Last year I took a class about Natural Resource Governance and I remembered that when I firstly looked at all the essay questions I was so confused… I had no idea where to start as I was just simply new to this topic. However, one thing I love about learning new things- researching and getting the knowledge!  By the time I finished the essay I knew all about the topic and wanted to know more… That is what I really love about being a student and studying what I am passionate about.  I ended up getting mark with distinction for this essay, however Professor outlined that I should be more critical of using FAO resources, good point and should have taken under consideration how also high gender equality inlfuences management of natural resources. If you want to know more about gender and agriculture, NRG and how climate change can be caused by females go ahead and read this essay.

Examine and assess the roles and significance of one of the following factors in driving unsustainable and inequitable natural resource management in fragile developing countries: gender inequality. Illustrate and develop your assessment using a case study of your choice.

Acknowledging women`s roles in driving sustainable and equitable natural resource management (NRM) and development has been increasingly recognised in the last decades. This essay seeks to explain the interrelationships between gender inequality and its influence on natural resource use and management. The structure of the essay will address different sections of the question. It will examine and assess the significance of gender inequality in driving unsustainable and inequitable NRM by reviewing international agreements and policy papers, such as: Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development from 1992, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (2012) and “FAO Policy on Gender Inequality” from 2012. Furthermore, this essay will examine different ways in which gender inequality occurs in the management of resources in fragile developing countries, by reviewing five factors determining interrelationships between gender and NRM, such as: unequal access to resources, gendered division of labour and gender-related management skills. The next passage will assess importance of the factors in driving unsustainable NRM. A case study of Mali will illustrate the author`s arguments by using the mentioned five factors to map unequal gender interrelationships in empirical examples. The aim of presenting cases of two different communities in Mali is to prove the complex causality of interrelations between gender inequality and NRM. This essay concludes that gender inequality is one of the most significant factors in driving bad NRM in fragile states.

Assessment of gender equality significance in sustainable & equitable NRM.

The World Bank (2011b) in the World Development Report from 2012 highlighted that gender equality is both smart economics and is fundamental for sustainable development. The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development from 2014 claims that achieving sustainable development is impossible without gender equality (UN Women, 2014). Knowing that NRM plays a significant role in maintaining sustainable development as they are both interdependent, it is important to acknowledge the gender division of labour in communities dependable on natural resources. This has been progressively recognised in recent decades: in 1991 gender equality was included in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development as principle 20, where women were admitted a vital role in environmental management (UNEP, 1992). Just three years later the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted by many countries across the world, it aimed at including the gender approach into national policies and programmes (UN, 1995).

In 2009 World Bank released “Women in Agriculture: Sourcebook”, which stated that gender inequality limits productiveness of agriculture which leads to unsustainable development and inequitable usage of resources. Women cover 43% of the agricultural force in developing countries and comprise an estimated 2\3 of the world’s 600mln poor livestock keepers, but only under 20% of landowners are female (FAO, 2011:7). The World Bank emphasised the importance of understanding the gender dimensions of effective usage of resources. However, many of the international agreements regulating NRM do not really underscore the potential of differences between genders in using biodiversity. Only the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognised the advantage of acknowledging women`s role in sustainable NRM. The CBD also stressed the importance of women`s participation in policy-making processes (CBD,1993).

Examination of interrelationships between gender and NRM: the role of gender inequality


Female share of the agricultural labour force

Female share of the agricultural labour force

To comprehend the interrelationships between NRM and gender inequality we must firstly understand the socially constructed relations between men and women. Lack of formal recognition of women`s contribution to the NRM is a first sign of deeply rooted gender inequality in societies around the world, which perceive men as main agents in NRM. Women`s active involvement in agriculture (see: Box 1) and dependency on biomass energy marks women as the key stakeholders in managing natural resources (Denton, 2002). Women`s influence on NRM has also been deepened in recent decades by “feminisation of agriculture”. In some regions men are more likely than women to migrate to find employment in other sectors, leaving their farms behind (World Bank, 2009). Additionally, in conflict affected areas women’s roles in agriculture tend to grow (UN, 2013).

Both the solutions and problems of NRM lie in agriculture: it occupies 40% of land surface and uses 70% of global water resources (FAO 2007).  Due to the labour division it is women who end up providing food, water and energy in households (KI, 2002). A survey conducted by WHO&UNICEF (2014) shows that in 85-90% of case studies, it is women, who are responsible for food preparation. Thus, women`s decisions about cooking efficiency and fuel, influence carbon emissions. Again, rural households use of common pool resources every day and labour division along gender lines result in women`s direct link to the environment (KI, 2002). Consequently, the final decision about where, when and how many resources should be collected, belongs to women, hence they decide about sustainable work and usage of resources (KI, 2002). Furthermore, unsustainable agriculture causes soil erosion, deforestation, nutrient depletion, agrochemical pollution and climate change.  As follows: deforestation increases risk for fires and droughts, which can lead to greater irrigation and land degradation and finally loss of plant and livestock genetic and species diversity (World Bank, 2009).

Assessment of critical factors determining interrelationships between gender and NRM:

  1. Gender differences in rights and access to land:

Gender inequality originates in entrenched patriarchal traditions and this discrimination shapes access to land.  According to World Bank, (2011b:18), female-headed households in developing countries are less likely  to own land, a similar pattern occurs also in regards to use of fertilizers and improved seed varieties. In other words, insecure land tenure discourages women from long-term investments in soil rehabilitation and conservation (World Bank, 2009). Additionally, customary laws restricts women`s access to water, trees and other natural resources. Patriarchal lineage gives all the rights in decisions about land to elderly men (KI,2002).Therefore, women are reluctant to invest in soil fertility if they are not sure that they will be working on the same land next year, usually women just have rights of access to land and natural resources (KI,2002). They might be also less protective of biodiversity in the area fearing that others will not hesitate to overuse the resources.

Finally, FAO (2011:5) estimated that if female farmers had equal access to assets and finance, it could increase their yields up to 20-30%. Unfortunately, without assets, women cannot even access credits, which often requires collateral (World Bank, 2011b). In conclusion, if women had better land tenure rights they would invest more in conservation, which stops soil erosion, desertification and general land degradation, considering the high percentage of female farmers, this could significantly improve sustainability of NRM.


Furthermore, The UN, (2013) in the report “Women and Natural Resources”, argue that exploitation of natural resources can cause violence. In fact, the greater the inequality in land ownership the greater reduction in peace (see Box 2). In war-torn societies, natural resources are usually overexploited or used for funding the conflict, which, in reality, drives inequitable and unsustainable NRM. Therefore, UN (2013:10) suggests that increased equality of women`s access to and management of natural resources could enable women to work against distortions in the control of natural resources that can trigger conflict.  In a long-term scenario, this could preserve peace, which again contributes to sustainable NRM

2. Gendered access to market, new technology and information.

Women`s restricted mobility and ability to engage in trading decrease both their income generating activities (IGAs) and capacity to innovate (World Bank, 2009). Hence, women must use a smaller variety of seeds and fertilisers. Access to market also depends on location, men tend to access high-value markets, while women sell their products on local markets where demand for traditional varieties of crops occurs (World Bank, 2009). This can positively influence sustainable NRM because it creates incentive for women to invest in conservation of indigenous plants, which in the long-term preserves plant diversity in the region. However, unequal access to market may contribute to instability of NRM; when women are losing chances to improve their crops which further result in lower income and smaller chances of women investing in land conservation. Once women are deprived of incomes from agriculture, they turn towards other IGAs, for example charcoal production, which in the long run threatens environmental stability; it may result in overexploiting other natural resources by increased fruit picking (Wooten, 2003b). Moreover, research shows that women`s ability to cope with dryland degradation increases with their access to information (World Bank, 2009). Unfortunately, access to new technology and information is highly gendered; with wrong assumptions about men`s role in agriculture resulting in ignoring women when new technologies are being introduced. Donor agencies responsible for delivering agriculture training wrongly assume that men will pass knowledge to women (World Bank, 2014). According to World Bank`s research (2009:427), farmer`s organisations and commercial networks consist mainly of men. Uneven access to information reduces women`s productivity and resilience to environmental degradation

3. Gender inequality in decision-making processes

World Bank (2011a) claims that better environmental governance can be achieved by improving gender equality. Women rarely take part in decision-making processes, even on community levels. Lack of their voices in decision-making processes creates male-oriented policies, thus women`s knowledge of biodiversity, agriculture and food security remains underestimated. This is caused directly by power division in patriarchal societies and because women are responsible for the most time-consuming activities, which leaves no space for attending community meetings. Highly gendered NRM lacks female feedback and ignores women as natural resource managers who are known for safeguarding local natural resources (World Bank, 2009). Women are more concerned with the long-lasting sustainability of natural resources than men, shown by research (DIIS, 2005). Each country aims at becoming a low-emission nation, which requires an institutional transformation that can only be achieved by empowering women`s leadership in developing countries (World Bank, 2011a).

Finally, this is a vicious circle, if women owned the land they farm, they would have bigger influence on decisions about incomes in their households and in communities. Evidence shows that women make more sustainable investments than men (World Bank:2009), but when their income depends solely on natural resources, to which their access is being challenged, women will struggle to become equal managers of natural resources.

4. Gendered differences in agriculture

The 21st century likes short, colourful statements with numbers that catch attention. Last year FAO used one which simplified the complex interrelationships between gender inequality and agriculture.


Reality is a “little bit” more sophisticated than FAO pictured it, but it was a good effort! To fully comprehend how women`s access to land can “save the world and feed the hungry” we firstly must establish the direction of the causality of gender-NRM interrelationships. Research shows that men tend to focus on “cash-crops”: small numbers of uniform, high yielding crops (World Bank, 2009:433). Thus, process

Conversely, women grow subsistence and minor crops which emphasises preserving wider plant diversity, according to World Bank (2009) such crops are part of women`s environmental risk management strategy. Women know that crop-diversity is vital for soil fertility (Shiva, 1993). This is one of the most important arguments that support the author’s claim: gender inequality really is a significant driver of inequitable and unsustainable NRM. Women grow a wide variety of locally adopted plants because they know that these plants are more resistant to drought or pests. Unfortunately, men often take over women`s lands and use them for cash-oriented monocultures which results in smaller resilience to environmental disasters (these may be caused by soil erosion and land degradation). Men`s commercialisation of agriculture, forces women to search for alternative sources of IGAs and can result in charcoal production (Denton, 2002).  This process will be illustrated by the case study of Mali further on in the essay. Finally, I think FAO is trying to say that women are better managers of natural resources, hence gender equality in managing resources would increase the overall productivity and all the food produced by women would feed the “150mln hungry people”.of commercialised agriculture driven by men leads to erosion of local plant and animal genetic resources (World Bank, 2009).

5. Women`s knowledge about agriculture & biodiversity

A famous environmental feminist, Vandana Shiva (1993:164), in her book “Ecofeminism”, describes how special connections between gender and diversity are being destroyed by a patriarchal world. According to Shiva (1993:164), marginalisation of women equals biodiversity destruction. Through gender-specified tasks around households and responsibilities in food production women became excellent managers of natural resources. 20 years after Shiva (1993:168) labelled women “biodiversity custodians”, World Bank (2009) recognised women`s intrinsic knowledge and their influence on genetic diversity of plants and animals.

Female farmers participate in seed exchange as well as selection, improvement and adaptation of varieties of local plants (World Bank 2009). As mentioned in an earlier passage, the expansion of large-scale monoculture-based agricultural production drives diversity erosion. This shows how women`s tremendous knowledge about plant-breeding is overlooked in patrimonial societies. Moreover, this example of gender inequality portrays particularly well how it can cause unsustainable NRM. Women`s knowledge that contributes to conservation of plants and animal generic resources has been ignored in favour of male-driven commercial agriculture, causing: nutritional deficiency, soil erosion (by chemical fertilisers used for monocultures (Shiva, 1993) and desertification. Recently UN (2014) recognised women`s unique role in driving sustainable NRM; women`s knowledge can improve resource efficiency and enhance conservation.

Women in farming


The aim of this case study is to examine arguments from previous paragraphs and to illustrate how gender inequality drives bad NRM. Based on research conducted by Wooten (2003a,b) in Bamana farming community (Central Mali), the author of this essay demonstrates how above  mentioned critical factors (A,B,C,D,E) caused degradation of local natural resources and environmental instability. Bamana`s close location to Bamaka (Mali`s capital) deeply influenced major shift in food production in Bamana. In 1950s commercially oriented agriculture (tomatoes, bananas) conducted by men (D factor) forced women to abandon their gardens with local plants (Wooten, 2003b). Throughout decades men took over gardening which was considered women`s domain. Bamana women lacked land tenure rights due to community`s patrilineal orientation (A factor). Wooten (2003a) described how men took over  low-lying areas of streams to cultivate their horticultural crops. These lands were previously used by women to maintain gardens with traditional vegetables and for picking wild plants for their sauces, to later sell at local markets (Wooten, 2003a).

Commercialised agriculture enforced by men deprived women of their income, this had far-reaching implications as Bamana husbands and wives do not share incomes. Furthermore, women are responsible for not only their own expenses but also their children and costs of cooking for their du (primary domestic group in Bamana community) (Wooten, 2003a). Women`s gardens were pushed out to upland bush areas along small streams (Wooten, 2003a). Therefore, when women had to look for alternative IGAs to finance their expenses, they turned to charcoal production. Wooten (2003a:236) states that “men displaced women” due to market demand for monoculture-based crops, hence women started charcoal production due to lack of land and as solution to increasing urban demand for charcoal. Lack of income deprived women from trading and accessing markets where they could buy plants that they used to cultivate themselves, to fulfil nutritional needs (B factor).

Eventually this resulted in local need to establish convention about usage of local common pool resources, which included restrictions on fuelwood (KI, 2002). A committee responsible for creation of the convention recognised the importance of gender issues in local NRM, but it did not increase female participation in decision-making processes as the framework was too formal and women were not trained effectively enough to participate (C factor) (KI, 2002). Moreover, underestimating women`s knowledge of natural resources (E factor) led to biodiversity destruction and marginalisation of women in Bamana community.

Men`s actions in excluding women from managing natural resources have caused broader implications: commercial agriculture decreased crop-diversity which instigated nutritional deficiency and loss of both plant genetic resources and biodiversity knowledge associated with them (Wooten, 2003a). Desperate women started to overexploit bush resources to find needed ingredients and to produce charcoal, this leads to higher CO2 emissions and deforestation. Overall outcome of shift towards commercial gardening damaged environmental stability and crippled equitable NRM in central Mali. The case study of Bamana community shows that natural resources managed only by men who disregarded women`s rights and knowledge had very bad outcomes both for women and the environment.

Juxtaposed to the case study of Bamana community, a good example of empowering women`s management over natural resources was observed in the work of African Centre For the Integration of Human Rights (PACINDHA). This NGO is located nearby Bamako- in Ouelessebougou municipality, it gathers local communities in western and south-western Mali to sustainably manage natural resources and protect biodiversity (UNDP, 2012). Rapid urbanisation of Bamako with populations growth from 100,000 to 1,800,00 in years between 1960-2009 deeply influenced neighbouring communities (UNDP, 2009:4).  Deforestation became a big problem due to boom in logging, caused by Bamako`s reliance on charcoal. Research shows that charcoal was the most important source of energy in 80% of households in Bamako (Broekhuis et al., 2005: 312).

In the Ouelessebougou municipality lawless and rapidly expanding logging of the Detarium microcarpum (type of tree popular around loggers as it is considered good firewood) posed threat to women`s livelihood, as they used it for jewellery and medicine production. Local women knew how to benefit from the tree without logging, their knowledge was used by PACINDHA to carry out an awareness campaign in 43 different villages which resulted in outlawing logging of Detarium microcarpum (UNDP, 2009:6). PACINDHA actively supported female cooperatives in the region to train women in producing jewellery from the tree`s seeds, selling its fruits and extracting medicinally valuable products (UNDP, 2009:6). The organisation also helped local women in establishing trading contacts to sell their products on markets in Bamako and in neighbouring countries. Due to PACINDHA`s work, women`s incomes increased, this resulted in growing interest in protection of diversity in the community and drove to giving the tree protected status (UNDP, 2009). This case study shows how empowering women and utilising their indigenous knowledge by conducting training on larger scale preserves biodiversity and decreases deforestation and land degradation.

In Ouelessebougou, extensive logging and clearing of vegetation for agriculture use led to destruction of chimpanzee habitats in Bafing Wildlife Reserve, also poaching endangered the chimpanzee populations (UNDP, 2009). PACINDHA`s awareness campaign against poaching targeted hunters (male dominated occupation). This successful project resulted in formation of 200 guards who are protecting Bafing Reserve (UNDP, 2009). The case study of PACINDHA illustrates how the organisation tailors projects based on gender-sensitive needs and skills; this led to impressive outcomes of 20 local agreements about environment protection and training of 200 communities to sustainably manage 5,000 hectares of forest.

Overall, PACINDHA is a successful story in comparison to Bamako community, where women`s knowledge and needs were completely overseen. The work of PACINDHA led to a significant improvement of locally driven sustainable and equitable NRM by decreasing deforestation, protecting endangered animal and plant species, outlawed logging, increased soil fertility and educated communities. The organisation empowered women and created alternative IGAs for both men and women, through environmental protection and ecotourism.



Women influence environment daily when making decisions related to natural resources. As homemakers they decide about what to use to cook (emissions), as farmers (soil carbon emissions), and as consumers (by buying products and through whole lifecycle of production, consumption, waste disposal) (World Bank, 2011a). These decisions can reduce or increase carbon footprints. What is more, according to Institute for Economics and Peace (2013) countries with more equitable distribution of resources are also more peaceful. The case study of Mali proves that gender inequality drives unsustainable and inequitable NRM. Given equal access to resources as men, women would achieve the same yield levels, boosting total agriculture output in developing countries by 2,5-4% (FAO, 2007).

In addition, due to gender-differentiated roles, women have more knowledge about nature and agriculture. Therefore underestimating their contribution in managing natural resources may escalate environmental degradation. However, increasing focus on gender inequality and pressure to involve women`s participation in decision-making processes may intensify women`s workloads. Women cannot be seen as purely “environment saviours”, but their knowledge as natural resource managers should be taken more into account. Illustrated in this essay, a case study of two different communities in Mali proves that women face significant problems in accessing land, common property resources and credits. Their voices and knowledge are overlooked in favour or cash-crops and patrilineal privileges.

This essay documents how such actions result in ignorant management of natural resources and seriously endanger sustainable environment, causing soil erosion, deforestation, desertification, loss of plant genetic resources and overall degradation of biodiversity. In conclusion, to reverse degradation of natural resources caused by unsustainable and inequitable management, change needs to appear in natural resource tenure and unequal patterns of both access and control over natural resources must be challenged. NRM that does not acknowledge women`s tremendous knowledge and skills will exterminate sustainable ecosystems. Natural resource managers must recognise that environmental management is highly gendered, thus sustainable and equitable NRM cannot be achieved without women.

My dog bored with me writing my essay:

Brador and Books


Broekhuis, A., de Bruijn,M., and de Jong, A. (2004). Urban-Rural Linkages and Climatic Variability. Environment & Policy, 39 (Part B), pp. 301-321.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (1993).

Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) (2005). Working Paper: Indigenous Peoples, Gender, and Natural Resource Management.

Denton, F. (2002). Climate change vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation: Why does gender matter? Gender and Development.10(2), pp. 10-20.

Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations (FAO) (2011). The State of Food and Agriculture: Innovation in Family Farming. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations.

Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) (2013). Pillars of Peace: Understanding The Key Attitudes and instruments that underpin peaceful societies.

Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KI) (2002) Natural resources management and gender : a global source book. Amsterdam: Oxford : Oxfam.

Shiva, V. (1993). Women`s Indigenous Knowledge and Biodiversity Conservation In: Maria, M., Shiva, V.  Ecofeminism. London: Zed books, pp.164-173.

United Nations (UN) (1992). Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by the Conference.

United Nations (UN) (1995). Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September 1995,  chap. I, resolution 1, annexes I and II.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2012). African Centre for the Integration of Human Rights (PACINDHA), Mali. Equator Initiative Case Study Series. New York, NY.

United Nations (UN) (2013). Report: Women and Natural Resources: Unlocking the Peacebuilding Potential.

United Nations (UN) (2014). The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development: Gender Equality and Sustainable Development.

World Bank (2011a). Gender& Climate Change: 3 things you should know. Washington, DC: The World Bank.

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Wooten, S. (2003a). Losing Ground: Gender Relations, Commercial Horticulture and Threats to Local Plant Diversity in Rural Mali In: Howard, P.L. Women& Plants: Gender Relations in Biodiversity Management& Conservation. London: Zed Books, pp. 229-241.

Wooten, S. (2003b). Women, Men, and Market Gardens: Gender Relations and Income Generation in Rural Mali. Human Organization. 62(2), pp. 166-177.

Box 1,2,3- sources:

Box 1: Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations (FAO) (2011). The State of Food and Agriculture: Innovation in Family Farming. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations.

Box 2: Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) (2013). Pillars of Peace: Understanding The Key Attitudes and instruments that underpin peaceful societies.

Box 3: Source: