Why gender matters in agroforestry

Decision-making over land use is gendered, as are perceptions about environmental and ecosystem services. Both aspects have strong implications for understanding landscape multi-functionality. Gender behaviour in relation to sources of information that is trusted and perceptions of risk in the evaluation of new technologies is key to better understanding how landscapes change (Villamor et al., 2014). In Indonesia, for example, empirical studies suggest that women are more active and dynamic than men in responding to external opportunities that often shape landscape use (Villamor et al., 2013). And in Africa male motivation to incorporate trees on the farm is largely conditioned by financial factors, whereas females are concerned with soil conservation and household food consumption (Kiptot and Franzel, 2012; Fischer et al., 2012; Peterman et al., 2010).

Rural women in African countries have traditionally been the primary domesticators of forest-based food and medicinal plants; they have highly specialized knowledge on trees and forests, species diversity, management, use and conservation practices. Yet their participation in tree domestication is often hindered by their limited access to and control over land and trees, lack of information, and heavy household workloads (Degrande and Arinloye, 2015). Rural women also make substantial contributions to labour in agroforestry systems; they often disproportionately bear the costs of tree management, but realize only a fraction of the benefits, and tend to be enlisted for decision-making only when tree resources are degraded (Rocheleau and Slayter, 2007; Teklehaimanot, 2004).  

Gender is also an important determinant of participation in the value chains of timber and non-timber products; cultural, economic, governance, political and environmental factors intersect with other social factors such as education, age and ethnicity to shape the experience of women. Unfortunately, most timber and non-timber products value chain interventions have focused on women, rather than on the relations between women and men, thus implicating prospects for gender-equitable and sustainable outcomes (Haverhals et al., 2014).