Historically, central government forest policies have failed to adequately recognize or value the contributions that forests make to subsistence economies and to income generation in rural communities. In the past two decades, however, awareness of these benefits has increased significantly, stimulating healthy debate over new forest policies that could potentially devolve more forest management responsibilities to forest-dependent people. The debate has been accompanied by policy experiments and institutional changes and, where indigenous and traditional forest management systems are recognized, control of forests is slowly being handed over to local people.
The shift from state controlled or conventional forest management to participatory forest management is still considered radical in many places, however. Consequently, progress toward state-community partnerships in protecting, managing and sharing the benefits of local forest resources is slow in most countries as stakeholders adjust to new arrangements and situations. The new approaches sometimes have had unexpected and profound implications for rural people. Women, in particular, have been affected in significant ways-sometimes positively, sometimes negatively.
This publication explores the consequences of Joint Forest Management for women in tribal communities in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh. It reveals that women spend a greater proportion of their time collecting and processing non-wood forest products than men. Because of their greater contribution to the welfare of the household, women in tribal households have more decision-making power than those in many other Indian households. New forest management approaches must therefore recognize these distinct roles of women in household activities and decision making.
This publication's most significant contribution is in reminding us that even well-intentioned community management strategies may have significant negative impacts on women when gender dimensions of forest use and management are overlooked or downplayed. In contrast, gender sensitive development strategies benefit not only women, but the general household welfare. If developed appropriately, such strategies also can help prevent further forest degradation and deforestation. The experiences of Andhra Pradesh highlighted in this publication hopefully will provide valuable insights for development initiatives in other areas.
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative of FAO