Explaining the Gender Gap in Agricultural Productivity: An Analysis of Farmers’ Land Tenure Security in Rural Ghana

May 4, 2020   /  

Student: Efua Aferiba Hayford
Major: Economics
Advisors: Dr. Melanie Long, Dr. Amyaz Moledina

Efua Hayford

This research considers lower productivity levels of female farmers and how this contributes to gender differences in food security and agricultural income. I hypothesize that more secure land tenure rights for women will explain the gender gap in agricultural productivity. The relationship between these variables is examined using the Theory of Household Bargaining, the Assurance Effect and the Collateralizability Effect. The hypothesis is tested with a multivariate regression analysis using household survey data from Ghana. Although the estimated relationship between the security of land ownership and agricultural productivity is positive, it is statistically insignificant and has a negligible effect on gender. Additionally, I consider how secure land tenure can affect agricultural investment of farmers in rural Ghana. The empirical analysis shows an overall negative effect on investment when the farmer is female, and varying coefficients for land tenure security, depending on the type of investment being explored.

The empirical analysis of this research paper uses a dataset from the Living Standards Measurement Survey (LSMS) which presents household survey data from 2009 on a random sample of households from the ten regions of Ghana. From this dataset, I derive output per hectare as a measure of agricultural productivity. I explore the effects of gender, the fear of expropriation and other controls on this outcome variable using an OLS regression model. The results weakly support the hypothesis, showing that women have lower productivity and that secure land rights are positively associated with productivity. However, the ownership security result is not statistically significant.


Overtime, research has been conducted to explore the gender gap that exists in agricultural productivity in Ghana. Overall, the results have shown that male farmers in this area have higher productivity (output per hectare) than their female counterparts. This gap exists because of factors such as differences in farm inputs (for example, seeds or farm tools), the access to fertile plots of land, and the structure of the household, also the gender inequality in access to land rights.

Having a secure claim to land provides room for the farmer to produce and be productive over a long space of time. When the farmers have rights to the land, that cannot be contested by anyone, they are free to produce at any level and expand their production over time.

However, it is not enough to ask whether land rights are granted to women. It also matters whether women’s land rights are secure or easily threatened. This Senior Independent Study explores the question of whether land tenure security explains part of the gender gap in agricultural productivity among landowners in rural Ghana. In discussing land tenure security, this research speaks extensively on how the issue of uncertainty or the fear of losing land applies to male and female landowners and in turn, how that affects their output per hectare and investment. The hypothesis for this research is that lower land tenure security among women partly explains lower agricultural productivity and investment among female landowners in Ghana.

The research works on the basis of the theories of household bargaining, the assurance effect, and the collateralizability effect to explore this relationship. The theory of household decision making considers how decisions made within a household can impact the ownership of land and decisions to invest by female farmers. The Assurance Effect investigates the ways that farmers can make a stronger claim to land and the return of investment made on that land. The assurance effect is modeled both by using decision trees with Expected Net Present Value calculations and by modeling the impact of uncertainty on a farmer’s long run capital investment decision. Lastly, the Collateralizability Effect examines how farmers may gain access to capital by using their land as collateral in the credit access process.

Efua will be online to field comments on May 8:
2-4 pm EDT (PST 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

51 thoughts on “Explaining the Gender Gap in Agricultural Productivity: An Analysis of Farmers’ Land Tenure Security in Rural Ghana”

  1. Hi Efua—
    I learned so much reading through your slides and your IS description. Wow! This is really interesting and such an important theory to research. I’d love to hear more about how women are granted land rights and how the household bargaining notion plays out or works. Congrats on all your hard work and completing your IS! My son is a junior at Woo and I am always so impressed with all the amazing talent within the student body! Way to go!

    1. Hello Elizabeth!
      Thank you so much for your kind words!
      So a good chunk of the literature I consulted for my research explained that most women who were married or in consensual unions had access to land through the male heads of their family. Besides that, rights could be granted directly to the woman by the decree of a local chief or leader of an area or by the presentation of an official land title or deed that had the name of the landowner, and the amount of time they were allowed to use the land.

      In practice, the household bargaining theory explains the day to day decisions of members within the household on who gets what size of plot and what agricultural resources are allocated to each member. In comparing the bargaining positions of male and female members within the household, I looked specifically at their threat points within the bargain. For a traditional agricultural household, this essentially explains the level of risk that the member goes into the bargain of resources with, and also their level of wellbeing, should the household be completely dissolved. Generally, the literature showed women to have lower threat points and hence a lower claim to the resources in the household.

      I hope this answers your questions! Thank you again!

  2. Efua, you used data from a national survey. If you could, what question would you have added to this survey?

    1. Thank you for question Karen.

      If I could add more questions in the survey, I would ask households about the specific ways that they came to own their land; whether through a customary system or through the government.

      I would also be interested in specific threats to the loss of land. Some readings for my research suggested some threats such as divorce, the death of a spouse, discriminatory laws against women or eminent domain by the government. I feel like these would have helped to better defined the gender differential in security and productivity.

  3. So wonderful to be able to read the fulfillment of all your research and hard work! I hope your research will be read and utilized by others who desire to improve equity in land ownership and management around the world.

    It has been a privilege to know and work with you. You will be missed tremendously, but I am excited to see where life takes you and the impact on the world you’re yet to make!

    1. Thank you so much Jill for encouraging me through it all!
      And yes, I would definitely like to continue this research and contribute to the overall literature surrounding the issue.

      Thank you thank you and I will miss you too! 🙂

  4. Congratulations on your IS, it is a huge accomplishment. I am always amazed at how the gender gap impacts women and their ability to forge ahead in the world regardless of the arena. I had not considered this in relationship to agricultural productivity and land tenure. Appreciate you shining a light on this-thank you!

    1. Thank you so much Cassandra!
      It was a challenging task deciding on what my research topic would be especially since a large body of work already exists on the land rights and investment or productivity in general.
      I am grateful to my advisor for guiding me to consider the impact of gender within that relationship.

      Thank you again!

  5. Congratulations, Efua! This is such an interesting project.
    I wonder if you could say more about why female-led farm plots were consistently less productive, even after controlling for other known influences like land tenure security, etc.

    I’m also curious what’s next for you, and what, if any, connection your IS has to your future plans.

    1. Hello Dr. Leiby,
      I’m very happy to hear from you!!

      So I had this discussion with both my readers and found that across the board, levels would consistently be less for female-led plots, because of my measure of productivity. I measured it as output per hectare or plot size of the farmer. Seeing as within some households, smaller plots were allocated to female members, productivity levels would always come out as being lower than their male counterparts who had larger plots. We discussed that a more definitive measure of this could be the labor expended on any given plot size per hour.

      Moving forward, I would definitely love to dig more into this subject to understand land rights and how the differences in male and female productivity can be explained. I am currently exploring research positions in development economics and will possibly pursue a postgraduate degree within that field.

  6. Hi Efua,

    Really enjoyed being your second reader on this project. I was wondering if you could say a few words about our discussion on the “measure” of productivity. Is the measure of productivity, for example output per hectare, in some way biased against women farmers? If you could find the data, what measure would you use to capture productivity instead?

    1. Hi Dr. Moledina!

      So I measured productivity as the output per hectare of the farmer. Output was basically the total market value of the crops that the farmers cultivated on their plots.
      We mentioned in our discussion that this measure was indeed biased against women because female-led plots were consistently smaller than male plots.
      If provided more data, I would have measured productivity as the labor per hour of a farmer on a given plot of land.

      Thank you again for all your guidance in this process!

  7. Dear Efua,

    What a wonderful project! I cannot wait to see what you do that is going to significantly impact Ghana because I know you will!!!! You are an amazing, dedicated, and special person who I am thrilled to have had the privilege to have gotten to know. You have touched my heart. Bless you and take great care as you move on to the next chapter in your life. I will miss you but cannot wait until our paths cross again.

    All the best, and congratulations!

    1. Thank you so much Sandi!
      I am so grateful to have met you too.
      Bless you too and take care!! 🙂

  8. Hey Efua, you did it!!! So proud 😊 . I hope you are able to carry what you’ve learned through IS into efforts to make changes in the agricultural gender gap in Ghana. I enjoyed our conversations about your IS and am sad we did not have opportunity for one final meeting. I wish you the best. Congratulations.

    1. Hi Dr. Johnson,

      I’m also really sad that we didn’t get to meet one last time. But yes, it all came together in the end!!
      Thank you so much for all you counsel and encouragement!
      I will definitely keep in touch.

      Thank you and all the best to you too!

  9. So very impressed with your project, Efua. I’d also be eager to hear about the questions you think should be added to the national survey in the future. It has seemed to me over the years that researchers who have struggled with the limitations that existing measures place on their own research are often the ideal people to improve those measures, so that more questions of importance can be answered — or answered better. Congratulations and all the best to you!

    1. Thank you Ari.
      If I could add to the survey, I would definitely ask more questions surrounding the methods of land ownership and the enforcement of land rights that are granted to farmers. I would also be interested in clearly established social structures within different localities that affect the tenure security of farmers.
      For example, in some of my readings I saw how some societies enforced land ownership and tenure through the lineage of the male head of the family. Of course this eliminates the chances of women who are married into the family, in getting secure land rights in order to be fully productive. I think such a distinction by locality or region would allow for a detailed discussion of the relationship between rights and productivity and essentially avoids grouping all localities under one umbrella term of “rural Ghana”

      Thank you so much for this question, in some ways it just gave me a new angle at looking at my research!

  10. Efua!

    Thanks for sharing your research. I appreciate learning about your work and its importance.

    What would you like to study moving forward? Continue with this research line?

    All the best to you and CONGRATULATIONS!

    1. Hi Anne! Great to hear from you!

      I feel like the responses so far and the different ways that others have engaged with my IS have encouraged me to consider looking more into this particular research and the ways to help women be more productive and self-sufficient in agricultural households.

      More specifically, I would hope to be one of the surveyors who walks door to door to collect information from households. I think that would be really fun!!

      Thank you Anne and all the best to you too!

  11. Félicitations, Efua! Quel projet intéressant malgré ses conclusions limitées. Ce serait fascinant de voir où une étude encore plus approfondie te conduirait. En tous les cas, je voulais te dire que cela avait été un énorme plaisir de t’avoir en classe et que je te souhaite un très bel avenir. Encore toutes mes félicitations!

    1. Merci beaucoup pour vos commentaires Prof Duval.
      C’est aussi ma plaisir d’avoir fait partie de vos cours!!

  12. Fascinating work! I’m so intrigued by the fact that you sort of had to read land tenure status as implied by answers to the question about whether farmers could leave their land fallow for several months–first of all, it’s interesting that the study didn’t seem to ask directly about land tenure, and the question itself relates to how the farmers use the land. Very interesting–thanks for sharing and congratulations!

    1. Thank you so much Katherine, I really appreciate your observations.

      I completely agree that the measure of land tenure was very limiting especially in a survey as large as those provided by the LSMS. I feel like my only defense for this lack of specified information is that the dataset I could find on Ghana was concerned about many aspects of the household besides agriculture. So in my analysis, I had to merge different data files in order to essentially structure the story I wanted to tell. Specifically with this measure of security I was confronted with the fact that fallowing could also stand as a method of investment and not merely an indication of one’s security of land tenure.

      This was a very insightful comment. Thank you!

  13. Congratulations Efua!
    This project is so interesting and I’m eager to learn more about it.
    Just from reading the description I can tell a lot of thought and hard work went to into this.
    I am so proud of you and what you have achieved here. I wish you all this best in your future endeavours and I can’t wait to witness the change and impact you’ll bring to this world.

    1. I appreciate you so much Miss Esua- Mensah.
      I am grateful to you and your family for constantly encouraging me this past year in my research process.

      Blessings to you!

  14. Efua you are the best!! Way to go with your project, you did amazing. Thank you for your help and support.

    1. Thank you so much Blake!
      Thank you for being my IS buddy since junior year.
      I am so proud of us!! Congrats to you too!! 🙂

  15. This is a great project. The topic is so very important in development economics. Questions of gender, productivity, and agricultural are at the forefront of the research priorities, including for Africa. Data limits, as you note, are key and the LSMS data needs to be expanded. Your work help to highlight this too.


  16. Many are grateful for you bringing light to this topic, including myself. Be proud of all you accomplished, you’re worth so much to this world. Excellent job Efua 🙂

  17. Congratulations on your IS, Effua! This is a very interesting subject, and it is illuminating to see what kinds of influences there may be on agricultural productivity, which is such an important factor for the thriving of many individuals and societies. I really appreciate your work.

    I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, and am glad to see that you are considering pursuing further study and work in these areas. It has been great getting to know you (you are one of the very first members of the class of 2020 I got to meet!) I am certain you will do great things wherever you may choose to take your profession. All my best, Pres. Bolton

    1. Thank you so much President Bolton for your kind words.
      It’s been my pleasure sharing this campus with you for the past few years.

      My very best to you too!

      -Efua Hayford.

  18. ¡Hola Efua, felicidades! El estudio es muy interesante y muy bien escrito . Yo soy interesado veo cómo esto puede ser explorado. ¡Otra vez, felicidades y buena suerte!

  19. Congratulations Efua.
    Reading your research paper and going through your slides, we are really impressed with all the hard work you have put into the successful completion of your IS. It is a great accomplishment and we are so very proud of you.
    We really hope it will contribute in no small way in improving the issues of equity in land ownership and management in Ghana and West Africa.
    We love you.

    1. Thank you so much Mummy and Daddy.
      I am so glad that you get you see my research and the product of all the love and sacrifice you have put into me these past few years.
      Thank you so much and I’m proud of you too. We are graduating!!!!!

      Love you always
      -Aferiba 🙂

      1. We are graduating, proud of you Efua for an excellent work that surly will go a long way to helping empower the female gender to maximize contribution to the agriculture sector and general national sector at Large, Ghana is blessed to have you.

  20. Hi Efua,
    I am extremely proud of you and how far you have come. It has been an honor to watch you start and finish this project. I’m highly impressed by your dedication and creativity. Your study is very intriguing and I am very proud you chose to be a voice for an often silenced demographic. I’m so proud of you and you will always be an inspiration to me.

    Your baby sister.

  21. Agriculture and women’s rights? This topic never gets old for me. You did a great job! Congrats!

  22. I’m so proud of you, Efua! Look at you using your gifts to ask hard questions of the world and move us toward understanding and justice. So typical of you. 🙂 Wooster will never be the same without you. God bless you, my dear sister! Love you, Julie

  23. This is a very interesting research question you explored Efua…I wonder if there is a gender gap in relation to barriers to entry to markets and supply chains as well? Such a fascinating study!

  24. Absolutely beautiful work, Efua! Thank you for sharing this extraordinary project with us. Wa y3 ade! Merci d’être la personne que vous êtes <3

Comments are closed.