Forests and Gender

22 Mar, 2022

Gender Responsive Incentive-Based Mechanisms for Sustainable Forest Management

By Neha Chakravarty, Technical Expert, GIZ

The future of forests is inextricably linked to gender wherein adopting a gender-centric approach is necessary to achieve desired collaborations during the implementation and in the outcomes of performance-based, incentivised, and community-led management of forest resources.

Women in Suliali, Nurpur, District Kangra (H.P.) making brooms using bamboo @GIZ/Aashima Negi

Gender is understood as a socially constructed relation of power and practices between women and men, driven by the intersectional dimensions of social, political, and economic institutions. In practice, gender manifests through differentiated representation, labour and resource allocation and consumption, and decision-making agency. These gender-differentiated roles and responsibilities translate into gender-differentiated outcomes and opportunities.

While both men and women are legitimate actors in the consumption and conservation of forest resources, they perceive these forest resources and their respective roles quite differently. They differ in their knowledge, utility of forest resources, and, most importantly, the agency to make decisions, which steers and shapes their concerns and priorities1. There is a growing body of knowledge highlighting this stark difference in the extent of both genders’ respective reliance on forests for subsistence and livelihood purposes. While it’s the women who often put in the labour and energies, the returns are largely under the control of men. The latter is often observed to control the most valuable forest resources with tangible market value such as timber. Nonetheless, the impact of forest degradation is particularly severe on women. Uncontrolled consumption of forest resources leads to women walking further for water, fuelwood, and fodder while remaining on the sidelines of assuming any decision-making role in forest management2.

Incentive-based mechanisms (IBMs) are instruments that are progressively being used to manage and improve the flow of ecosystem services, with lucrative and mutually acceptable benefits to those who manage them. The effectiveness of these mechanisms depends on the engagement of more people with diverse values towards a constructive and inclusive dialogue and the common goal of sustainable forest management. Integration of gender-based differences in how, why, and where women and men interact with the forest resources stands to ensure greater acceptability and sustainability of these performance-based mechanisms. Further, IBMs are often designed to optimise the consumption of ecosystem services by operationalising a conservation-oriented transaction between the managers and users of these services. With any restriction on ecosystem services such as foraging for fodder, women’s well-being stands to be disproportionately impacted, thus, constraining their willingness to participate only in the presence of targeted and equitable incentives that exceed the opportunity cost of their time and effort. In that regard, the systemic gender inequalities in forest management woven around the prevalent gender values, norms, and attitudes in society need to be addressed while designing and implementing IBMs for sustainability of forest ecosystem services.

Women participate in Forest Conservation Planning, Pathrevi, Karsog, District Mandi (H.P.)

The global discourse on sustainable forest management is increasingly being directed towards policy interventions that focus on incentivising the community-driven forest governance while constructively addressing the gender norms3. Additionally, the intersectionality between gender concerns and societal factors of ethnicity, caste, age etc. and their inclusion within the context of forestry is garnering traction4.

While assessing the effectiveness and equity of payments for ecosystem services, a market-based incentive mechanism, for the land users from North-Western Vietnam, a real-effort experimental study emphasized the criticality of adopting a gender-responsive approach to IBMs with well-defined roles of women and men in conservation efforts, and payment distributions solely conditional on an individual’s contribution, irrespective of the assumed gender role5. Meanwhile, in another study conducted in Mara North Conservancy Kenya against the backdrop of market-based incentives in an ecological-restoration project, it was observed that gender inequities in land ownership and, thus, absence of any legal representation of women, reinforced the traditional power imbalances and excluded women from receiving equitable outcomes despite their extensive physical contribution towards restoration efforts. This systemic reinforcement of gendered roles had limited the success of the envisioned ecosystem restoration6.

With an aim to mainstream the gender agenda within the forestry context, it is increasingly becoming critical to include the gender perspective and participation along the different stages of the intervention process7. IBMs in particular warrant a bigger buy-in from all relevant stakeholders, both women and men, owing to the inherently voluntary nature of these mechanisms. For instance, increased participation of women at the village level forest decision making bodies, such as Executive Committees offers them a conducive platform and a formal representation to raise their concerns and voices, alike.

“It is vital that women are put at the centre of whatever decisions are being made about how to manage these resources. It is increasingly evident that women living close to forests should become co-managers and co-protectors of forests, along with governments and other bodies.”

- Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate

Active participation of women as key stakeholders in Pathrevi, Karsog, District Mandi (H.P.)

The ‘Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystem Services (FES)’ project is jointly implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), State Forest Departments of Himachal Pradesh (HP), Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). In Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the project is focused on expediting the uptake of IBMs for forest management especially forest for water while recognising and using gender-sensitive and inclusive approaches. Women’s participation in the local forest governance as a key stakeholder will be ensured through the representation of their concerns and their role in decision making in forest institutions such as Village Forest Development Societies, user groups, and incentive-sharing processes. To that effect, the project is emphasising on gender mainstreaming by integrating active participation from women and men at different stages of the project cycle through participative methodology and capacity building to enable the engagement of all stakeholders towards gender-responsive incentive mechanisms to manage forest ecosystem services.



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