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September 2003

Socio-economic and gender sensitive indicators in the management of natural resources

Gender and Population Division
FAO Sustainable Development Department

March 2003

Part 2 of 2

1 2


Women and men, young and old often have different knowledge systems. In Botswana, for example, it was found that men's knowledge about the conservation of traditional leafy vegetables was general, while women's knowledge was more detailed and specific (Matlhare, 1999).

A distinction is often made between formal and informal knowledge. Extension and training are the best available means of knowledge acquisition and skill development, especially for illiterate farmers. In Egypt in 2000, 65 percent of the female compared to 35 percent of male farmers were illiterate. In Nepal in 1995, only 40.9 of the male and 14 percent of the female population above 15 years could read and write. However, daughters of wealthy and educated families received higher education than those in poor families. There is a widely documented gender gap in participation of farmers in agricultural training. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that the training offered to women has been in income-generation activities and skills that relate to their domestic activities. In addition there is a limited availability of female specialists. According to El Sanabary et al (1999a) extension agents do not fully understand women's actual roles in agriculture, and female extension agents face constraints related to limited mobility, lack of transportation, and conflicts of availability of women extension workers (mornings) and women farmers (afternoons).

Reclaimed lands in Egypt illustrate how formal and informal knowledge systems affect the sustainable management of resources. The graduate farmers had a considerably higher level of technical and formal education prior to settling in the reclaimed areas, while the traditional farmers had longstanding hands-on farming experience and low levels of formal education.

Traditional farmers had not participated in the training because, as they said in a participatory learning exercise, they had worked long enough on other people's land to be familiar with cultivation and the different irrigation systems. Interestingly, the traditional farmers managed their land more sustainably and remained in the reclaimed lands.

Knowledge systems are changing. For example, in Kenya, as a result of formal schooling and migration, men's indigenous knowledge is declining and, as roles and duties have changed, women have acquired men's knowledge17. The knowledge of the older generations is no longer trickling down to the younger generations either because there are limited opportunities of learning by direct experience or young people regard their ancestors' knowledge as inferior to that gained through formal education.


Baseline: Women's and men's indigenous knowledge associated with the management of traditional varieties in period 0 (baseline).

GSI data required:

  • Establish women's (indigenous) knowledge associated with the management of traditional varieties.
  • Establish men's (indigenous) knowledge associated with the management of traditional varieties, compared to the baseline.

GSI indicators:

  • The ratio between women's versus men's formal knowledge associated with the management of natural resources, compared to the baseline.
  • The ratio between women's versus men's indigenous knowledge associated with the management of natural resources, compared to the baseline.


Women and men participate differently in formal and informal community-based organizations, and use different networks for the management and use of natural resources18. Participation has become a widely accepted strategy and is understood both as a product (where the act of participation is an objective) and as a process (where the act of participation is used to achieve an objective). Participation is often classified according to the degree of initiative and involvement of beneficiaries.

In Egypt, the participation of women in formal organizations is limited19. Women rely on internal land and labour networks to prepare their land. Cash networks have been used to offer community development experiences and services for "newly-settled brothers and sisters". Farmer's "natal networks" have been morally and financially crucial -if not fundamental to their successful settlement in the reclaimed lands. Where natal networks are far away, a new social fabric has to be woven. Women in particular are found to be intensively engaged in building social capital. Despite the mix of graduates and traditional farmers coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and origins settling in the new lands, social problems are few.

Both in Nepal and in Egypt, similar networks were found to be crucial for the sustainable management of natural resources. In Nepal, households with some excess labour can exchange labour through the parma system, a flexible, informal system for the exchange of reciprocal labour that operates according to gendered activity lines. Labour required for planting is done by women, and mechanized weeding by men. Upon marriage, the bride brings traditional varieties into her new area.


Baseline: The number and level of participation of women and men in response strategies in period 0 (baseline).

GSI data required:

  • The number and level of participation of women in response strategies.
  • The number and level of participation of men in response strategies.

GSI indicators:

  • The ratio between the number of women versus men participating in response strategies, compared to the baseline.
  • The ratio of the level of women's versus men's participation in response strategies, compared to the baseline.


"We measure what we value, and value what we measure"
(The UN Commission for Sustainable Development, 2001)

The development of GSI indicators in the management of natural resources was undertaken as an attempt to unite two parallel streams of socio-economic and biophysical indicators. In general, GSI indicators allow for a systematic understanding of whether and when gender and socio-economic factors affect the management of natural resources, thus allowing for the monitoring of progress made towards gender equality in the natural resource sector. But above all, it is believed that the continuous monitoring of GSI indicators will make it possible to design and implement development responses to be more efficient, effective and sustainable.

Two processes will enhance the institutionalization of GSI indicators. The first is the application and continual field-testing of GSI indicators in various ecosystems. Here, GSI indicators could also be productively expanded into other technical areas, for example, water. Second, several immediate opportunities are ahead at the global level. The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002 opened up technical issues to broader crosscutting issues. There is also a wide scope for strengthening the links and collaboration within the work of the United Nations system to improve partnerships at the international level and to develop an indicator platform on the Internet (UN, 1999).


1This is central to the conceptual livelihood framework developed as part of the Department for International Development (DFID) approach. These comprise physical capital (e.g. differential control income); (Blumberg, 1991; Elson 1996; Lilja and Sanders, 1997); agricultural inputs (Kabutha, 1999) such as fertilizers (Gladwin, 1992), credit and tools (Moeller, 1997); to natural capital (e.g. land) (Saito et al., 1994); to human capital (e.g. knowledge, agricultural extension services, education), health (Song, 1999); to social capital (e.g. membership in formal and informal organizations, and networks); and to symbolic capital (Bourdieu).
2The sustainability barometer combines indicators to allow users to draw conclusions about the conditions of people and the ecosystem, and the effects of people-ecosystem interactions, treating people and the environment together and as equally important (Prescott-Allen, 1996). 3The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks economies based on their success in achieving economic growth without crossing environmental sustainability barriers. The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) aims to arrive at an internationally accepted sustainable development index (SDI), combining social, economic and environmental trends, and illustrating systemic links.
4Women and men farmers are developing their own indicators based on existing flora and fauna to detect changes in seasonality patterns, predict the start of drought or rain, identify soil fertility, and generally monitor the state of the ecosystem, which guide their daily planning and related implementation of activities.
6To date, many organizations have modified and tailored the terminology, yet remained faithful to its causal logic. For example, the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) (2000) uses the term driving force indicators to denote pressures, while Benites and Shaxson (1996) call these change indicators. The model has also been expanded, e.g. by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (1994) including effects (P-S-R Effects) and the CIAT/World Bank/UNEP (2001) use of impact indicators (P-S-I-R). The European Union combines them all and experiments with a Driving forces-Pressure-State-Impact-Response model (D-P-S-I-R).
7It has also been used to organize indicators in a variety of technical areas, such as by FAO (1996a) to estimate land quality; by Shymasundar (2001) to understand the impact of resource degradation on the poor; by CIAT, UNEP and the World Bank (2001) to help prepare for natural disasters in Central America; by Jesinghausen (1999a and 1999b) to elaborate the EU environmental policy, and by the UNCSD (1999) to organize all the chapters of Agenda 21.
8Some even argue that women are intimately linked to the environment because of their concern for their communities and for future generations (Quiroz, 1994). Women protect the natural ecosystems (Jiggins, 1994; Shiva and Dankelman, 1992 in Quiroz, 1994) and stand at the core of the sustainability paradigm (Cordeiro, 1995).
9For example, the WB Bangladesh Interfish project's M&E system tended to underestimate project impact because of its initial concern with output rather than outcome indicators. The introduction of a participatory M&E system fundamentally transformed the project management's relationship with participants. Participants defined how the project should measure success, and as a result, the project began to consider effects beyond the completion of its activities towards the quality of the activities and the longer-term outcomes (FAO and DFID, 2000).
10Home gardens represent a broad agrobiodiversity - or living gene banks -- and are buttresses against genetic erosion, since they often contain traditional varieties that have been displaced by modern ones in the farm's cash crops. They are micro-environments containing high levels of species and genetic diversity within larger farmer systems. These are not only important sources of food, fodder, fuel, medicine, spices, construction materials and income in many countries, but are also important means for in situ conservation of a wide range of plant genetic resources (Boncodin and Vega, 1999; Cordeiro, 1995).
11In Papua New Guinea, for example, five different socio-economic groups produced five different resource maps. The women identified sacred sites, forests, hamlets, water bodies, infrastructure and a range of specific resources. The young men made a simpler map, sticking to key hamlets, the main resource areas, and the area where logging currently takes place. When elders took over the process from the youth who had started it, discussions revealed that most of the youth do not go hunting or collecting wild resources, and therefore could not locate key resources on the map (Grieg-Gran et al., 2001).
12Some analysts argue that land degradation has negated many of the productivity improvements of the past and threatens food security through greater soil erosion (cf. Templeton and Scherr, 1999), through, for example, cultivation of previously under-utilized marginal areas. In Madagascar, for example, liberalization forced increasing populations to open up new land for rice production to meet food security objectives, hence accelerating deforestation (Barrett and Reardon, 2000). Also, many hillside terraces in Yemen fell into disrepair when farmers out-migrated to neighbouring oil-rich countries.
13According to Islamic law, daughters receive the right to half of the shares received by sons. The reasoning behind this is that husbands are obliged to support their wives and families and thus receive a larger share of the estate, whereas women are not obliged to do so because they are already taken care of by their husbands. However, the (Egyptian) National Council for Women is currently acting to demonstrate that the principles of sharia provide for the full equality of women with men, and respect for women's human dignity (Para 318 in UN 2001).
14El Sanabary et al., 1999a. According to Mansour (1994) women are still pressured by family members to give up their share of land for the sake of their brothers so that they could enjoy their continued support, especially in case of divorce.
15Beck, 1998. Another case in point is provided by Jordans and Zwarteveen who found that in Bangladesh women were squeezed out from their lands when the introduction of irrigation created greater competition for land.
16Saito et al., 1994; Tapia and De la Torre, 1997 Carter and May, 1999; Shaffer, 1999. One study showed that women worked 2 or 3 hours more per day than men and so needed 30 percent more energy than had been thought previously (Science Magazine, 2001).
17Rocheleau, 1995 in Zweifel, 1999. Also, a 25-year-old Kenyan woman from a rural background had much less knowledge of medicinal plants than that of her grandmother (Appleton, 1993 in Quiroz, 1994).
18In Masvingo, Zimbabwe, women were closer to traditional institutions while men were closer to formal institutions, for example, village development committees (Hagmann, Chuma & Gundani. 1998).
19In 1997, the Policy Coordinating Unit on Women in agriculture conducted a World Bank-funded survey of 2,000 households in four governates. This revealed that women's participation in NGOs is extremely limited. Also, there are hardly any women in the agricultural cooperative unions (El Sanabary et al., 1999a).
20For example, women who are pregnant or menstruating may not be permitted to handle or consume particular plants and foods, or enter particular environments (IDRC, 1998).


AIDS Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
AUSAID Australian Government's overseas aid program
CBD Convention on Biological Diversity
CIAT International Centre for Tropical Agriculture
CIDA Canadian International Development Agency
DFID Department for International Development
D-P-S-I-R Driving forces-Pressure-State-Impact-Response
EC European Commission
ECLAC Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
EU European Union
FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FARMESA Farm-level Applied Research Methods in East and Southern Africa
FIVIMS Food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping systems
GDI Gender-related Development Index
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GEM Gender Empowerment Measure
GEMINI Global Emergency Management Information Network Initiative
GTOS (FAO) Global Terrestrial Observing System
HDI Human Development Index
HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus
IDRC International Development Research Centre
IFAD International Fund for Agricultural Development
IFSA International Farming System Association
IISD The International Institute for Sustainable Development
ILO International Labour Organization
IMF International Monetary Fund
IPGRI International Plant Genetic Resources Institute
IUCN World Conservation Union
LAC Latin American and Caribbean
LADA Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands
LI-BIRD Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development
MALR Ministry of Agriculture and Land reclamation
M&E monitoring and evaluation
NARC Nepal Agricultural Research Council
NGO Non Governmental Organization
OECD Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development
PRA Participatory Rural/Rapid Appraisal
RRA Rapid Rural Appraisal
SDI Sustainable Development Index
SEAGA (FAO) Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis
GSI Socio-Economic and Gender-Sensitive
SMART Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reliable and Time-bound
TEMS (FAO) Terrestrial Ecosystem Monitoring Sites
UN United Nations
UNCCD United Nations Secretariat of the Convention to Combat Desertification
UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
UNCSD United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development
UNDESA United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund
USAID United States Agency for International Development
WEF World Economic Forum
WFP World Food Programme
WFS World Food Summit
WHO World Health Organization
WISTAT Women's Indicators and Statistics Database
WRI World Resources Institute
WSSD World Summit for Social Development
WWF World Wildlife Fund


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Some Useful Web Links:

The Association for Women In Development (AWID):

CGIAR. Participatory Research and Gender Analysis Programme (PRGA):

CGIAR. The Gender Working Group of the CGIAR Systemwide Program on Participatory Research and Gender Analysis: (SPRGA)

FAO Facts & Figures on Women in Agriculture:

Global Fund for Women:

International Center for Research on Women:

OECD: Agri-Environmental Indicators:


UNDP Gender in Development:


Currency Unit = Egyptian Pound (EGP)
USD 1.00 = EGP 4.25
EGP 1.00 = USD 0.24
1 acre (ac) = 0.405 ha
1 hectare (ha) = 2.47 acres
land measurement unit in Egypt 1 feddan (fd) = 0.42 hectare (ha)
1 hectare (ha) = 2.38 feddan

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