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THE FORESTRY DEPARTMENT of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has worked continually to integrate the concerns and interests of project participants into projects. FAO has underscored this commitment in various ways.

The FAO mandate is to find ways "to eliminate the hunger and poverty affecting millions of people in developing countries. FAO constantly presents the problems and interests of the world's farmers, particularly the smallest and poorest among them"1. Additionally, in 1980, the FAO Committee on Forestry Development Strategy reoriented FAO forestry programmes "to transform forestry-based activities into more efficient agents of socio-economic change" and "to ensure that forestry activities are better adapted to the requirements of rural development with an increased emphasis on the objectives of eradicating poverty and increasing rural self-reliance".2

Concurrent with FAO's drive to better focus its work on people, the Organization has begun to increase the attention it pays to the potentially differing needs of men and women in project design, planning and appraisal. FAO's commitment to that end has also become apparent in Plans of Action and Committee reports.

The World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) initially framed the issue for all United Nations Agencies in 1979. While the basic principles and objectives it enunciated focused on "the eradication of poverty, hunger and malnutrition", two of the six WCARRD programme areas of action explicitly demand "people's participation" and "the integration of women in rural development".3

In 1990, the FAO Women in Agricultural Development (WID) Plan of Action structured guidelines "to ensure the incorporation of concerns for women into all its activities".4 And the FAO Committee on Forestry's Women in Development Strategy stated in 1990 that "the FAO Forestry Department has been working to increase understanding of the role and dependence of women in forestry and to address women's needs".5

It is acknowledged that part of any Forestry Department effort to focus programmes on the intended beneficiaries must involve the operationalization of channels for integration and monitoring of local people's situations and interests. Yet a review of project documentation in the Forestry Department revealed that while a great deal of information about project activities was available, almost no information about participants could be found. What projects did and how they did it, was reported. An indication of who participated and how they benefited was not formally traced. The individuals backstopping projects needed more people-oriented information. Those evaluating projects needed more opportunity to report on participants.6

A consultancy, "Monitoring People in Forestry Projects", was initiated to help design a technique that would al low greater reporting from the field on the people and gender-related aspects of forestry projects. Among other things, the consultancy recommended that guidelines be created to indicate how projects could be designed, monitored and evaluated to focus on the various needs and interests of the different groups of intended beneficiaries.

This document presents guidelines that help better focus the project cycle on local people's concerns. More specifically, it begins with the assumption that local people's concerns are relevant and highlights the ways in which gender-based considerations need to be continually examined and can affect project operation, approach, success or failure. The approach was developed by Mary Rojas and synthesizes both a large body of literature and several agencies' experiences with participatory development, the use of socioeconomic indicators and gender issues in development.

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