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I Why integrate gender considerations into forestry projects?

I Why integrate gender considerations into forestry projects?

The call to consider men and women independently when examining development activities has become virtually universal. Yet frequently, the need for such disaggregation is justified on the basis of past and continuing inequity. Development experts should, however, feel compelled to think about men and women independently, primarily because independent consideration increases the potential for the design, implementation and management of effective, sustainable development activities.

Men and women frequently have very distinct rights and responsibilities. They often control and have access to different resources, complete different jobs for the household, earn income in different ways, allocate time differently, have different legal and traditional rights, and possess different information regarding the structure of their community and the natural resources that surround them. As a result of these far-reaching distinctions women and men will frequently have different priorities and goals. Similarly, their ability to participate in forestry activities may vary depending upon the way projects are designed and implemented.

Consideration of the profound distinctions between men and women can improve the potential effectiveness of forestry projects in a number of ways.

1. Net economic benefit

IN ORDER TO MAXIMIZE the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of forestry activities, projects need to be targeted to meet local needs. Frequently, however, real task distribution is not accurately assessed prior to the development of programmes. The net economic benefits accrued by both FAO and the community increase when a thorough analysis of the community is used to develop projects and target subgroups of beneficiaries.

Both women and men are involved in different elements of the household's subsistence and income-earning agricultural activities. Their tasks are complementary, but distinct. Yet few training and extension programmes, for example, accurately and specifically target programmes based on local distribution of time and labour. As a result, the training and information services are sometimes, at best, conveyed secondarily to the person who actually completes the related task, decreasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the effort.

2. Sustainability

SUSTAINABILITY IS A CRUCIAL CONSIDERATION in any development activity to what extent can the project-recommended approach to natural resource management continue to be used beneficially without external support.

Throughout the world, both men and women are heavily involved in natural resource management and use. Their influence on the environment can differ greatly because their roles differ. Men are often more involved in clearing fields, hunting and tilling the soil, while women frequently do most of the fuel and water collecting, cooking and weeding. By virtue of their tasks, their influence on and role in environmental management varies.

3. Achievement of development objectives

FAO's OVER-ARCHING GOAL IS to eliminate hunger and poverty throughout the world, particularly by working with the poorest and least represented. To understand and assist the weakest society members, attention needs to be paid to exactly who the poorest are and what they do. Studies have shown that households headed by women compose a significant percentage of the population and are frequently among the poorest of the poor. In Africa, the percentage of households headed by women can be as great as 65% in areas where there is a high level of male migration (Commission of European Communities 1991). In order to understand and effectively work with these poor families, their special needs, rights and restrictions need to be understood and used in planning activities.

Similarly, if hunger and poverty are to be eliminated, beneficiaries must be carefully targeted based on their role in the family and the way they use their income. Women's and men's activities often differentially affect family wealth and nutrition. A study indicates that in Burkina Faso men spend 33% of their income on food and family needs while women spend 84% of their income on the family (Commission of European Communities 1991). By considering differences in spending and income earning activities, a more effective attempt to specifically work to eliminate poverty and hunger can be made.

4. Enthusiasm and participation

WHEN COMMUNITY MEMBERS feel that they own a project, the quality of the effort often increases enormously. The involvement of all those who may be affected by the project can increase the chances for success and investment on the part of local participants. For example, a government-sponsored reforestation effort in Peru suffered because women passively and actively resisted establishment of plantations even after the community assembly voted for their creation. Women were accustomed to influencing decision-making in the all-male assembly by speaking with their husbands privately prior to meetings. However the assembly to discuss the plantations had been called without enough prior notice to enable women to discuss the agenda with their husbands at home. Therefore, they felt excluded from decision-making and were disadvantaged by the final results.

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