A new study conducted to understand perceptions of ‘resource ownership’ and how this affects food security among smallholder livestock keepers in Tanzania (Ethiopia and Nicaragua) revealed an interesting finding: conventional understanding of resource ownership among researchers is different from the same among livestock keepers. Furthermore, livestock farmers understand resource ownership differently depending on where they come from and so do different gender groups. In the three countries of study, it was established that there are seven domains of understanding of resource ownership ranging from ‘who takes care of the animals’, ‘how the animals were sourced’ and ‘decision making’. These emerged from across gender groups implying that there is no clear definition of understanding of resource ownership between men and women.
However, based on context and personal circumstances (e.g. age, or physical strength), both men and women perceived resource ownership differently. For example, the term ‘joint ownership‘ meant ‘shared labour tasks’ in Ethiopia, ‘shared legal rights’ in Tanzania, and ‘legal rights of the household head in conjunction with informal rights of other household members’ in Nicaragua. What was for sure though was that irrespective of the various understandings and systems of ownership, resource arrangements favored men while women and men preferred different arrangements of livestock ownership. These arrangements in turn, have significant implications on roles between men and women within households, decision-making and ultimately food security. Given these findings, it therefore emerges that rather than assessing “who owns what resources” that is obviously interpreted differently, researchers need to ask more specific questions about resource management and benefit sharing to provide a basis of appreciating local and intra-household priorities and preferences related to resource ownership.