Customary laws deny land ownership

Sikujuwa Madeleine, 48, from North Kivu Province in Eastern DRC
Sikujuwa Madeleine working rented land
Photo: ActionAid

Many women in the DRC continue to struggle to produce enough food for their families since customary laws deny them land ownership and governments refuse support.

Sikujuwa Madeleine, 48, from North Kivu Province in Eastern DRC is a widow and mother of four children. When she and her husband arrived in Rutshuru Territory 20 years ago, they found they had no right to own land as it already belonged to indigenous people.

Sikujuwa’s husband was forced to change his occupation and become a trader, but since her only skill was knowledge of cultivation she decided to rent a field from a landlord. However, the landlord makes her give him half what she produces. 

“I have to share the harvest from this rented land with my landlord - I usually harvest a bag of 100 kg of beans per crop season, which I also have to share equally with him."

This means she barely gets enough food to live on, let alone any extra to sell for income.

I no longer enjoy my work and I live miserably. I cannot bear all the burdens that weigh on our family.  We have repeatedly complained to the authorities and nothing is done - I thought that the situation would change.

Sikujuwa is one of many who need help in making their voices heard, campaigning for changes in the law and demanding government support.

“This customary law which prohibits non-natives to possess land has to be abolished.”