Nurseries supported by our projects are often women-led, and female headed households are given priority.
According to WeForest´s Livelihoods Coordinator Claire, for future project design it is important to understand the extent to which gender inequality can affect the way in which natural resources are managed and, by extension, forest resources. Understanding this is key, for projects that aim to address the root causes of deforestation and forest degradation.
Women play a key – and often overlooked – role in forest management
In many countries, they are typically the ones looking after the household and the children, and they also carry the responsibility for getting food for the entire family. In a subsistence economy, this involves more than going to the supermarket and turning on the microwave – we’re not only talking about growing the actual food, but also collecting it, finding ways to store it, gathering firewood to cook it, and fetching water – on a daily basis. If it’s a good harvest, and if the food is still good, then the surplus can be sold at the local market. That’s a lot to do – and to think about – every single day.
In many cases, this makes women the primary users of natural resources and, therefore, of forests. What does this mean, for a project that aims to have a holistic approach to sustainable forest management? To what extent are women – a key user group of forest resources – involved in governance and decision-making related to forest management?
Steps to take
The first step is to establish a clear baseline to understand the different roles, responsibilities and decision making processes related to natural resources in a household, village and wider community. Who is involved in decision making, and how? Who has access to information? Who knows where the resources are? Who is most likely to know where the water points are, where to find good firewood, amongst others?
When designing, planning and undertaking project activities, it is essential to ensure that each user group within the community – including women – is involved and is given the opportunity to actively and meaningfully participate. This means that right from the beginning, a project should plan activities that are suited to women’s availability – in some cases, that could mean evenings or Sundays after church. It is important that our projects adapt to their rhythm and lifestyle, and not the other way round.