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Conclusion: The importance of considering gender
Taking into account gender in the design, implementation and review of national forest programmes adds value to such programmes. In addition, the use of participatory planning tools and methodologies facilitates the collection of gender-differentiated information on the social, environmental, technical and economic aspects of forestry development. This will render the planning and implementation of forest development programmes more efficient and egalitarian, two points which are essential for the sustainability of development. Among the benefits which derive from integrating gender issues are the following:
Enhanced social and economic impact of forestry development
Sustainable forestry development depends on integrating environmental, technical and economic considerations with social and cultural aspects. The active participation of women and men in gathering information differentiated by gender, and the analysis of this information and the decision-making process, will lead to a more positive social impact (1).
The economic impact of the programme will be reinforced because the possibilities for consolidating and increasing income related to natural resources take into account income-generating activities carried out by both women and men.
Women often have difficulty in fully participating in development activities due to low levels of education and lack of direct representation in community decision-making bodies. Efforts to involve women as both direct participants and beneficiaries can help them gain status within and outside the context of the project (3).
Increasing possibilities for successful action
Forestry planning that takes into account gender-based division of labour and gender-based access to resources and control of resources will result in development initiatives based on more complete information. In addition, it is possible to avoid negative impacts if guarantees exist that the decisions concerning the management of forest resources by the men and women involved reflect how forest resources are used and managed (1).
More efficient use of resources
Taking into account social, environmental, technical and economic considerations will ensure that development activities make better use of often increasingly diminishing resources available.
Involving groups and individuals not normally party to planning and decision-making can often lead to gathering information which might not be gained otherwise, better targeting of a variety of beneficiary groups, and narrowing the gap between rich and poor (3).
Tapping local knowledge
Tapping the respective knowledge of women and men regarding the management and conservation of natural resources and biological diversity increases the possibilities of successful forestry programmes. Thanks to the collection of gender-differentiated data for planning and management, it is possible to guarantee that this invaluable source of local technical knowledge is fully utilised.
Reinforcing institutional capacities
Training of planners, foresters, technicians and extension agents in the use of planning tools, (such as Rapid Rural Appraisal, Participatory Rural Appraisal, Socio-economic and Gender Analysis, etc.) will stimulate a participatory planning process. It will also increase the capacity of individuals and institutions to address social, economic and environmental issues in forestry development. These kinds of training and skills are required by institutions at all levels multilateral, bilateral, NGOs, academic and the private sector.
Recognising and encouraging the role of women as key players in all aspects of forest development is important. Explicit plans need to be made and budgets and resources allocated in order to train women to work at technical and professional forestry levels, in addition to their traditional grassroots involvement. Advocating access for women to scholarships in forest disciplines, and setting targets for women's participation, can ensure gender considerations are taken fully into account (9).
Basing planning on a full range of social, economic, technical and environmental issues, rather than concentrating on one single sector (i.e. forests), opens up the opportunity for greater exchange of ideas and approaches between different sectors. By involving women and men in participatory forestry planning inevitably facilitates analysis of the interaction between the forestry sector and other sectors) such as health, nutrition, agriculture, livestocking breeding, water, fisheries, demography, law, education, etc.).
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