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OVER RECENT YEARS, there has been a change in the way governments, donors and development partners view the rural world. The current tendency is to recognize not only the physical limits but also the diverse needs of populations and to place the emphasis on the roles people play in the exploitation and management of their land resources.

The participatory approach is a tool that allows people to take an active and responsible role. It emerged as a result of two main factors: a general recognition that intervention strategies, which had been advocated in the past, did not work; and the relatively recent willingness of governments to include people's participation in rural development policies. The approach supports activities designed to encourage the decentralization of technical services, end state involvement and privatize production and management activities, including the exploitation of forest and natural resources.

In Senegal, the management of natural and forest resources is a vital element in land management because of the particular needs of rural populations and because natural resource exploitation is an important part of agricultural, breeding and wood production.

When applied to the management of land and natural resources, the participatory approach becomes a tool that encourages an entire population to take effective control of land development activities. The approach is not an end in itself but a methodological scheme that contributes to socio-economic development planning. It aims at modifying the perception of people's different roles and proposes that responsibilities be shared among the partners.

A well organized participatory approach helps to identify all the actors in development, increase their standing and recognize their importance, even when these have been overlooked in the past, from the moment of project or programme design. The Northwest Groundnut Basin Reforestation project (PREVINOBA) was driven by a participatory strategy for concerted land management programming and was shown to be open to gender issues, even though this had not been foreseen in its conception. Thanks to participatory approach tools, the identification of actors has demonstrated that, contrary to widely held beliefs, rural forestry and land management are not just for men.

This case study analyses the course of the project which, through adoption of a participatory approach and application of its tools, has obtained important results in rural planning, taking into account the priorities of men and women. These results, although not covering the whole range of gender analysis concerns and tools, can inspire other experiences in comparable situations and help to fine-tune gender analysis itself through the identification of specific socio-cultural conditions.

Background on Senegal

Trends in the agricultural sector

Senegal is a coastal country in the Sudanese-Sahelian zone. It has a surface area of 197 000 km2 and, in 1995, the population was estimated at 8 347 000, with women accounting for 52 percent. The national economy is dominated by the agricultural sector (cultivation, breeding, forest exploitation, fishing) which occupies more than 60 percent of the population. Slow modernization of the agricultural sector, combined with uncertain climatic conditions, has led to a drop in productivity accompanied by strong pressure on natural resources.

Economic difficulties have subjected the country to structural adjustment policies aimed at stimulating growth, primarily through improvement of the agro-ecological environment. This is why current national policy in economic and social development emphasizes the sustainable use of resources. Planning exercises based on this policy are based on a participatory process in which the strategies developed and methods used favour the involvement of all actors. In this context, the forest sector in particular has played a leading role. Since 1990, the Water, Forest, Hunting and Soil Conservation Division (WFHSCD), drawing on 15 years of previous experience in land projects, has introduced innovations at the institutional level and has helped create conditions that are conducive to the application of the participatory approach. The active participation of all actors in the rural development planning process is now universal.

Policies for the advancement of women

Women play important roles in agriculture. They constitute 75 percent of the rural population and account for 81 percent of agricultural activities (in addition to their reproductive functions), with an average working day of 12 to 15 hours. Men usually help women in tasks that call for a certain level of physical force.

Over the last two decades, significant advances have been noted in policies and programmes concerned with female advancement. Multilateral and bilateral partners and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have joined these efforts, and there has been an improvement in the status of women and an increase in their opportunities for economic and social advancement. The following illustrate this dynamic:

The National Women's Action Plan (NWAP), 1997-2001, stresses the central role of women in sustainable development, and the importance of their contribution has been recognized in speeches. However, in reality, their work is still undervalued and undermeasured.

In the 1970s, Senegal opted for the integration of a women in development (IWD) approach which can still be seen today. In the mid-1980s, the country embarked on a process of reflection and study to highlight the results and limits of IWD. As a result, it incorporated the gender and development (GAD) approach in its strategies and methods. All development partners, as well as national institutions, have integrated gender issues into their analyses.

Several ministries now recognize gender as the strategic axis of intervention in their policy orientations. As well as NWAP, which was drawn up under the aegis of the Ministry for Women, Children and the Family (MWCF), there have been strategic policy documents from the Ministry of Literacy and the Promotion of National Languages, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Action, and the Ministry of Technical Education and Professional Training.

One of MWCF's projects is concerned with promoting the physical and moral integrity of women, favouring their access to decision-making levels and setting up a legislative framework that encourages egalitarian gender relationships. This project, known as Promoting the Rights and Strengthening the Power of Senegalese Women, is financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), supported by the Canadian Centre for International Studies and Cooperation (CCSIC), and is being implemented through Siggil Jigèen,1 a network of local women's organizations. It started in 1993, and a phase of consolidation was completed in August 1997. The project is expected to run for five years at a total cost of 1.5 billion CFA.

Gender and natural resource Management planning

In March 1995, WFHSCD, supported by the Netherlands Embassy in Dakar and the FAO office in Senegal, organized a workshop which was attended by 30 land officers, planning teams, decision-makers and development partners. In-depth reflection on concepts and tools related to the gender issue, evaluation of the activities of two forestry projects in the light of gender, and group work sessions resulted in the first elements of an action plan to use and integrate gender analysis in the sustainable management of natural resources.

In August 1996, following this workshop, WFHSCD, through the Support for Senegal's Rural Forestry Development Programme project (GCP/SEN/ 037/NET, FAO/Netherlands Cooperation), called for a study that would define:

The results of this study should be used in forestry sector planning exercises, together with resource allocation (including human resources), in six of the country's ecogeographic zones.

Project design and objectives

THE GOVERNMENT OF SENEGAL launched PREVINOBA in 1986. The project is supervised by the Ministry of Rural Development and Water (MRDW) and comes under the responsibility of WFHSCD. It receives financial support from the Government of the Netherlands and technical support from FAO. It aims at finding solutions to the serious ecological imbalance in the area of the groundnut basin, the country's most favourable zone for the principal cash crop.

Deforestation, abandonment of the practice of leaving land fallow, and repeated shortages in rainfall have led to serious wind and water erosion and decreases in yields of at least 50 percent. At the same time, the population has faced a shortage of fuel- and utility wood and a precarious water supply owing to the drying up of numerous wells during the dry season.

The project intervention area, in the northwest groundnut basin, covers the departments of Tivaouane and Thiès, with a total population of 658 862 inhabitants (291 672 in Tivaouane and 367 190 in Thies) and an average population density of 82 inhabitants per square kilometre. The population of Tivaouane is mainly Wolof Muslim and strongly influenced by the fact that the area is the main centre of Senegal's Tidjania brotherhood. The population of Thiès is Sérère and Christian.

Over the last 20 years or so, seasonal emigration has become the norm. Men leave their villages at the end of the farming season, returning only for family or important religious occasions. As a result, women are the stable representatives of the project. It should also be noted that, although the land belongs to men, women have easy access to it for their own needs, albeit at limited levels.

PREVINOBA is now in its third phase. The objective of the first phase (1986-1989) was to re-establish trees to maintain the ecological balance. This phase had the following main aims:

From the outset, the project opted for an effective strategy of popular participation. Thus its objectives called for:

Through their direct contact with rural populations and their review of the results obtained during the first phase, project organizers realized that people's concerns regarding forestry go beyond the simple framework of rural forestry. During the second phase (1989-1995) the scope of the project was widened and the reintroduction of trees into the agricultural system was put within the larger framework of land management. PREVINOBA put the emphasis on drawing up a land development and management plan with programme activities that reconciled people's interests, policy orientations within the sector, improvement and conservation of the environment, and improved production with the concept of sustainable development.

PREVINOBA has reinforced its partnership strategy by turning more and more to participatory methods and tools and, within an increasingly favourable institutional context, WFHSCD has also moved towards wider uses of the participatory approach. In fact, the important experience of PREVINOBA in this field has stimulated national reflection and decision-making on participation.

The current phase (1995-1999) puts the emphasis on consolidating the lessons learned, extending activities in the department of Thiès and setting up a system of follow-up and evaluation. The ultimate aim is to hand over the running of the project and its activities to farmers' organizations, government structures and NGOs.

Project implementation


The participatory approach is the driving force behind PREVINOBA, and is based on dialogue between technical institutions and the population and on the concept of partnership. Its main objective is to involve people closely in the design and implementation of all the development activities that affect them.

The approach involves a series of stages and is a dynamic process (see tables below and on facing page). At each of these phases/stages, various methods and tools are used: analysis and diagnosis; education and training; and communications such as radio, slide language and image boxes. Overall, the process leads to greater dialogue and popular involvement. For example, training courses have encouraged men and women villagers to analyse their situation, identify their priorities and decide which actions to follow. As a result, people mobilize their resources and expertise to satisfy their needs and achieve their objectives.

The participatory approach cycle



1. Programming

1. Information/knowledge about actions

2. Awareness/consciousness raising

3. Problem identification/search for solutions

4. Organization/programming

2. Programme realization and management

5. Thematic training

6. Evaluation of current activities

3. Programme follow-up evaluation

7. Follow-up evaluation

4. Self-advancement

8 Return to programming phase

Components, objectives and results of each phase

SOURCE: both tables extracted from FAO, 1995.





1. Programming rural-level actions

Knowledge of partners

Knowledge of environment and situation

Information exchange

Evaluation, diagnosis

Definition reference situations

Awareness and consciousness raising

Identification of problems

Search for solutions, development of local expertise

Creation of partnerships

Programming of grassroots activities by populations

Definition of responsibilities

Willingness of different partners to act

2. Programme realizationand management

Takeover of programmed activities

Research, improvement through thematic training activities and evaluation of current actions

Realization, management of programme

Concerted involvement and decision-making

3. Follow-up and evaluation process

Global evaluation of results, process, participation and joint commitment

Follow-up, joint evaluation of actions with contributors

Rigour, actions suit the particular situation

4. Local self-advancementand self-development

Return to programming phase and different stages (including awareness building)

Progressive acquisition and control of tools for local self-development

Solidarity and continuity of the involvement of all partners

Main results

Land development and management plans. PREVINOBA has drawn up 20 land development and management plans, 15 of which have been translated into the national language for easier use by the people. In each of the villages that has a development plan, a village development committee has been set up. The people make the land development and management plans their own and, from the outset, are responsible for their implementation with the participation of various partners, including PREVINOBA.

The accelerated participatory research method (APRM) was used for the evaluation/diagnosis and to gather information about the environment and land in which the participants live and work. Local populations' awareness of environmental issues was raised through a series of frequent meetings with technical services personnel. Problems were identified and solutions suggested on the basis of precise knowledge of the land and its potential, traditional resource management practices, etc. The technical officers were important in helping reflection and developing strategies, experience and expertise. Action programmes based on the results of these stages of reflection all defined objectives and the results that were expected; organized activities in time and space; and identified who was in charge, the practical intervention measures to be taken, the means of mobilizing all those involved and the training and technical support that would be necessary.

The role of the village development committees, which were organizational teams, was to facilitate implementation and follow-up of the various activities.

Training and literacy. The implementation phase of a land development and management plan often calls for training in themes and subjects that have been selected by the entire village community concerned at the programming stage. These themes are related to solutions identified by the people and support the implementation of specific actions. Training thus aims at creating and adding to the technical knowledge that people need to implement land development and management plans. Various types of training material are used: giant writing pads for flip charts, slides, film stills, brochures, popularization dossiers, etc.

During the first phase of the project, 170 women and 286 men underwent training in agroforestry techniques. During the second phase, training was given in activities related to tree nurseries, planting, assisted natural regeneration, windbreaks, soil protection and restoration, and the conservation of water and soils. Both women and men attended these training sessions, although the information available does not include figures broken down by gender.

Specific training was given to women related to activities that they wished to undertake. At the end of 1996, 1 980 women had been trained in market gardening, 2 382 in the repair and construction of better ovens, 2 224 in soap and cosmetic production, and 87 in the management of millet mills. Training took place in villages to avoid the difficulties caused by travelling elsewhere.

Knowledge acquired during training was applied immediately and had very positive results. For example, there were clear signs that women wanted better ovens and, in spite of a scarcity of clay, 8 000 were introduced to family households (7 000 were built by women and the other 1 000, made out of metal or ceramics, were purchased). For market gardening, which is a dry-season activity practised in nurseries, 65 villages put up an initial investment of 1 million CFA in 1994 and reaped returns of 11.5 million CFA, even though part of production was for self-consumption.

Functional literacy was introduced in 1993, in cooperation with a number of associations and partners: the Association for Training and Literacy in National Languages (ATLNL), World Vision International (WVI), the Support Project for Women's Advancement Groups (SPWAG), the MicroRealization Project/European Development Fund (MRP/EDF), etc. Through these collaborations, 26 literacy classes were started, attracting 1 115 students, 90 percent of whom were women. Literacy training turned out to be extremely useful in that it gave people access to information about proposed new techniques in agricultural, forestry or craftwork production. It also helped to increase the understanding of and access to mechanisms and principles of management and accountancy.

Microrealizations. While land and development management plans were being developed, the population was drawing up a programme of accompanying measures. Its aim was to resolve certain essential needs such as water supply and to develop income-generating activities such as the production of forest and fruit plants, poultry farming and cattle raising. The activities of the accompanying programme included selective support or microrealizations. These are small rural development operations that involve a limited number of activities and, through local control, help communities to lead their own development. Very often, the project cannot support these activities financially because they lie outside the mandate of intervention, nor can the population assume the entire financial cost.2

PREVINOBA has invested in the creation of microrealizations by supporting and helping with feasibility studies, the search for finance and the training of beneficiaries in income management. As a result, several organizations, particularly NGOs, throughout the region, have made significant contributions. These include: five millet mills from the Netherlands embassy; ten literacy classes from ATLNL; 69 boreholes and five wells, equipped with wind pumps, from WVI and the League of Italian Volunteers (LIV); and development of a sheep-raising operation for 13 people from MRP/EDF. At the same time, mention should also be made of the installation of oil presses, which have benefited ten women's advancement groups (WAGs), and the diffusion of horse-drawn carts for transporting agricultural inputs and harvests, for three WAGs.

The results of these microrealizations are outstanding. For example, in cattle raising, where women's involvement is important, over a period of four months the benefits were in the order of 50 000 CFA per head of cattle.

PREVINOBA has also reached an agreement with Senegalese Mutual Credit (SMC), which has opened a savings-credit line to finance women's retail businesses. A total of 15 WAGs have received 3.65 million CFA. Monthly repayments have exceeded the terms envisaged by SMC and the savings of eight of these WAGs rose to 191 020 CFA in two months. PREVINOBA and SMC are currently studying ways of providing credit to set up centres for the purchase of basic commodities to satisfy supply needs. The project also provides management training to ensure that WAGs can repay loans, guarantee paying for equipment such as millet mills and handle the savings accounts they have opened at the national SMC office.

Lessons learned

Entry point

From the outset, PREVINOBA chose to intervene at the village level. In Senegal, the village represents a well-structured and hierarchical social entity. In most cases, particularly in the department of Tivaouane, authority is exercised by village and religious chiefs and decisions are taken after hearing the opinion of the village notables. Women are traditionally absent from the negotiating process, although the eldest are consulted before decisions are taken.

With the backing of village authorities and the acceptance of established rules of control and social regulation, PREVINOBA has begun to build a partnership with village organizations and WAGs.

To begin with, the project faced a paradox; one of the essential conditions for setting up a forestry project is the availability of land, but project officers could not depend on this during the seasonal emigration of men, because the women who were left behind traditionally only have access to land, and therefore to its management, through men.

Taking women as the principal representatives of the project seemed to the best and most obvious solution, but this evolved gradually as the project advanced. At the outset, the project was oriented towards rural forestry, only later did it start to develop activities that responded to the needs of women (improved ovens to reduce the fatigue of wood collection, greater accessibility of water, millet mills, oil presses, improvement of family nutrition, etc.). It soon became necessary to give women access to and control over production factors and to respond to their concerns.

Established systems of land use do not render women independent as regards land management nor do their major activities come under the domain of production in the strictest sense of the term, however, women's participation was crucial for the project.

Women became indispensable actors in the design, programming, establishment and implementation of land development and management plans, in spite of the absence of village men for the greater part of the year. The village community took charge of the implementation of project activities, basing this on its own particular social dynamic.

As a result, the planning and organization of activities took account of men's and women's different tasks and responsibilities regarding reforestation, the major area of project intervention. Men were given responsibility, usually at the individual level, for assisted natural regeneration, rural improvement and the use of quickset hedging to demarcate agricultural boundaries. Women formed groups for reforestation and cultivation of land obtained collectively. They were also involved in orchards (planting fruit trees), groves (shrubs) and shade plantations in family plots. On other activities, such as the installation of windbreaks, both men and women worked together. Reforestation activities are often made in response to environmental problems (for example, the proximity of phosphate quarries) whose negative impact affects the entire population.

PREVINOBA did not expressly aim at increasing women's participation in development but the context forced gender issues to be taken into account. However, women's associations were created as a way of increasing adoption of an integrative approach rather than in recognition of equality between men and women. Difficulties encountered by women were recognized (lack of access to land, unequal sharing of benefits, overloaded work schedule, limited financial resources, etc.), and solutions to these obstacles were sought (income improvement, access to credit, collective exploitation of land, diversification of activities, etc). At the level of plant production, for example, it was recommended that fruit plants (preferred by women) be combined with forest plants (held to interest men more).

Through its strategy of participation and self-advancement, PREVINOBA has been responsible for minor upheavals in the established order, and these have led to the following benefits to women:

None of these changes threaten the village hierarchy. Women do not aspire to equality with men, whether in terms of decision-making or of access to and control over incomes. The village authority/grassroots group gateway, coupled with bottom-up planning, has led to certain advances over the IWD approach but has not called male-female relations into question, as the GAD approach does.

Tools and methods

The participatory approach uses a number of tools including: village information meetings, programming of activities, evaluation of activities undertaken, discussion sessions supported by appropriate material, rural radio, and APRM tools for drawing up land management plans. Support material (educational calendars, posters, stickers, brochures, photo albums, films, etc.) and the communication methods advocated by the approach played major roles in creating dialogue and self-confidence. Discussions and rural radio were the most useful in raising awareness.

The combined use of these tools has considerably improved women's capacity to express themselves within their communities and has directly influenced the method and content of land and development management planning. At the beginning of the project, it was mainly the men who spoke, both for themselves and for women. The method used by the project, which required the constitution of groups of men and women and obliged the discussion leader to listen to the advice of all the groups, was an important step in giving women a voice in village assemblies. For example, issues as sensitive as population and the environment, in a context in which culture and religion determine family choices, were confronted using discussion and information tools such as the educational series "How to ensure a future for our children" together with an audio-cassette on Islam and family organization.

Today, woman's voices, with other women or with men, is here to stay. For example, during self-evaluation meetings, women do not hesitate to indicate men who have failed to honour previous commitments. Rural radio has also contributed to giving weight to the voice of women, all the more so since here the stage has moved from the village to the national level.

The use of APRM to set up village land development and management plans is the clearest example of the direct link between use of the participatory approach and the creation of conditions for grassroots planning that takes gender-related issues into account. The table below, which lists the priority activities of the integrated village land development and management plan in Ndine, in the rural community of Niakhène, is a good example of this.

The table below demonstrates how the application of APRM can contribute to planning that leads to natural resource management as much as to a better distribution of benefits between men and women. In the long term this can transform unequal relationships into relationships of parity. For example, in a society in which women do not generally take part in decision-making councils or are rarely consulted, women fulfil management functions and positions in the technical commissions of a village development committee.

Who benefits from project activities?



Improvement of water extraction and conveyance system

Women: as those responsible for water duties

Extension of market gardening

Women: improvement of incomes and family nutrition

Reforestation for multiple use and energy savings

Men and women: income support

Women: as those responsible for wood duties

Cattle raising

Men and women: increase in incomes

Women: increased presence in economic and productive sectors

Revitalization of the social centre


Organic enrichment of soils

Men and women (mostly men)

Creation of groundnut seed reserves


Introduction of agricultural varieties resistant to drought and short cycles

Men and women (mostly men)

Introduction of fodder cultures


Setting up a functional credit system

Men: for agricultural inputs

Women: for small trading (N.B.: women's self-confidence increases)

Creation of literacy classes

Women (during the dry season since they remain in the villages)

Installation of:millet mills, millet huskers, millet threshers and oil presses


Organization of a health point

Men and women (the entire community, with the particular responsibility of women for child health)

Capacity building

Technical training. Training in agroforestry techniques (establishment and follow-up of tree nurseries, plantations, market gardens, soil protection and restoration) is aimed at both men and women. Other forms of technical training are aimed specifically at either men or women. Techniques of rural improvement are open to men, while apprenticeships in the construction of better ovens, the production of soap and cosmetics and the processing of food products is directed towards women.

The training methods developed aim at meeting the needs of the land development and management plan and its implementation and at responding to requests expressed by different interest groups. Women, therefore, have access to training in aspects of production as well as domestic life. They tend to have a wider range of expertise than men.

Management training. Management training helps women's groups to honour their commitments to pay for costly equipment such as millet mills or hydraulic pumps. A savings account is opened to ensure that the women who receive management training divide their incomes in order to repay loans, pay running costs, cover depreciation, and ensure income for the operator and benefits for the group. It should be stressed, however, that it is rare for women to handle management documents and they are nearly always helped by a man (husband, student son or the gorou mbotay3 of the group).

Functional literacy. Through functional literacy, PREVINOBA has helped to satisfy the basic need for widening the capacity of women. The most interesting application of the literacy programme is the translation of land development and management plans into the national language, thereby making it far easier for both men and women to use.

In the context of Senegal's decentralization policy, adopted in1996, it has been recommended that literacy be compulsory for local councillors. This does not necessarily represent a move towards women's increased involvement in the management proceedings of local collectivities because, although women are the most numerous at literacy sessions, the example of keeping management records puts into question women's capacity (or desire) to profit from what they have gained through functional literacy.

Widening of negotiating capacity and exercise of power. The development of PREVINOBA has permitted villagers, women in particular, to contribute to decision-making throughout the project zone. Land development and management plans constitute a base for negotiation that allows for interventions aimed at village men and women. Contacts with a multitude of partners, as well as with financing bodies and banks, allow villagers to acquire new knowledge, to experience different ways of looking at issues and, above all, to gain a certain level of self-confidence. This is very important in a self-advancement dynamic, particularly for women. An example of this would be the president of one group who, after completing a six-month revolving credit cycle worth 300 000 CFA, announced the objective of obtaining 1 million CFA. This is all the more remarkable given that the average annual income of the head of a family is of the order of 50 000 CFA.

PREVINOBA has encouraged women to participate in activities that lie beyond the village context (training sessions, congresses, fora, study trips, international meetings) or the project context (one group president is involved in the National Programme for Agricultural Popularization as a farmer-contact for agricultural experimentation). Even if these are exceptions, they represent a significant step forward in the social perception of women's role and demonstrate to other women that certain prejudices can be overcome. Women's knowledge and capacity has undoubtedly improved after ten years of PREVINOBA implementation and this promotes the establishment of more egalitarian relationships among different members of the village community.

Gender information

In the reports and documents that PREVINOBA has produced, information - concerning, above all, benefits and results - is given about the population in general, but not about the different gender and other groups within that population. This lack creates problems when follow-up procedures and mechanisms, as well as indicators, are being decided on.

PREVINOBA defines collective participation as the temporary or permanent grouping of individuals who are motivated by the same interest. This definition is illustrated by the example of women's groups whose objective is to use land areas for reforestation and for the establishment of village or communal cassava groves. Group organization also leads to an improvement in living conditions and changes in social conditions and regulation. In fact, membership of a group offers women the opportunity of participating in village assemblies and influencing decision-making.

In one report, PREVINOBA stresses women's participation as an important factor in the success and sustainability of actions, implying that planning that ignores women will be unable to meet the needs of natural resource management.

In spite of an improved understanding of the position of women in the project zone, PREVINOBA still needs gender information and training, and a number of activities have been initiated in this context. In March 1995, the person responsible for women's activities participated in a workshop on gender, sustainable development and the management of natural resources, followed by an information day on gender issues, organized by the Netherlands Embassy in Dakar in 1996.

The project is working with the national trainer from the Social and Gender Analysis programme of the Institute of Economic Development (SAGA/IED) for the training first of officers and then of village partners. The aim was to complete the training before land development and management plans were implemented in 1997-1998, so that APRM tools could be used for collecting valuable data about the concerns of men and women. Planning will take more account of gender issues in response to demands made by the zone's socio-demographic circumstances. Relevant, in-depth information and training should lead to interesting developments.


Male-female relations in the PREVINOBA zone are defined by long-established social rules which the project did not attempt to influence. Nevertheless, innovations introduced by the project, within the context of a generally increasing interest in women's issues, have had repercussions on the status of women and their relations with men. At the same time, decision-makers, encouraged by development partners, are committing themselves increasingly to participatory planning that takes account of gender. It would be paradoxical to speak of participation and promotion if all development partners were not recognized and involved in the process.

All the different actors (forest, agriculture, water, NGO sectors, etc.) active in the PREVINOBA zone of intervention, should be involved when land development and management plans are being discussed and developed. Teams whose members come from different services create intersectorial links and promote coordinated and harmonious action among different actors. Such teams permit information exchange, facilitate the necessary transparency of activities undertaken in the rural context and avoid the very frequent contradictions that arise when different modes of intervention are applied at the grassroots level. Taking consensual planning as their starting point, all partners operate in the same direction. Development aid has long been weakened by rivalry, double use and waste of resources, but these risks are reduced as soon as actors' skills are improved and they are made aware of their own responsibilities.

To render planning exercises more effective, it would be useful to make increasing use of gender analysis tools that make different participants more aware of issues related to male-female equality and help them to find relevant solutions.


Senegal's forestry sector has benefited from an institutional environment that is favourable to the dynamics of participatory planning used by PREVINOBA. The Senegalese Forestry Action Plan (SFAP), adopted in 1993, chose the participatory approach to support its forest development strategy. As a result, WFHSCD's organizational chart has been modified to include a structure responsible for guiding the application of this approach and for coordinating all subsequent training and communication activities. This national structure has been adopted by regional forestry services and projects.

This move, which began in 1990, still suffers from weaknesses, particularly at the level of transferring experience gained from the projects to the regional forestry services. Nevertheless, an interactive relationship is being established between the grassroots and the central and regional levels. PREVINOBA has led to significant reflection at the national level on the issues of testing, adapting and ratifying methods and tools of the participatory approach. At the same time, the project has benefited from the institutionalization of concepts and tools at the central level as well as from the results that WFHSCD has had in terms of rural projects.

At the institutional level, another aspect that can limit the impact of a participatory approach is the degree of conviction and involvement that different technical services (central or local) have in relation to that approach. PREVINOBA and the Village Reforestation Project in Mbacké and Louga (PROVOBIL), among others, have demonstrated that application of the participatory approach in land management is a good choice for soundly based planning.


The PREVINOBA case study shows that there are real development opportunities in Senegal thanks to a participatory approach that is open to gender issues, and to sustainable, efficient and egalitarian rural development planning.

Rural forestry might be viewed, a priori, as a sector in which women do not play a determinant role because of the question of land, over which they have few rights. However, today, the field of forestry and natural resources is practically the sole preserve of women. To ignore the importance and role of women in the planning and management of land and natural resources can have serious negative effects. The study Impact of forest projects on women (Daouda and Oumy, 1996) notes that, in 1995, in eight projects in which data were broken down by gender, 81 percent of the beneficiaries were women.

Women have gained substantial benefits in the areas of land occupation and planning mechanisms. They have acquired: income diversification; technical, management and literacy training; simplification of household chores; information and awareness raising on current development issues; and empowerment. Given the traditional Islamic environment in which they have grown up, these developments represent a significant step forward. However, in the initial stages, neither the dynamics of the project nor its participatory strategy took account of gender issues. Gender analysis was not a foreseen project outcome.

In PREVINOBA, as in the whole forestry sector, there is still a great need for increased gender information and training before the GAD approach can be used to produce planning that is more in tune with reality. The socio-economic circumstances of village communities in Senegal make it difficult to use some of the gender analysis tools that would complete the participatory approach by introducing the element of equality. For example, most rural women do not list male-female equality or women's empowerment among their objectives. Others do not question, for the time being, the fact that activities and roles in the sector are so distinctly determined by gender.

The draft action plan for integrating a GAD approach into the planning and management of natural resources, which was produced in March 1995, remains valid. This plan should be finalized to permit rapid application and the training initiatives that PREVINOBA has taken constitute the beginnings of implementation.

Lessons learned from the case study

An approach that claims to be participatory does not automatically presuppose that all actors in a given society will be involved. The ways in which tools are conceived, selected and used are determinants of a participatory process.

If a participatory process is carried out properly, it can give rise to the re-identification of partners, the reorientation of project activities and the reallocation of resources.

Maintaining actors' interest in a participatory approach depends on finding solutions to the difficulties they encounter and on answering their daily concerns.

Planning that meets social and economic needs calls for satisfaction of both national and local needs, and response to the concerns of all actors within the context of equality.

Programme planning for land development and management goes hand-in-hand with the development of training, competent sources and complementary knowledge appropriate to the activities planned.

The field of rural forestry extends to land management which requires planning and is not solely within the competence of men.

When information and training on the concepts and analytical tools of gender analysis are integrated into APRM, interest in the issue of male-female equality will be generated and will be followed by action.

The tools of the GAD approach should be re-examined in the light of socio-cultural realities so that they can be adopted by users and made compatible with the particular context to which they are applied.

Both decision-makers and field officers must understand and recognize the reasons for taking a participatory approach and for male-female equality so that they can take appropriate decisions and act as a result.

The socio-economic position and importance of land is the starting point from which to highlight gender analysis in order to convince people of its usefulness as a tool for developing sustainable activities.

Linkages between the land and central services are essential for ratification of the tools and participatory methods of gender analysis and for obtaining the relevant support.

The self-advancement of local development is a cyclical, repeated and continuous process which is, in the final analysis, in the hands of the beneficiaries themselves.


This case study was written with support from PREVINOBA, which was implemented in Senegal within the framework of the FAO/Netherlands cooperation programme (GCP/SEN/029/NET). The original language version of the document was edited by Agnèse Le Magadoux.


1 Which means "hold high the heads of women" or "honour women".

2 Beneficiaries finance about 20 to 25 percent of a microrealization.

3 Which means, "man of the group" or "he who helps the women every time they face an obstacle".


Daouda, B. & Oumy, N.K. 1996. Impact of forest projects on women, Support project for the national rural forestry programme. Dakar.

FAO. 1995. Participatory approach, communication and forest resource management in Saharan Africa - balance and perspectives. Rome.

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