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IV. Conclusions

IV. Conclusions

1. While women's mobility, systems of agricultural production, and access to land and water/primary resources vary widely, women everywhere in the six states visited are involved in both forestry-related activities and income-generation. Forestry extension program efforts have been most successful in terms of skill transmission, numbers of individuals involved on a regular basis, and sustainability when these two elements - forestry and income-generation - are linked, as in the individual home nurseries and the interspacing of hashab with agricultural crops in the jewbraka.

Evaluations through-out Africa have demonstrated that where women have control over the fruits of their labor, they show greater commitment to the activity. Additionally, the seasonal nature of forestry work means that women need to pace themselves. Individual actions allow women to fit them into their ongoing domestic and agricultural responsibilities more easily than group meetings and collective work.

Where women have the possibility of selling the tree seedlings they raise, the individual tree nurseries have been the most successful of all nursery extension actions on the village level (as compared with the community and group nurseries). There were better survival rates in the nurseries in Rekabia and Tragma Elghaba (SOS Sahel), and stronger seedlings helped to produce better survival rates after out-planting. The private farmers who had paid for seedlings to protect their compounds and fields in Bukuran (UNSO-Ad Damer) took excellent care of them.

These projects have successfully demonstrated both the value of tree planting and the possibilities of privatizing nursery operations. There is still more potential for income generation by women from the collection, transformation and production of forest products (tree fruits, berries and nuts; hashab tapping and seedling production; weaving doum palm leaves; medicinal and cosmetic uses; fired clay objects; charcoal production) that has yet to be explored.

2. The improved woodstove program has faltered because it has not linked stove use to economics and has not responded to women's preferences. The commercialization of metal stoves has suffered from neglect of market factors during the choice of model and the formulation of marketing strategy. The anticipated shift of artisanal production away from subsidies and price controls has floundered because the economic feasibility of stove fabrication depended on unrealistic estimates of demand, given the high fixed costs of production and buying power of the average charcoal-consuming household.

Woodstove programs have yet to do adequate market research of what cooks want, who pays for the fuel, stove, and pots that cooks use, and what influences determine their purchasing behavior. They also have yet to exploit the key idea that the market is segmented by targeting models and promotional campaigns to specific consumer groups. Advertising has emphasized television and printed media, and largely overlooked avenues of communication for rural, non-literate women.

3. In those areas where out-migration of male family members is pronounced, many Sudanese women have taken on additional productive functions once fulfilled exclusively by men, such as plowing fields in Southern Darfur, collecting gum arabic near El Fasher, and growing trees and vegetables in Al Mogran (Atbara). Popular attitudes towards women are in a period of transition. The economic climate has created both new challenges and new opportunities for women. There is improvement in women's self-esteem and a noted willingness to try and learn new things (grow trees, travel outside village for training and make stoves).

4. Groups have multiple utility, are supported by existing cultural traditions, and appreciated by women. In situations of limited mobility for women such as in the River Nile and Northern provinces, the social arena of groups is where women gain confidence. Group training is also perceived as more acceptable by the community. Finally, groups can function as legitimate social meeting grounds that are not politicized and thus are neutral with respect to family status. When a woman participates in a group nursery or woodlot, she is not on one particular family's land. This can be important in the case of nomadic women for their acceptance and integration into a more sedentary community.

5. Work in extension has evolved rapidly in the past decade to the point where agencies are now capable of an informed, critical perspective on the underlying structural issues of access and choice. Projects such as SOS Sahel's community forestry programs which have based themselves in villages, which cultivate interaction between project staff and community members, and which allow women to form their own groupings as they choose provide greater access to the entire community to project opportunities. They also have forged stronger links to new behavior patterns capable of longer-term impact.

6. Educated women play key roles in forestry extension. From high school graduates and school teachers in village communities to young activists recruited for development work to university graduates, it is easier for women to accept another woman as a trainer and to relate to her as a role model. There is general acknowledgment that outreach to Sudan's rural women is more effective with female agents as the main liaison between community and project. Pairing these agents with men has also been tried. Skill complimentation from technical agents becomes particularly important when women's educational qualifications are lower than men's.

7. There has been a tremendous increase during the past 7-8 years in the number of female personnel who have accepted positions in rural areas. There is now a willingness to go out, live, and work in the field. However, the educational level of candidates that projects are able to recruit is about the same as before. There are still not many female university graduates in forestry outside of Khartoum and El Obeid, despite the influx of women into university studies.

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