Gender integration in the Nyimba Forest project, Zambia


Mwila RM and Gumbo D.

The project ‘Developing models for measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) for REDD+ in the Miombo socioecological system: utilising opportunities under Zambia’s UN-REDD+ quick-start programme’, known as the Nyimba Forest Project (NFP) is implemented by Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) with support from USAID/Zambia Economic Growth Program. The main focus of the project is to provide support to Zambia’s REDD+ Readiness Programme by conducting additional in-depth studies and assessments on livelihoods, forests resources and providing recommendations for incorporation into the design of the national REDD+ strategy for Zambia. To ensure that the National REDD strategy is inclusive, one of the outcomes of the project was to develop methods and strategies for mainstreaming gender in the national joint programme (NJP) and produce guidelines on addressing gender issues in REDD+ activity implementation.

The main frameworks that have been used in analysing gender are (i) Harvard Analytical framework (ii) the Moser framework and (iii) the social relations approach to gender and development. The CIFOR gender strategy, national gender policy and other gender related materials have been used as reference materials in the implementation of the project. The strategies used aimed to ensure equal participation in project activities, use gender as a criterion to obtain gender specific information, disaggregate project information by gender, form partnerships and work with gender experts.

The women in decision-making positions in the project have been working with Chieftainess Mwape (one of the four traditional leaders in the district), board members from development partners Community Youth Concern, District Women’s Development Associations and village headwomen. However, chiefs and headmen/women in Nyimba are more conservative and the presence of woman in leadership positions does not necessarily translate into gender equity. The project has established that naturally forming activity groups (e.g. resource user groups) at the village level are gender insensitive and do not take into account gender policy provisions.

Traditionally, the Nsengas1 are matrilineal and women have power to make decisions. For example, the mbumba (aunts to the prospective chiefs) are in charge of chief successions. They choose the chiefs and they can dethrone the chief if there is just cause to do so. At the household level, women own household resources; they are heads of households and their children take the mother’s mwene (clan family names). However, the project shows that gender and social norms in Nyimba are reinforcing each other to exclude or marginalize women. Migration into Nyimba has diluted women’s voices as other ethnic gender norms often clash with the Nsenga culture. The act of assimilation is leading to fragmented voices of women.

For policy, the study makes the following recommendations:

  • To address gender issues at local/household level, there is need to understand the roles of individual members at that level and ensure a balance between the roles of girl and boy children and female and male adults.
  • There is a need to review relevant policies of all the sectors that are part of the NJP and ensure that they are gender sensitive.
  • Ensure more focused gender incorporation in the policies of the sectors in the NJP through a specific gender policy framework for the natural resources sector, to guide the engendering of all the sector policies within the NJP.
  • There must be explicit guidelines for inclusion of gender at policy implementation framework level to ensure that gender does not evaporate at this stage, as most good policy intentions are not followed through in practice at implementation level.
  • At national level, there is a need to address the culture and national policy interface by sensitizing communities about the limited knowledge of the provisions of various gender enabling regulations e.g. gender policy means that gender issues are not actively addressed at the local level as most naturally forming activity groups (e.g. resource user groups) at the village level are gender insensitive.
To learn more about this project, contact Roselyne Mwila,


1 Nsenga is the dominant ethnic group in Nyimba district