Gender-equitable rights and access to forest and tree resources and benefits: A mixed methods approach in Uganda and Nicaragua


Mwangi E and Larson A.

Although the policy environment for addressing gender inequity has improved over the past decade, women continue to be disadvantaged by insecure access and property rights to forest, trees and land resources; by discrimination and male bias in the provision of services, including credit and technology; and by exclusion from decision-making at household, community and national levels. Changes in tree cover and loss of community access to forests and trees can have a disproportionately adverse impact on women, with indirect impacts on households, and on the livelihoods of up to 5–10 times as many people. Effective gender inclusion can enhance the prospects for sustainable forest and tree management, and provide a solid foundation for more equitable benefit distribution, as well as household food security and nutrition. It enhances the credibility of policy and practice and allows for better targeting of interventions.

The research project aims to: understand women’s participation in forest decision-making at multiple scales; analyze the role of external actors in supporting participation; facilitate community-level participation through adaptive collaborative management (ACM) methods (method and process for encouraging collaborative problem-solving and learning among actors); recommend policies and practices to improve participation; and evaluate impact.

A mixed-methods approach is being used that includes: reviewing and analyzing policy instruments for establishing the framework for gender equity, conducting focus-group interviews on women and men’s participation in decision-making, and interviewing relevant actors at national and sub-national levels. ACM was conducted in 15 of the 36 study sites during the second year of the project. The purpose of ACM was to identify and implement actions that were intended to strengthen women’s rights and access to forests, and to improve their participation in and influence over decision-making. To enable monitoring and evaluation, sex-disaggregated household-level surveys were conducted to establish a baseline as well as to capture impacts. In addition, partnerships have been established with local universities and women’s organizations.

The project has a strong scientific component and aims to link research with action. Women in Nicaragua seemed to be more involved in decision-making on household- and community levels than women in Uganda. However, in both countries, women experienced a decline in their involvement in decision-making when moving up the scale from the household level. Nicaraguan respondents also reported that they had a more abundant supply of resources than Ugandans, and were more willing to restrict their consumption to increase sustainability. These differences may be because land is communally owned in Nicaragua, whereas the State-owned land in Uganda provides little security. In addition, women traditionally are not allowed to plant trees on household land either. Women’s membership in forest organizations was highly correlated with resource harvesting, and the participation in the sale of products was linked to women’s control of incomes.

The ACM process has resulted in: increased confidence of women in sharing their ideas, even among men; improved leadership and effectiveness of women, and increased acceptance of men; and enhanced coordination among forestry agencies, research organizations and NGOs involved
in forestry. In both Uganda and Nicaragua, communities have leveraged resources. For example, Nicaragua’s National Forestry Institute donated 10,000 seedlings for reforestation, and collaboration agreements have been signed between communities and organizations, such as local universities. In Uganda, the National Forestry Authority organized for community training in tree nursery establishment and beekeeping, while SCC-VI Agroforestry and Tree Talk provided up to 10,000 seedlings for communities.

To learn more about this project, contact  Esther Mwangi,