There is a common view and belief that women are the ones that do the farming in Africa while the men do not work much. This paper seeks to find explanations to why land productivity is lower on land rented out by female landlord households than on land rented out by male landlord households in the Ethiopian highlands. The authors find that female landlords have tenants who are older, own less oxen, are more related, and under longer-term contracts. In the parametric regressions land productivity was significantly lower on plots rented out to in-law tenants and this appeared to explain the gender productivity differential. The authors show how female landlords may be forced to rent their land to their inlaws and they are unable to evict them even if they are inefficient land users. Land reforms that strengthen women’s land rights may therefore be good for efficiency as well as equity. Recent land regulations restricting renting out of land to maximum half of the farm area may contribute to weaken women’s land rights as a large share of the poor female landlords currently rent out more than half of their land because they lack the necessary non-land resources to farm efficiently. The following conclusions are identified:
female landlords face higher tenure insecurity and have lower bargaining power. This leads to poorer screening and selection ability, poorer quality tenants and lower resource rents
strengthening women’s land rights may not only be good for equity but also for efficiency of land use
there is a new regulation that only up to half of the land owned can be rented out. At present it is often violated however if this regulation is implemented strongly, it will contribute to more tenure insecurity for the poorest landlords that often are female-headed households.
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