FAO Regional technical consultation





Sponsored by
Bangkok, Thailand

Organized by
Chennai, India

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ISBN: 974-7846-03-03

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Revathi Balakrishnan
Regional Rural Sociologist and Women in Development Officer
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Bangkok, Thailand


Hemal Kanvinde
M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
Chennai, India

Mrs Gita Gopalkrishnan
Chennai, India


Regional Rural Sociologist and Women in Development Officer
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
39 Phra Atit Road
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Email: [email protected]


Local food items sold in the weekly market by women - Kalahandi District, Orissa, India
(Photo courtesy : Vijay R. Subbiah).

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I.   Introduction

2.   Inaugural session

i.Welcome addressRevathi Balakrishnan
ii.Opening statementMr Peter Rosenegger
iii.Inaugural addressHon'ble Begum Matia Choudhury
iv.Presidential addressDr M. S. Swaminathan

3.   Introductory technical papers

i. Gender defined strategies for biodiversity management for household food security
Revathi Balakrishnan

ii. Involving women, ignoring gender
Ms Sumi Krishnan

iii. IDRC's approach to research in gender and biodiversity management
Ms Elizabeth Fajber

4.   Country papers

i.BangladeshHon'ble Zinatun Nesa Talukder
Dr Nilofer Hye Karim
ii.BhutanMs Cheki Wangmo
iii.IndiaDr Hemal Kanvinde
Dr Sudha Nair
Mrs Mina Swaminathan
iv.The MaldivesDr Mohamed Naseem
v.NepalMr Prem Gurung
vi.PakistanDr. Zahoor Ahmad and
Dr Abdul Ghafoor
vii.The PhilippinesDr Beatriz P.del Rosario
viii.Sri LankaDr Anoja Wickramasinghe
ix.VietnamMs Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hue

5.   Innovative approaches and future directions

6.   Recommendations

7.   Annexes

Annex 1:   Consultation Programme

Annex 2:   List of Participants


Biodiversity is the basis for survival and progress of the present and future humankind. Therefore, all must strive to conserve, enhance and utilize it in a sustainable manner. Women have played and will continue to play a vital role in this resolve.

I congratulate the organizers of the technical consultation on Gender dimensions in biodiversity management and food security: policy and programme strategies for Asia. The consultation was organized jointly by the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation of India and Women in Development Programme of FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok.

This report is the outcome of the technical consultation in which scientists representing various disciplines in social and biological sciences came together to develop strategies for integration of gender dimensions in biodiversity research and programme. The consultation epitomizes the organizational objective of FAO to build multidisciplinary partnership to foster integration of gender considerations in normative and operational programmes to ensure food security.

The report presents a summary of the status of gender differentiated roles in local production systems that define the gender specific responsibility for biodiversity management. Furthermore, the proposed strategies for research and programmes for integration of gender dimensions can serve as guidelines for national research institutions in the Asian region. We welcome the recommendations directed to FAO both in the region and global arena for strengthening social dimensions, particularly gender concerns in the plant genetic diversity management programmes.

The publication highlights the gender concerns in bio-resource management and thus contributes to the expanding knowledge base relevant to the region. FAO is pleased to contribute to the enhancement of global understanding of gender issues in bio-resource management, particularly in the area of biodiversity management.

R.B. Singh
Assistant Director-General
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific


M. S. Swaminathan

The 21st century is likely to be known as the “biological century”. Uncommon opportunities have been opened up by gene revolution involving the mapping of the very blueprints of life and the scrambling of genes from altogether unrelated species through recombinant DNA research.

The public good that may emerge during the biological century will depend not only upon innovative and ethical genetic modifications, but equally upon the success of efforts to conserve biodiversity. Biodiversity is the feedstock for the biotechnology industry and greater the efforts in the conservation of genetic diversity, greater will be the scope for generating more meaningful genetic combinations.

Conservation of bio-resources has been part of the culture and ethos of past civilizations. This is why centres of biodiversity often overlap with centres of great civilizations. It is also clear that from the early beginning of domestication of economic plants about 12,000 years ago, women have played a pivotal role in plant selection, domestication and conservation. Historians of domestication feel that when men went out hunting for food, women started selecting plants from the wild and cultivating them. This important step brought about the transition from gathering to growing food plants.

During the course of agricultural evolution, men and women began to specialise in different areas of natural resources management. In the area of bio-resources, women played in the past and are still playing a key role in many societies in the area of post harvest technology, like harvesting, threshing, seed selection and storage. However, with mechanisation gender roles tended to change in industrialised countries. In the tropics and subtropics also gender roles changed with changes in landuse pattern, as for example the diversion of land to plantation crops like tea, coffee and rubber. In many nations in Africa, there is also a gender division in relation to the crops cultivated, with women playing a key role in the cultivation and management of food crops and men more concerned with crops for the market like cotton and tobacco.

The FAO Regional Office in Bangkok and Revathi Balakrishnan, Regional Rural Sociologist and Women in Development Officer, deserve our gratitude for sponsoring a series of studies on the gender dimensions of bio-resources conservation and management in South Asian countries. M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) has been associated actively in this significant regional initiative of the FAO with reference to India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The present publication contains the highlights and recommendations of the Technical Consultation held at MSSRF at Chennai, India from 2–5 November 1999. The Consultation had the privilege of having the Hon. Begum Matia Choudhury, Bangladesh Minister for Food and Agriculture and the Hon. Begum Zinnatun Talukder as active participants. The participants made many important recommendations which deserve serious consideration and appropriate action by national governments, FAO bilateral and multilateral donors.

Many biodiversity experts believe that we are entering an era of mass extinction with reference to the number of plant and animal species facing the threat of extinction. A major cause for this unfortunate situation is the loss of habitats rich in bio-resources. Women have generally been on the forefront of the environment conservation movement, as for example in the case of Chipko (i.e. hug the trees) movement in the Himalayas. Giving explicit recognition to gender roles in biodiversity management will be an important first step in the conservation and sustainable and equitable use of bio-resources.

My special thanks go to Revathi Balakrishnan, for her guidance and advice and to Ms Mina Swaminathan and Dr Hemal Kanvinde for their painstaking efforts both in organising the workshop and preparing the publication.

August 1, 2000
Chairman, MSSRF


CBDConvention on Biological Diversity
CGIARConsultative Group on International Agricultural Research
COPConference of Parties
FAOFood and Agriculture Organiaation of the United Nations
FAO-RAPFAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
FARMFarmer centred Agricultural Resource Management Programme
GISGeographic Information Systems
GPSGlobal Positioning System
IDRCInternational Development Research Centre
IRRIInternational Rice Research Institute
JFMJoint Forest Management
MSSRFM. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
NGONon-Government Organization
PCIParticipatory Crop Improvement
PGRPlant Genetic Resources
PPBParticipatory Plant Breeding
SAARCSouth Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
SEAGASocio-Economic and Gender Analysis
TRIPSTrade Related Intellectual Property Rights
WIPOWorld Intellectual Property Organization