meaningful action to support land-related human rights. We also engage constructively with companies taking clear steps to improve their practices. As a rights-based organization that works at the intersection of business and sustainable development, we provide guidance to companies on how they can contribute to sustainable development that supports communities to improve their food security and livelihoods. Because of this role, we’re considered a valuable partner by many private sector actors.

Oxfam works to encourage companies to ‘do no harm’, as well as to proactively ‘do good’. What do these mean exactly?



Roughly 25% of global emissions come from land use, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate change is putting high pressure on land and increasing the vulnerability of communities who rely on it for their livelihoods.

The impacts of increasingly unpredictable climates and natural disasters on land use, land productivity, land degradation and wildlife habitat destruction are undeniable. This calls for urgent holistic land management solutions and responses that restore ecosystems, build resilience, reduce emissions and strengthen land rights. If done right, sustainable and inclusive land management and land governance can be a powerful tool for tackling climate change.

Photo: Keith Lane / Oxfam America

Agribusiness is now the deadliest sector for land rights defenders.

At Oxfam, we are deeply concerned about the worsening levels of violence, repression and even murders targeting the women and men defending human rights globally. Those speaking out to protect their land are particularly vulnerable, especially in Latin America.

According to the watchdog group Global Witness, in 2017, 207 land rights defenders were killed. Those murdered include Indigenous leaders, wildlife rangers, environmental activists, journalists and many everyday people simply trying to their families, farms and livelihoods.

These numbers only seem to be increasing. We therefore support human rights defenders working on land rights. Our key strategies include:

  1. Increasing visibility of abuses and helping legitimize their work;
  2. Supporting their engagement with stakeholders that can address human rights violations within shrinking civic space;
  3. Increasing local, national and global level peer-to-peer exchange among human rights defenders and their community-based organisations.

Photo: Claudia Barrientos / Oxfam America