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Gender and forest conservation: The impact of women's participation in community forest governance

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  • Agarwal, Bina

Abstract

Would enhancing women's presence in community institutions of forest governance improve resource conservation and regeneration? This paper focuses on this little addressed question. Based on the author's primary data on communities managing their local forests in parts of India and Nepal, it statistically assesses whether the gender composition of a local forest management group affects forest conservation outcomes, after controlling for other characteristics of the management group, aspects of institutional functioning, forest and population characteristics, and related factors. It is found that groups with a high proportion of women in their executive committee (EC)--the principal decision-making body--show significantly greater improvements in forest condition in both regions. Moreover, groups with all-women ECs in the Nepal sample have better forest regeneration and canopy growth than other groups, despite receiving much smaller and more degraded forests. Older EC members, especially older women, also make a particular difference, as does employing a guard. The beneficial impact of women's presence on conservation outcomes is attributable especially to women's contributions to improved forest protection and rule compliance. More opportunity for women to use their knowledge of plant species and methods of product extraction, as well as greater cooperation among women, are also likely contributory factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Agarwal, Bina, 2009. "Gender and forest conservation: The impact of women's participation in community forest governance," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(11), pages 2785-2799, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:11:p:2785-2799
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Westermann, Olaf & Ashby, Jacqueline & Pretty, Jules, 2005. "Gender and social capital: The importance of gender differences for the maturity and effectiveness of natural resource management groups," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(11), pages 1783-1799, November.
    2. Agrawal, Arun & Chhatre, Ashwini, 2006. "Explaining success on the commons: Community forest governance in the Indian Himalaya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 149-166, January.
    3. Agarwal, Bina, 2001. "Participatory Exclusions, Community Forestry, and Gender: An Analysis for South Asia and a Conceptual Framework," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(10), pages 1623-1648, October.
    4. Bardhan, Pranab, 1993. "Analytics of the institutions of informal cooperation in rural development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 633-639, April.
    5. Agarwal, Bina, 2009. "Rule making in community forestry institutions: The difference women make," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(8-9), pages 2296-2308, June.
    6. Agarwal, Bina, 2000. "Conceptualising Environmental Collective Action: Why Gender Matters," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(3), pages 283-310, May.
    7. Neera M. Singh, 2001. "Women and Community Forests in Orissa: Rights and Management," Indian Journal of Gender Studies, Centre for Women's Development Studies, vol. 8(2), pages 257-270, September.
    8. Baland, Jean-Marie & Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 1999. "The Ambiguous Impact of Inequality on Local Resource Management," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 773-788, May.
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