Shyamal Pal, Potato Aggregator and Long-Time Champion of Women’s Empowerment

Shyamal Pal is a PepsiCo aggregator based in the Balitha village in West Bengal, India, and long-time champion of women’s empowerment. In his experience as an aggregator for over 15 potato seasons, he understands the importance of building relationships and maintaining frequent communication with the farmers in the area.

Shyamal has been an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights since the 1990s. He was elected as a village panchayat (village council) member, where he recognized the importance of addressing the barriers that women face in accessing economic opportunities. 

As a council member, Shyamal played a key role in implementing land reforms through the distribution of vested [government] land among the most marginalized, poor families. “My experience working with women’s groups then helped me comprehend that economic opportunities are crucial for women to have a voice and exercise their rights. I will always cherish that memory,” he explains.

In 2019, when activities of the USAID-PepsiCo partnership began, Shyamal was eager to work with a women’s land leasing group. The women’s group leased one acre of farmland for growing potatoes. Working under the USAID-PepsiCo partnership, the women overcame adverse conditions, including erratic weather patterns, and still made a profit. 

“This never-before-seen phenomenon, a group of women running their own farm, drew the attention of the entire village here and had an encouraging effect on other women’s groups,” he explains. “I believe that with technical support, women can do everything required for successful farming.” 

In September 2021, PepsiCo recognized Shyamal’s efforts to increase women’s participation in the supply chain. Every year PepsiCo acknowledges aggregators who excel in business performance metrics like seed sales, yields, and quality. Shyamal was the first potato aggregator recognized by PepsiCo for his role in promoting women’s empowerment.

Shyamal looks forward to working with more women’s land leasing groups in the next potato season, demonstrating the importance of engaging existing male champions to drive women’s empowerment in agriculture value chains.

“A successful land governance strategy requires political will” Q&A with Fuentedeoro, Colombia mayor

After several years spent to improve the municipal land office in Fuentedeoro, USAID and the National Land Agency are supporting a massive land titling and cadastre updating strategy that will cover the entire municipality. The mayor of Fuentedeoro, Diana Patricia Mancera speaks on the next steps for creating a culture of land formalization and on how to maintain a sustainable and legitimate land market.

Land titles delivered in 2020 with Mancera (center) thanks to the USAID-supported Municipal Land Office.

Over the year, Fuentedeoro made the formalization of public lands a priority and implemented a strategy to build its capacity for titling public lands within the municipality. How has Fuentedeoro changed during this process?

The perception of property has changed. It’s clear to us now that it is important to be able to own a property, and that owning it means having the deed. And it is understood that the deed not only serves to prove your ownership of the property, but also allows you to access other opportunities such as credit and subsidies.

How does public land titling help the municipality?

Today, a deed is required to prove that the property is in fact owned by the municipality so that the government can invest in it. Here, thanks to our work, the majority of schools and health centers now have land titles. One specific example is that the Ministry of Education, through the Infrastructure Financing Fund, has allocated resources for the Juan Bosco branch of the General Santander Rural School in Puerto Limón, which without a land title never would have been eligible. A total of 150 million pesos have been allocated to improve the conditions for preschool children.

In 2020, the mayor’s office is continuing its strategy to improve land titling in Fuentedeoro. What are the first steps of the new strategy?

We have three fundamental activities that are underway with USAID’s support. First, we are improving the Municipal Land Office, which is staffed by land experts and open every day. Next, we want to improve and prepare for the upcoming massive land formalization activity with the National Land Agency (ANT).

Fuentedeoro’s leaders have shared their experience of creating a municipal land office with dozens of municipalities: from the first step of passing an ordinance, in which the city council grants the Mayor the faculties to adjudicate urban parcels, to registering land titles at one of the regional offices of the Superintendence Notary and Registry.

What do you plan to do with the National Land Agency?

With the support of USAID and through the ANT, the first step is to develop and consolidate Fuentedeoro’s Participatory Rural Land Use Management Plan, a big job that the municipality alone would never have been able to do alone due to costs. And that, of course, is followed by the parcel sweep and massive land titling exercise.

What can Fuentedeoro offer the rest of Colombia in terms of land titling?

Although we are not a PDET municipality, we are fortunate to be implementing a strong land governance approach. We are proud that Fuentedeoro, which is a category six municipality (population: <10,000), can show category four and five municipalities (population: 10-30,000) that it is possible to lead a land strategy with the necessary political will. From this perspective, things can get done and we can attract other programs.

Do you believe the people of Fuentedeoro are ready for a massive land formalization intervention?

I think so, I think they are ready, because they are crying out for it! The fact is the citizenry has requested land formalization services in the formulation of the Municipal Development Plan. The people know the importance of land titling. People know the advantages to having a deed in order to access other benefits and programs.

In Colombia, municipalities have traditionally lacked the capacity, in part due to insufficient funds and capacity. Further, decades of informality have meant that there are few records in place documenting each property’s history.

And are you ready to support massive land formalization?

Municipal leadership is aware it must continuing to support the local land office and titling, not only for schools and public properties, but for longevity and sustainability’s sake, so that people stop informally selling their houses. Between these two components: people’s awareness about the importance of the deed and the municipality’s dedication to improve the land office, we will be ready.

How do you show a landowner that land titling has benefits?

We must show people that when they sell a property, they must do so with a deed. This way, the seller will no longer have to pay property taxes, and the buyer, by having the deed, will be able to access the benefits of being an owner.


This story was originally published on Exposure.

Nancy Mutemba, Community Liaison Assistant and Gender Focal Person, Frankfurt Zoological Society

“We have cut through the barriers! We finally have more women in the Mukungule CRB,” was Nancy Mutemba’s reaction to the latest CRB election results. Nancy is the Community Liaison Assistant (CLA) and Gender Focal Person for Frankfurt Zoological Society and was among the seven CLAs who spent days prior to the election in the field speaking to traditional leaders, community members, and potential women candidates willing to risk everything to break through the cultural and gender norms that bar women from taking up leadership positions.

“The challenge is all about power and control, putting a woman in leadership means taking over control from a man. Tradition does not allow that; many men don’t want it, and women believe it shouldn’t happen,” Nancy explains.

USAID’s partners trained the CLAs to equip them with practical skills on how to facilitate conversations on gender norms and gender equality and convince communities to support aspiring women. Nancy, like other CLAs, was initially skeptical about the activities and what could be achieved.

“It seemed a difficult task to convince headpersons and women to do something that they did not believe in, and I was scared to preach to them something that seems to go against their culture. I worried about how they would receive the message and how it was going to impact our relationship going forward.”

The CLAs like Nancy work and live in the communities and are known and trusted members. Young women like Nancy are not only trusted but are seen as courageous and an inspiration to many other women.

“They see me going village to village on a motorbike and facilitating meetings, and they think I am extraordinary. I know women look up to me for knowledge and advice, and this gives me strength to do my best.”

This relationship is what makes the work of CLAs so critical. They are listened to and can influence change. Armed with information and tools, Nancy set out on a task to lobby traditional leaders in Mukungule Chiefdom to support women as leaders in the CRB while also convincing women in the community to step into leadership roles. As per tradition, the approach must first go through the Chief, and then the headpersons, who are mostly men. The support of traditional leaders encouraged CLAs like Nancy, and made it easier to deliver these messages to the community members.

“I was surprised that the traditional leaders were ready for this change. Sometimes it was the headmen who answered the difficult questions. I did not have to provide all the answers myself and in the end some women were convinced and came forward.”

The CLAs also prepared women to go through the election process, which required Nancy to inspire the women to see themselves as leaders, be confident, and develop self-esteem and resilience. For Nancy, seeing aspiring women candidates drop out of the electoral process was not an option. “I had to inspire positivity, get in their shoes, and rise up with them, and it worked, not a single woman dropped off,” she said happily.

Nancy’s hard work in the community paid off: in Mukungule CRB, women in leadership roles increased by 40%, and by overcoming cultural barriers, women are now being drafted into the committees that form customary leadership within the tribal governance structures.



Harriet Mupeta – Mukungule CRB Board Secretary

“On election day, I believed I could win but also doubted that my community would choose me over a man.”-Harriet Mupeta, Mukungule CRB Board Secretary

Harriet entered the community leadership scene through the Village Action Group (VAG) election. In order to be eligible to join the CRB a candidate, one must first be elected to a local-level Village Action Group. In October 2020, she won the Mwansabamba VAG election in a landslide and became the VAG Chairperson. In November, she was elected as the CRB Board Secretary for Mukungule CRB. Like many women of her community, she never thought of herself as a community leader who could represent the interests of others, but all that changed when the Community Liaison Assistant (CLA) went to her community to talk about gender equality and women’s rights.

“Before the meeting I knew very little about the role of the CRBs and that as a woman I could be involved. When I heard that Chief Mukungule was asking women to join the CRB, I decided to try because I knew the Chief’s word is respected.”

To encourage women to participate in community governance of their resources, USAID partners worked with traditional leaders and community members prior to the elections to break through gender barriers and promote acceptance of women’s role in leadership. Seven women in the VAG were mobilized and given information about community resource management and training on skills to go through the election process.

A housewife, Harriet said, “I was worried about my husband’s and my relatives’ reaction, but after negotiating with them they supported me. It was the other men in the community that gave me a hard time. They kept passing offensive comments like I was not capable and wouldn’t get anywhere.”

The skills training focused on working with women candidates on negotiation and communication skills, self-confidence, public speaking, campaign strategies, and networking. Most of the women that won the election did not have the financial resources to campaign but relied on family connections and their reputation in the community. Women were often seen as willing to serve in positions of leadership for the greater good, whereas men were perceived as pursuing their own interests and benefits.

“At first, I used to be affected by the mockery of men, but one day after a meeting, a group of women who witnessed one of the incidents told me that I was kind and loved by people and that they would support me to win. That changed everything for me!

When asked what winning the CRB elections means to her, Harriet said; “It’s a new world for me, I feel happy, confident, and motivated! I work within this big organization and speak for people. I am showing my community what I can do and how I can build positive relationships. I have become capable!”


Unwilling to buy votes, Catherine Chatata – Nabwalya CRB

Despite major advances, not all female candidates succeeded. In the Nabwalya CRB, despite spending days walking on foot to convince people to vote for her after her election to her Village Action Group, Catherine Chatata finished third at a local level and did not advance to the CRB.

Catherine came into the race with little more than her reputation, and it was not enough to earn her a seat on the Nabwalya CRB.

External factors, such as a funeral, also affected her campaign. As a woman, she was expected to play a role such as cooking and cleaning at the funeral house and sit and mourn with the bereaved family instead of campaigning. As a result, she could not reach some neighboring villages for her campaign.

Despite missing the top slot to represent her community, Catherine was happy and confident about her future role in leadership.

“I now believe that even as a woman who has no money for campaigning, I can be voted for. I will work even harder to convince people in the next round of elections and my achievements in the VAG will campaign for me.”

CRB elections are held every three years. The competition is stiff and often marred with malpractice which makes it very costly for women like Catherine who have few resources. These practices provide an advantage to those with financial resources, who are mostly men. The process  also has  the potential to encourage corruption in the CRB since candidates who spend a considerable amount of money during campaigns might feel encouraged to recover such expenses when in office. 

“People were demanding food and drinks and even money. Whenever you call for a meeting they would ask, what have you brought for us? Even children wanted sweets and biscuits! They wanted to know the kind of after party I would throw for them if I won,” she said. 

Without Women there is no Tradition, Chief Chikwa – Chikwa CRB Patron

Like in many chiefdoms across Zambia, tradition dictates that family care corresponds to women leadership corresponds to men. As a result, men dominate both the household and community-level decision making when it comes to natural resources. In Chikwa, however, the Chief sees a role for women in natural resource management as a way to advance development in his chiefdom. He is willing to challenge traditions in order to secure opportunities for women leaders.

As the patron of the Chikwa CRB and Chief of the Senga people in Chama District, he takes his role seriously and has committed to promoting gender equality. Prior to the CRB election, Chief Chikwa implemented an affirmative action measure requiring 50% women representation in all governance structures in his chiefdom.

Our history and our tradition are not without women. Women have held honorable positions in our tradition system, including that of a chief; before me there were women. Discriminating against women is not from our tradition but individual selfishness. Women deserve to be leaders of our communities,” he says.


Agnes Chavula – Chikwa CRB Chairperson

Agnes got the highest number of votes in her VAG and was elected CRB Chairperson. This is not Agnes’ first term on the board, she served before as Finance Management Committee Secretary on the previous CRB Board and understands the challenges that women leaders face in her community.

“Men want to lead over you and find it difficult to respect women in top positions. If not careful, you spend time dealing with unnecessary conflicts rather than serving the people. I just have to be tactical to maintain unity,” she says.

Following the elections, Agnes attended the CRB orientation training that offered skills in gender responsive approaches for conducting CRB business. The training also involved spouses of elected female CRB members to increase their understanding of roles and the responsibilities, including time commitment.

The orientation helped a lot and we are building on it in our quarterly meetings. The affirmative action measures are forcing us to talk about gender more, and everyone is beginning to appreciate women’s leadership and becoming positive about it,” she explains.

With the elections out of the way, the Chikwa CRB is set to deliver on its mandate. Agnes feels confident about her new role and has many plans to transform the lives of community members, especially women.

Chikwa CRB has a rolling plan and receives community share of hunting revenues from the government. The lack of transparency and accountability in the management of these resources was a big campaign issue that helped her to get elected, since women are frequently seen as less corrupt.


Becoming an Artisanal Miner According to the Law: Breakthrough Sensitization

The USAID-funded Artisanal Mining and Property Rights (AMPR) project has sensitized over 1,243 (including 266 women) artisanal miners and mine site owners on how to officially become artisanal miners according to Central African law. AMPR Community Development Specialists and Community Mobilizers conducted the sensitization sessions jointly with Regional Officers from the Ministry of Mines and Geology and members of the Local Peace and Reconciliation Committees that AMPR supported the creation of in partnership with the Ministry of Humanitarian Action and National Reconciliation. The teams held focus group discussions in 63 mining communities in the Kimberley Process compliant zones of Berberati, Boda, Boganda, Carnot, Gadzi, and Nola, using a training poster and corresponding guide developed by AMPR. 400 posters titled How to Become an Artisanal Miner in Accordance with the Law were displayed at the Regional Mining Departments, town halls, markets, and mine sites in the six compliant zones.

AMPR Community Mobilizer Conducting a Focus Group Discussion for Artisanal Miners in Bossui, Boda subprecture on How to be Become an Artisnal Miner. Photo by Junior Delphin.

In May 2019, AMPR conducted a Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices (KAP) study involving 341 artisanal miners. The results revealed that only 4% (n = 341) knew the right price to obtain a license to become an artisanal miner. Some explained that they had paid more than the official price due to lack of knowledge. Others paid inflated sums to their peers to obtain the licenses since they were not aware of the formalities. On this basis, AMPR set out to produce poster and discussion guides with questions and awareness-raising messages inclusive of all points in the supply chain, such as government actors, buying houses, collectors, pit owners, and artisanal miners.

These trainings enlightened the mining communities on how, when, and where to obtain an artisanal mining license and encouraged artisanal miners to pay their licenses as required by the law without exploitation by intermediaries who drive up the price. AMPR will conduct a second KAP in Q2 of 2021 to determine whether awareness of artisanal miners about this and other laws has increased since the previous survey.



In Mozambique, Building Trust Through Land Rights

Ácia and Abílio, once at odds over land boundaries, share a moment in Ácia’s field. Banner Photo: Rena Singer/World Bank
This blog was written by Paula Pimentel, Senior Agricultural Research & Technology Transfer Advisor of the USAID, Mozambique, and
originally published on World Bank Blogs. The story is also available in the Portuguese language.

Researchers are increasingly recognizing the role of trust in economic development around the world.

Trust fuels economic development and a lack of trust slows it. Indeed, geographies where trust is lacking are the least economically advanced, as this next graphic illustrates.

You’ll find many Sub-Saharan African countries crowded in the bottom left side of the graphic.

This is the story of how one village in Mozambique is building trust to climb out of that corner. And this story is unfolding in hundreds of villages across the region, and holds lessons for how other communities and countries can make the same ascent.

In 2018, the 4,593 residents of Meitor Mozambique established a community association called “Okaviherinwa Orera,” which means “to be helped is good” in the local language.

It was an unexpected and remarkable turn of events for a community which has a long and troubled history of violence and infighting. Augustino Mulakiwa, who leads the association, remembers the time in 1976 when a dispute over land boundaries led one resident to poison another’s well.  Retributions followed from both sides of the dispute, until the dead numbered 20 people. While the high number of deceased that year was unusual, said Mulakiwa, it was in other ways very typical – conflicts over land have driven anger and violence in his community for decades as a result of insecure land rights.

Meitor residents, like those of most other farming villages across Mozambique, and Sub-Saharan Africa more broadly, farm the land their parents passed down to them or land they purchased on a handshake, its contours and boundaries only rarely noted on paper.

This lack of documentation creates conflict that costs lives and dreams.

When a handshake is not enough

This was the case for Ácia Alberto Sicanso and her husband Patrício Carlo, who bought their farm for 2,000 Meticais (about $30) on a handshake in 2014.

Ácia and Patrício holding the documentation of their property boundary. Photo: Rena Singer/World Bank

The problems started almost immediately when their neighbor, Abílio Alcate, planted her cassava rows about 12 feet inside the boundary of their farm. Abílio said the young couple were mistaken about the boundary. Ácia and Patrício asked the former owner to intervene. He declined to get involved. The couple appealed to Mulakiwa, who had no luck resolving the conflict.

Eventually, after lost time and harvests, the couple rented themselves out as laborers for a few days to raise the money they needed to take Abílio to court. Given that no one in this village had any documents describing their property lines, the court was unable to come to a decision.

It was deeply disappointing for Ácia and Patrício. With four hungry children, they could ill afford the lost income from the court case and the lost rows of cassava year after year.

Technology steps in

Relief came in 2017 when USAID and DFID began efforts to document farmers’ land in the area. Through the programs, USAID and its partners train villagers to map property boundaries with the help of handheld GPS devices. Together, neighbors walk the perimeter of their farms, noting GPS coordinates to create a digital map. Each farmer receives a document that notes their farm’s description, location, owner and names of witnesses. USAID’s program, which is ongoing in Mozambique, Zambia, Ghana, and India, has already documented the land rights of tens of thousands of farmers.

Documenting boundaries strengthens communities

Land documentation has proved transformative for Ácia and the community as a whole. Ácia and her neighbor Abílio, who likewise has her own land certificate, now can share a laugh when they see each other in the fields.

And the community has held ceremonies to mend relationships between other formerly feuding neighbors.

Documentation, said Mulakiwa, has planted seeds of trust in the community. And with that trust comes opportunities for cooperation. Today, the community association is discussing implementing community improvement projects, such as a mill, to which they can all commit their time and resources.



Land Ownership, Tumaco’s New Hope

The pandemic has shown the Colombian government how structural land issues continue to hamper rural development.

Colombia’s hospitals have been challenged due to Covid-19, and while the government rushes to strengthen the country’s healthcare system, intensive care unit occupancy remains high throughout the pandemic.

The crisis has led many leaders to recognize that behind the draconian measures to curb infection, there are fundamental problems that undermine Colombia’s public service delivery and prosperity, such as issues with land administration and property formalization.

In the midst of a health crisis, the nation’s rural health centers are becoming more and more crucial as the virus reaches isolated areas. Thousands of families are a one or two-day trip from a hospital, so rural health clinics play a vital role in providing intermediate care as well as ambulance services to regional centers with specialized professionals. But many of these rural clinics, which belong to municipal governments, have never been formalized or indexed in Colombia’s national property registry.

In Tumaco, where Covid-19 made headlines early on in the pandemic, there are 80 rural health clinics. But 80% of Tumaco’s parcels are informal and unregistered, so Tumaco’s mayor, María Emilsen Angulo, who has been working hard to mobilize support for Tumaco’s hospitals, can do little for health clinics in rural areas that do not even have a registered land title. Next year, USAID and the Colombian government will begin massive formalization efforts in Tumaco.

“USAID has the funds that we don’t have. Plus, they already have the experience of rolling out a massive formalization and cadaster update pilot in Ovejas, Sucre, so here in Tumaco, we won’t have to improvise,” Angulo says. “USAID already knows the best way to do it.”

Working Together

The USAID-funded Land for Prosperity Activity is assisting Tumaco’s mayor to make land issues a priority over the next four years. With USAID support, the municipality’s Territorial Development Plan has earmarked funds to push land formalization to the forefront of public policy. Tumaco will also strengthen its Municipal Land Office and create a team of local experts who can begin looking at which parcels can be formalized in the name of the municipality without having to hire expensive professional services.

The lack of information about which parcels are formalized is just the tip of the iceberg. The majority of Colombia’s rural municipalities have never analyzed the situation to discover what properties—schools, clinics, parks, and utilities—are informal or why.

Banner Photo: SITUR Nariño

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