II. Main findings
The review of existing programs included nine forestry projects with extension components, three rural development projects working with women on agriculture and/or income generation, an institutional strengthening project for the WID unit within the Ministry of Agriculture, an NGO-sponsored improved stove workshop, and a forestry management project. The dates given in parenthesis are for the period of joint international-governmental technical cooperation. As will be noted, several projects reviewed have been entirely turned over to the FNC, or are in a period of administrative transition.
1. Restocking of the Gumbelt in Northern Darfur (Nyala and El Fasher projects, UNSO/FAO, 1989-1993)
2. Jebel Marra Forestry Management Project (GTZ, 1984-1996, Phase II).
3. Western Savanna Development Corporation (Nyala, UNDP, 1985-1995)
4. Vocational Training Center (Nyala, ILO)
5. Restocking of the Gumbelt for Desertification Control, Northern Kordofan (El Obeid, UNSO, 1989-1995, Phase III, Part 2)
6. El Ain National Forest Management, Kordofan (SOS Sahel, 1989-1999, Phase II)
7. Area Development Scheme in Kordofan (El Obeid, UNDP)
River Nile State:
8. Nile Province Community Forestry Project (Shendi, SOS Sahel, 1985-1997)
9. Area Development Scheme in Lower Atbara (UNDP, 1988-1997)
10. Afforestation and Reforestation in the Northern State (Ad Damer and Ed Debba projects, UNSO, 1988-1994)
11. Northern Province Community Forestry Project (Ed Debba, SOS Sahel, 1988-1995)
12. Improved stove workshop (Khartoum, Renewable Natural Resources Conservation Project, CARE, 1984-1994)
13. Women in Agricultural Development Administration (FAO, 1993-1996)
Additionally, rapid market surveys were done in Nyala, El Fasher, El Obeid, Ed Debba, and Omdurman to obtain preliminary price information about forest and forestry-related products made, sold and consumed by women. Discussions on women's education in forestry and extension were also held with faculty at Shambat, Ahfad and Kordofan Universities.
In the past decade, women have played a greater role in forestry development projects in Sudan, both as beneficiaries and as project agents. This advance is linked with the policy shift towards community forestry practices. Their joint evolution can be traced clearly in project design.
The earliest projects reviewed were designed in the mid-1980s as centralized interventions to jump-start reforestation campaigns. They planned to use hired labor to staff large-scale (upwards of 500,000 pots) centralized nurseries, and food aid to stimulate community participation.5 Extension, such as it was, was conceived of in terms of convincing communities ("In one way or another, these people have to be made to understand...") that an objective, for example, like restocking Sudan's gumbelt was not an "imposed activity", but something they should view as in their own interest.6
5 Project Document, Restocking of the Gum Belt of Northern Darfur, p. 5.
6 The Gum Belt restocking project document, 1988, p. 24.
Project documents at this time targeted men farmers, yet contained few specifics as to who actually was in the target population and how best to develop extension activities with them.7
7 Evaluations point this out repeatedly. See for example, "Terminal Evaluation Mission of the Desertification Control Project in Darfur", 1994, p.40; and "Afforestation and Reforestation in the Northern State, Project Performance and Evaluation Report", March 1993, p. 1.
Moreover, project design supposed that women would benefit indirectly from project activities, even while it acknowledged gender disparities in control over resources:
"The income accruing from gum [arable] sales is controlled by men who spend it for personal needs, leaving a share for collective activities sponsored by village male associations."(p.15)
The next wave of projects which were designed in the late 1980s incorporated greater attention to the social situation and economic dynamics of the communities that they intended to work with. Policy-makers now focused in on popular participation from the initial design stage and prioritized it as an approach to achievement of more sustainable extension programs. Pairing sociological applied research techniques with an orientation toward cultivating local initiatives entailed spelling out in much greater detail what participation meant, and the type and quality of resources necessary to bring it about. This was reflected in a broader definition of participation as involvement in more aspects of project activity than simply the implementation process.
On the basis of its positive results, the community forestry approach has gathered momentum. It has provided a conceptual framework for gender issues to arise, be recognized and responded to. Identification of previously unseen roles that women play in gum arabic production in Kordofan, for instance, helped spur the inclusion of more women field agents in the second phase of the project, who would be capable of extending skill-training for cultivation and tapping to local women. Combatting the causes of desertification through local energy conservation led to the introduction of improved stove technologies aimed directly at women as primary users of fuelwood and charcoal.
Propelled by economic pressures and regional migration, the edges of what have been strictly defined gender-specific roles in Sudanese society are starting to soften up, and new possibilities for women to participate in production have begun to open up. Women's contributions to the household economy have become more important. Moreover, the new community orientation has fostered dialogue. For example, in 1988 project designers assumed that customary tradition would not allow women in the Northern provinces to be directly involved in shelterbelt activities. This idea was effectively turned on its head by the interest and enthusiasm women in Atbara showed for nursery work, which in turn led them to plant windbreaks within the village confines.
Recruitment practices of professional personnel - especially of women foresters - on posts in the more isolated and hotter, dryer regions where Sudan's frontline forestry projects are located have also shifted during this period. In 1985 civil service appointments were no longer assured to all university graduates. Since this time, Sudan has witnessed a dramatic change in post-secondary school enrollment. This is reflected in the statistics for the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Khartoum. The number of young female graduates has climbed as young men have sought more economically remunerative opportunities in the private sector and abroad.8
8 See table 1 in Annex 4.
In order to implement effectively its new extension programs with the female population, the Ministry of Agriculture and the FNC have begun to place more women agriculturists and foresters in the field. Programs of activities targeting women are now staffed by female extension agents, who may also be recruited locally. Certain projects have set up guidelines for actively affirming representation by gender in staffing and in committee work on the village level.9
9 The Area Development Schemes (UNDP) in Lower Atbara and Kordofan do this.
The range of extension programs reviewed included: tree nurseries, compound and amenity plantings, woodlots, agro-forestry techniques (intercropping, live fencing and windbreaks), primary school environmental education, and improved wood and charcoal stoves. The approach and method of organization employed by the extension worker vary along the dimension of orientation (hierarchical as compared with community orientation, and individual as compared with group work), as well as in the degree of local women's participation and personal commitment required by participants. Looking at the different systems by component illustrates the range.
Existing village institutions in the Western and Northern regions are almost all governmental. Women's groups are either religious, such as Khalwa societies, or for community development. Some are politicized, such as the Popular Salvation Committees and Women's Unions. None of these rural organizations directly address women's needs as producers, nor do they aim to enhance women's opportunities for income generation.
Women's participation in mixed institutions may be limited by cultural constraints. Water users associations along the northern Nile river prohibit membership by women, although women may work as temporary laborers at harvest time. The few women who belong to the twenty gum arabic associations in Kordofan are far outnumbered by the number of male members and their presence is thus highly "diluted'. The high proportion of men to women in mixed organizations was thought to be fairly typical by project agents. A baseline survey done in the Lower Atbara region of 167 rural organizations confirms the opinion: almost a third of the groups had an average of only two women members. (Another 15% had no women members.)
Where none of the existing structures was considered an appropriate channel for forestry extension work, projects have observed local traditions and gone through male leaders and spouses in order to contact women.
· Contact with established village leaders (sheiks) and local committees that deal with the community's administrative affairs. These are usually composed entirely of men. An example of this was the approach of the Ed Debba afforestation project. There, the project team explained their objectives to the local authorities, and agreement was reached that village women would participate.
· Contact with male project employees. In Nyala, for instance, the wives of men who were employed as laborers in project nurseries were organized by the gumbelt restocking project to start a woodlot.
A secondary route to reach out to women has involved contact with educational institutions. This approach is understandable in light of the status and authority that education provides, which help raise a graduate's social standing in her community. The UNSO forestry project in El Fasher, for example, worked with the Women's Activity Centers, which are sponsored by the Ministry of Education, to organize and conduct stove training seminars. A FINNIDA project in Khartoum and Omdurman province combined environmental education for teachers with small nurseries operated by students in girls' schools.10
10 There are separate schools for boys and girls in Sudan up through the secondary school level.
Most projects identified target villages on the basis of purely 'technical' reasons related to environmental degradation or rehabilitation potential, for example, those villages most threatened by sand-dune encroachment. Yet, they then appeared to hesitate in the selection of female participants, possibly because no document specified for them how to do this. The preference appears to have been reliance on traditional sources and/or the personal contacts of project personnel. The obvious limitation of this approach may not have been apparent until - if and when - more detailed research into the socio-economic background of participants was conducted. Only then did several projects become aware of the concentration of resources to which they had contributed inadvertently.11
11 The clearest example of this is documented in C.S. Nair, et al (1992) where it occurred in the Gash Delta. Also, the Ed Debba afforestation project suffered from the "heavy pressure of influential persons in the area" who overrode the selection criteria which project sociologists had devised (Afforestation in Northern State, Final Report, p. 21).
When resolving the question of which women to target, projects often overlooked nomadic women, though they are significant users of forest products and the drought caused severe dislocation to nomadic groups. Nomadic women were repeatedly seen in both the Western and Northern regions collecting and selling firewood, which is one of the few income-generating opportunities open to them as landless peoples. Nonetheless, the only project to mention contact with nomads was in Kordofan. There, a national forest management project had intervened to avert conflict between competing land users (for agriculture and animal grazing).
The main methods used to select participants were:
· Family relations to village leaders: e.g. The daughter, wife or sister-in-law of the village sheik is nominated to lead the women's group. She may already hold a position of authority based on her family connections and reinforced through leadership in other circumstances (nafirs, sanduqs or political committees).
· Familiarity because of husband's work with project: e.g. Women may know about the project on account of their husbands' contact or work with it, and come forward when the opportunity is presented.
There are other alternatives adopted chiefly by SOS Sahel and ADS. In these cases, initial baseline surveys functioned as neutral 'meeting grounds' between project personnel and village women. The time spent collecting answers to questionnaires allowed villagers to become familiar with project objectives and methodology before committing themselves to membership or action. It was then possible to generate:
· Self-identification by participants: e.g. The women in a village in south Kordofan came to talk to female project staff alone after the initial community meeting was over and told them that they wanted to start a nursery. This occurred after the men in the village had stated that the village did not need or want a nursery.
Cross-cutting all approaches to community participation was the importance of women-specific groupings, which project agents stressed at every site that was visited. In addition to the chance to reach larger numbers of people in less time that groupwork provides, women's groups are considered more socially acceptable forms for accomplishing work that may in other respects be quite innovative by offering information and training specifically to women for the first time.
· For training: e.g. SOS Sahel brings women chosen as village extension agents into town for several weeks of training. Improved stove construction demonstrations in Nyala, El Fasher, and Rekabia have drawn up to 35 women in a session.
· For implementation: e.g. The UNSO-Atbara project helps communities establish village nurseries for windbreaks. Women form committees to plant, water and tend the tree seedlings.
· For credit: e.g. Revolving funds are allocated to small groups of women working with the ADS-Lower Atbara project that are engaged in same handicraft (weaving saaf, sewing).
Another commonality in the projects reviewed was the assignment of women foresters to extension positions which require, by their very nature, close contact with the community. To be successful, extension agents need to develop a good rapport and working relationship with community members in order to inspire and support the attitudinal changes at the center of the development process. In the context of Sudanese society where many activities are segregated and many responsibilities are differentiated by gender, contact of this sort with women requires women staff. Women agents were also considered to be "better" at the process of handling the personal interactions which form the basis of communication and instruction, in the sense of being more perceptive and "more patient".
In the late 1980s, there were still very few female foresters with university degrees since the women who had entered university as men's enrollment declined did not finish their studies and begin to graduate before the early l990s. Societal mores frame the housing opportunities for a young unmarried woman, which are different from - and more limited than - those of her male counterparts. The few women foresters seeking project positions outside of Khartoum faced serious problems with accommodations if they had no family members in town.
There are other issues connected as well. The challenges of working in an isolated region with a taxing climate were undoubtedly compounded for the first women to accept project positions in areas such as El Fasher and Ed Debba. Personal support networks in Sudan continue to revolve around family. Where these are not available, there are few appropriate alternatives (such as the afternoon clubs that men can go to) for a young woman to make friends. Salary levels are not sufficient to support an independent lifestyle, which is also a problem for young men looking to get married and start their own families.
Although the sample size is too small to draw any valid conclusions, the forestry projects reviewed have unfortunately not been able to retain their women staff with university degrees in forestry. In order to continue to serve their target female populations, these projects have been obliged to locally hire younger women - who do not have the same level of qualifications. Positions in forestry projects in El Fasher, Atbara and Ed Debba that were first filled with university graduates have in effect been 'downgraded' to positions filled by secondary school graduates with no previous specialized training in forestry.