Women’s Land Ownership and Household Income Diversification Patterns in Malawi

Women’s Land Ownership and Household Income Diversification Patterns in Malawi

Marya Hillesland, Hema Swaminathan, Caren Grown

Journal of African Development 1 February 2022; 23 (1): 58–86. doi:

This study investigates the association between women’s land ownership within households and household income diversification in rural communities in Malawi in 1995 when households faced several welfare shocks due to weather and policy changes. Evidence suggests that diversification is positively associated with greater resilience of poor rural households, mainly when the diversification is in activities outside of agriculture. While studies have explored the relationship between household asset ownership and income diversification, little is known about the gender dimensions underlying these patterns, including the relationship between men and women’s asset ownership and household diversification. This study uses a unique data set with detailed household income sources and individual-level information on land ownership. The analysis finds that households where women own at least a small amount of land benefit from greater household income diversification. Additionally, while the number of income sources is similar for couple households and female-headed households after controlling for diverse factors, the types of activities differ between the two. The findings suggest that promoting female land ownership in Malawi could indirectly contribute to households’ greater security in the face of unfavourable conditions via household diversification of income sources.

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