Women’s Land Rights Champion: Semaly Kisamo

This series features Women’s Land Rights Champions within USAID to learn more about their work. We’re pleased to share this interview with Semaly Kisamo, USAID Tanzania’s Project Management Specialist for Policy. 

Semaly Kisamo, USAID/Tanzania

Tell us about yourself

I joined the USAID/Tanzania mission in July 2016 as the Project Management Specialist for Policy in the Economic Growth (EG) Office, which is responsible for planning, managing, and evaluating projects and activities in support of USAID/Tanzania’s 2nd development objective (empowerment, productivity, and engagement of Tanzanians aged 15 to 35 increased). The EG Office is also responsible for implementing Feed the Future, Power Africa and other Presidential Initiatives in Tanzania and coordinating with Regional and Global programs.

As a key member of the Resilience and Food Security Team (RFS) within the Economic Growth Office, my role includes providing technical direction in designing programs that seek to accelerate Tanzania’s adoption of more effective policies to drive broad-based agricultural sector growth in the country. In addition, I oversee activity performance, financial reports, and manage the assigned portfolio. My work also involves building and strengthening relationships with key relevant partner institutions, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the ministry

of Agriculture, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Human Settlements Development, and other key national, sub-national and non-governmental institutions in Tanzania to encourage optimal coordination, harmonization, and alignment of U.S. Government policy programs.

Currently, I serve as the Agreement/Contracting Officer’s Representative (A/COR) for USAID/Tanzania’s Feed the Future flagship policy activity, SERA BORA ( “Better Policies”). Prior to that, I managed the Feed the Future Tanzania Land Tenure Assistance (LTA) activity. Before joining USAID/Tanzania, I worked for over 12 years with the Government of Tanzania (GoT) as a Senior Economist in the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs. Before serving in the GoT, I worked as a Programme Officer Grants for the Foundation for Civil Society Limited, an international Non-Governmental Organization. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Master of Arts in Public Policy specializing in Development Policy from Crawford School of Public Policy in Australia.

Why are women’s land rights and resource governance important to your work? And to other USAID development work?

The demand for and pressure on Tanzania’s land and resources is growing rapidly. Global interest in acquiring arable land for commercial agriculture combined with population growth, rapid urbanization, and conservation pressure is driving competition for Tanzania’s increasingly scarce land. As part of  USAID/Tanzania’s Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS 2020-2025), which puts a lot of emphasis on empowering women and youth, USAID funded the Land Tenure Assistance (LTA) project from the period of 2015-2021, implemented in the Iringa and Mbeya regions. The project worked to clarify and document land ownership, supported land use planning initiatives, increased local residents’ understanding of land use and property rights, established land ownership, and ensured broad, inclusive community involvement in a transparent titling process, particularly for women and youth. According to Tanzania’s recent population census, Tanzania will grow by over 10 million individuals by 2030, putting pressure on social services, yet creating great economic potential if appropriately managed. Tanzania’s economy relies heavily on farming, raising animals, fishing, preserving wildlife, and managing forests. Together, these industries contribute about 65% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), make up 60% of the earnings from exports, and provide employment for over 80% of the population. Out of this, 65 percent is dominated by women and youth, who comprise a large segment of the labour-force in rural areas.

What are some of the biggest challenges in helping women secure land rights and what are some things being done to overcome them?

Tanzanian law grants equal land rights to men and women. The reality, however, is that women own and control only a small portion of land assets, and, in many communities, are either unaware of their land rights or are prohibited from owning land because of traditional patriarchal norms. Tanzania’s marriage and inheritance laws are often unfavorable towards women and their children, and frequently dispossess them of their rightful land. 

The success of the Land Tenure Assistance project (LTA) rested heavily on its consistent focus on community engagement and education. Specialized awareness training on land rights was provided to women and men so that women’s rights to occupy land were well understood and implemented. In addition, awareness training was provided to all women’s groups and small groups of residents at the hamlet level to ensure that men and women have a thorough understanding of their rights and responsibilities, and of the legal framework underpinning the registration of village land in Tanzania. By the end of the project’s implementation, as a result of the strong emphasis on raising awareness about women’s land rights in Tanzania, LTA achieved a 50/50 gender balance of land claims.

What are some of USAID’s successes in the area of women’s land rights?

When the Land Tenure Assistance (LTA) project began in 2015, the participation of women in village meetings was very low due to men’s traditional dominance in public gatherings. Culturally, women do not speak freely before men in a public meeting with the exception of very few educated and courageous women. It is a deeply entrenched cultural belief that men must have dominance in land ownership. Women do not have equal rights in making decisions on financial and property related matters. For example, although working on the farm is a major role for most women, the husband controls all aspects of selling the agricultural products. Women are also often burdened with many other concerns such as tending to children, working in gardens, and making sure that children attend school while men might spend their time drinking local beer.  

LTA acknowledged the difficulties encountered by women in its designated villages and implemented specialized training programs specifically for them. These training initiatives fostered a safe space where women could openly address concerns related to land rights, free from any apprehension or pressure from men. As a result of this special training, women were empowered to claim their land rights. In LTA’s target villages, the ratio of formal land certificate ownership was evenly divided between men and women. LTA also initiated women’s focus groups to empower women in rural economic activities and small businesses such as gardening, poultry, and piggery, and to teach them about credit and savings skills.  

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Local sustainability is a critical component in systematic rural land registration. In order to have a successful system that is inclusive, it is imperative to work closely with indigenous communities and to empower district and village land institutions to carry out the work on their own. This will ensure sustainability and enable indigenous communities to develop their capacity and skills, and to carry forward the process independently once outside support ends.

Women’s Land Rights Champion: Corinne Hart

This series features Women’s Land Rights Champions within USAID to learn more about their work. We’re pleased to share this interview with Corinne Hart, USAID’s Senior Gender Advisor for Energy, Environment, and Climate.

Corinne Hart, USAID
Corinne Hart, USAID

Tell us about yourself

I am the Senior Gender Advisor for Energy, Environment, and Climate in USAID’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Hub within the Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI) Bureau. I lead a team of gender advisors tasked with providing technical assistance across the Agency to support gender integration in a range of environmental sectors, including land and resource governance. I also oversee Gender Equity and Equality Action (GEEA) Fund resources available to advance women’s land rights in partnership with the Land and Resource Governance division in DDI. 

Why are women’s land rights and resource governance important to your work? And to other USAID development work?

As one of the Agency’s advisors responsible for gender integration in environment and climate sectors, I’ve seen firsthand that women’s land rights and their secure land tenure is a critical component to achieving the Agency’s overall goals on gender equality, women’s empowerment, climate change, the environment, and natural resource management. When women have secure rights to land, including by law and in customary systems, they have a critical asset that they can rely on for their livelihoods, and it can increase their decision-making power and agency. 

What are some of the biggest challenges in helping women secure land rights and what are some things being done to overcome them?

While there is a strong body of evidence connecting women’s secure land rights to many different development outcomes, such as food security, climate change, and natural resource management, it is still necessary to make the case to a range of stakeholders that advancing women’s land rights must be a key part of their approaches. Partnering with governments at the local and national levels, private sector actors, local implementing partners, and women and men in communities is one strategy that we use to ensure that women’s land rights interventions are woven into a range of sectors and approaches, including in policies, customary tenure arrangements, agriculture, and economic growth. USAID has also created the Resilient, Inclusive, Sustainable Environments (RISE) Challenge to provide small grants to environment, gender, and development organizations to address gender-based violence (GBV) related to natural resource management, including land. These grants enable our partners to apply best practices in GBV mitigation and response related to women’s land rights and to share the learnings across a large network of practitioners through the USAID-funded GBV-Environment Linkages Center hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Together with our partners from all sectors around the world, we are building the evidence, testing promising practices, providing technical assistance, and working directly with communities to ensure that women are able to access and control the land that is so critical for their overall health, wellbeing, and economic stability. 

What are some of USAID’s successes in the area of women’s land rights?

USAID is on the forefront of implementing gender-transformative women’s land rights programs that are addressing a wide range of issues that can impede equal rights to land. For example, our activities not only focus on land laws, but they also work to increase women’s meaningful participation and leadership in community natural resource management bodies, address gender-based violence concerns connected to land rights, change harmful gender norms, engage men and boys as gender equality champions, and increase women’s personal agency and empowerment. This robust approach ensures that USAID’s women’s land rights activities tackle the broad range of challenges that women face when accessing and controlling land. 


Women’s Land Rights Champions

This series features Women’s Land Rights Champions within USAID to learn more about their work. 

Semaly Kisamo, USAID/Tanzania

May 2023 – Women’s Land Rights Champion: Semaly Kisamo

Corinne head shot
Corrine Hart, Senior Advisor for Gender and Environment, USAID/DDI, Washington DC

May 2022 – Women’s Land Rights Champion: Corinne Hart


Paula Pimentel, USAID/Mozambique

February 2022 – Women’s Land Rights Champion: Paula Pimentel

F. Mulbah Zig Forkpa, Jr., USAID/Liberia

January 2022 – Women’s Land Rights Champion: F. Mulbah Zig Forkpa, Jr.

Marcela Chaves, USAID/Colombia

December 2021 – Women’s Land Rights Champion: Marcela Chaves

Catherine Tembo, USAID/Zambia

November 2021 – Women’s Land Rights Champion: Catherine Tembo, Ph.D.



Women’s Land Rights Champion: Paula Pimentel

Each month, we feature a Women’s Land Rights Champion within USAID to learn more about their work. This month’s Champion is Paula Pimentel of USAID/Mozambique.

Tell us about yourself

I am a senior agricultural specialist at USAID/Mozambique with more than 30 years of experience in agricultural development, including land rights and resource governance. I have an MSc in Animal Production from the University of Pretoria and an Honors degree in Veterinary Medicine from Eduardo Mondlane University. 

Why are women’s land rights and resource governance important to your work? And to other USAID development work?

In Mozambique and other African countries, land and natural resources are the most valuable economic asset for rural women. Being able to access and control land-related assets is critical for women’s self-reliance and a pathway to economic growth. Strengthening women’s rights to land, and women’s ability to influence resource governance, leads to better agricultural productivity and resource management. This, in turn, contributes to many USAID development goals like improved food security and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

What are some of the biggest challenges in helping women secure land rights and what are some things being done to overcome them?

A main challenge is a lack of gender equality in land legislation or weak implementation of laws and policies. But even when the legal and policy framework provides for women’s land rights, women face many other challenges like lack of knowledge about their rights and land registration processes, unequal inheritance practices, biased dispute resolution mechanisms, restrictive social norms, and vulnerability to gender-based violence. USAID  supports consultations and data analysis to improve inclusiveness in the land policy reform process in Mozambique. We are supporting programs that work directly with women, communities, and gender champions to increase women’s access to information and participation in community land governance and to shift restrictive social norms. USAID is also partnering with the private sector so that rural women in Mozambique can have secure land rights and turn these rights into concrete opportunities for economic security.

What are some of USAID’s successes in the area of women’s land rights?

USAID is partnering with one of Mozambique’s largest agroforestry companies to develop innovative business models that benefit companies and smallholder farmers. Over the past year, around 4,000 people’s land access and land use rights were formalized through the program, enabling those individuals to  engage in economically viable use of the land. Over 67 percent of those farmers are women, who are now able to access and control sustainable livelihoods.

Anything else you want to share?

Land documentation and inclusive community land governance are transformative for smallholder farmers and communities as a whole, decreasing conflict and increasing investment and overall economic growth in rural areas. The USAID Mozambique Mission is keen to pursue a pathway that will continue to support and improve the country’s land policy environment, aiming at a more gender equitable and prosperous use of land by Mozambican women. 

I have personally learned a lot by working with the USAID-funded ILRG Activity and I thank Thais Silveira Bessa, the activity’s Gender Specialist, for sharing  key field assessments with a strong gender lens on women’s land rights in  Mozambican rural communities.

Women’s Land Rights Champion: F. Mulbah Zig Forkpa, Jr.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is F. Mulbah Zig Forkpa, Jr. I am currently the Land Governance Specialist at USAID/Liberia. I have served in this capacity for five years, helping to implement the Mission’s land and resource governance programs-first the Land Governance Support Activity, a  $15.6 million activity which ended in August 2020, and now the Land Management Support Activities, a $9.4 million activity which continues until 2025. I also serve as one of the focal persons on gender in the Mission’s Office of Democracy, Rights, and Governance. I am a proud graduate of USAID’s inaugural Land Advisors Program. I hold both BA and LLB degrees from the University of Liberia. I am finalizing my LLM in Transnational Criminal Justice. Throughout my LLM studies, I have endeavored to explore the linkages between land reform and transitional justice, as well as how land reform can sustain peace and prevent the recurrence of conflicts that were primarily provoked by land disagreements.

Why are women’s land rights and resource governance important to your work? And to other USAID development work?

Liberia has a predominantly rural population that primarily derives its livelihood from land. This means that land is placed at the center of everything that matters, including social and economic security. Where insecure land and resource governance affect an entire population, women tend to suffer the most because of the critical role they play in farming and caring for the family. There is an important relationship between improved women’s land rights and a better society. Since the essence of USAID’s work is to ensure an improved and more secure society, the obvious choice must be made to enhance women’s secure access to land and resources.

What are some of the biggest challenges in helping women secure land rights and what are some things being done to overcome them?

To the best of my knowledge, all women’s land rights assessments have shown that despite the central role women play in agricultural production, their rights and access to land are often hindered. In a male-dominated society like Liberia, these hindrances have long roots and have evolved as an acceptable social norm. In most cases, discriminatory social norms are supported by existing legal frameworks that relegate women’s land and natural resource rights to a status that is less important than those of men. In instances where discriminatory gender norms are outlawed through formal laws, the entrenched adherence to those norms, as well as powerful men’s unwillingness to lose their control over land resources makes it extremely difficult to enforce new reform laws. To offset these challenges, we have ensured that gender issues are constantly highlighted in policies and regulatory formulations, in order to streamline and amplify the gender equality provisions of the 2018 Land Rights Act of Liberia. Our land and resource governance programs have constantly embarked on strong behavioral change education and publicity campaigns. In these endeavors, we have collaborated with, and empowered, influential stakeholders including traditional leaders who are now championing the fight for gender empowerment. These strategies must become sustainable and live on even after donor support ends. In that regard, the USAID supported the establishment of a Gender Unit within the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), the central land regulatory agency in Liberia. The Gender Unit is driving the gender empowerment agenda of the LLA.

What are some of USAID’s successes in the area of land rights?

USAID has supported the enactment, establishment, and operationalization of the LLA. Initially, land services were scattered across different government entities and also marked by huge bureaucracy. The LLA has now become the single one-stop-center to access land services. USAID has ensured that the LLA has the proper tools to oversee the implementation of the Land Rights Act adopted in 2018 as the country’s primary land reform agenda. To do so, a USAID-supported consultant worked with the LLA in 2019 to create an implementation strategy for the Land Rights Act. The strategy has been effective, making it possible for stakeholders to avoid duplication in programming aimed at safeguarding rights. I firmly believe the most significant provisions of the Land Right Act are those that require the formalization of customary land. These provisions restored customary land rights, which were denied for over 100 years, and placed women’s rights  on par with those of men, both in terms of land access and management. These customary land formalization provisions have been piloted by USAID in communities across three of Liberia’s 15 counties, and lessons learned are being rolled out.

Anything else you want to share?

Let me take the moment to talk briefly about the USAID/Liberia Land Management Activity, awarded in July 2021 with the intent to support at least 100 communities to own and manage their customary land efficiently. It is a continuation of USAID’s investment in the Liberian land space and has a component that places exclusive emphasis on empowering women and minority groups to participate in decision-making around land by getting elected to governance bodies. The program encourages different donors to co-locate and leverage efforts. Because of these opportunities, the communities who will secure their land rights through USAID’s activity will likely utilize their titles for various private sector commercial engagements.