Gender relations mediate access to the environment in a variety of ways, through formal institutions such as customary law or informal social norms operating at the household level. This is particularly so in rural areas of the global south that are highly dependent on natural resources for livelihoods. The environmental entitlements framework is useful in examining the influence of informal institutions on access to environmental resources among differentiated social actors. In this paper, we use the environmental entitlements framework to map entitlements to land and livestock, and explore the capabilities they provide for women in rural northern Nigeria. The aim of the study was to examine the influence of social norms governing marriage and inheritance on women’s entitlements to land and livestock. The study methods were qualitative and used in-depth interviews and household case studies. We find that environmental entitlements of land and livestock for women are mediated by their relationships to men, through marriage or kinship, and through the different intra household arrangements within marriage, including seclusion, non-seclusion, and polygyny. Women are able to gain command of natural resources through negotiations within these relationships and within the wider social norms governing Hausa society. While these institutions can restrict the capabilities women derive from natural resources, women may delay or forgo entitlements as a means of enhancing their wellbeing.
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