Involving women in agroforestry

Promoting action on behalf of women and forestry
Rural women are major caretakers and users of forests. Each day they walk long distances to gather fodder and fuelwood. They seek out fruits, nuts and small creatures for food for their families. They use bark, roots and herbs for medicines. Trees provide shade, beauty and environmental protection for their homes. Thus, trees and forests play a major role in their daily lives. Unfortunately, most forestry programmes are organized by men who may not understand women's relationship to forests. Forestry has typically been a man's profession and it is hard for many foresters to perceive of women as being competent in this field. Moreover women's needs regarding the forest often differ from those of men. Rural women confront obstacles that limit their ability to participate in community development programmes. They frequently lack the self-confidence or a forum in which to speak up publicly for themselves and for their families. They often lack access to child care, credit, education and land tenure, which limits them more than it limits the men of their own families. These obstacles prevent them from being heard and from achieving a more powerful role in accessing and making decisions about tree and forest resource management.

A study in Nepal used the cost in time spent collecting fuel as a measure of the consequences of deforestation; the effects of deforestation on time allocation, agricultural output, food consumption, and nutrition were examined. In particular, the allocation of women's time is influenced because women are engaged not only in the collection of fuelwood and other essential forest products affected by deforestation - such as leaf fodder and grass for livestock feed - but also in agricultural production. Deforestation reduces agricultural output from existing cultivated land by increasing time spent in collecting essential forest products, which shifts time away from agriculture. As a result, household income from agriculture is reduced. Unless alternative sources of income increase, food consumption and eventually the nutritional status of the population will be adversely affected. Because livestock production is also an important part of household enterprise in these areas, the destruction of forests also influences this sector. A reduction in the availability of fodder used for stall feeding increases the pressure for grazing, which increases soil erosion on lands that are currently not under cultivation. Also, children who are involved in collection and livestock grazing activities may experience adverse effects on health and education, which would ultimately influence the region's prospects for raising the productivity of labour.

Women are traditionally important participants in both the agricultural and forestry components of agroforestry production. Women are frequently ignored in the design of agroforestry projects because of commonly held myths about their participation in both production activities and in public life.
Trees are important in rural economies largely as a result of the uses to which they are put by women. The fact that a special relationship exists between women, the family, and trees has been ignored by past development programmes.
Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 15: Life on Land