Land is Food

Filmmaker:  Babette Koultchoumi

Year of production: 2008
Location: Bipare, Cameroon
Duration: 44 minutes
Sound: mono
Language: French
English Subtitles

“Land is Food” is a portrait of some farming people of Bipare village, situated in northern Cameroon near the border with Chad. The film features Ruth Sogsirba her husband Moussa Kallam and the midwife Elisabeth Tansouabe.

Recent changes to customary land tenure as well as population pressures have made access to land increasingly precarious especially for some Bipare women. The film stresses on everyday life of female farmers of Bipare involved in a social change where, common property and land management is replaced by individual land ownership.

Copyright: 2008  Visual Cultural Studies, University of Tromsø

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This paper presents and analyses data about women challenging customary land tenure arrangements as they strive to gain access to the farming land they need. The research was conducted in the Mambay community located in northern Cameroon on the border with Chad. The thesis examines just how rural women manage to get access to land despite the obstacles that customary land tenure system put in their way. It’s clear that ‘customary’ law is always in the process of adapting itself to modern economic conditions; to what is actually going on in the everyday lives of the tillers and the owners of land. Increasing land scarcity and the introduction of money into most local land transactions have transformed arable fields into high value commodities. These and many other changes have important repercussions for local land relations and feed back into the way the customary tenure system operates. At the same time, women’s husbands and father’s lineages are no longer the only social spheres that predetermine their opportunities to access land. By making strategic use of money, as well as kinship and membership groups, women continue to redefine the arrangements that govern their access to farming land. As a consequence of this we can observe certain social transformations, particularly concerning gender labour division and women’s role in production and social reproduction.

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