Helsingin yliopisto

 

Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Men and women of the forest

Livelihood strategies and conservation from a gender perspective in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar

Laura Järvilehto

Master's thesis, February 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Environmental sciences.

The objective of this study is twofold: Firstly, to investigate how men and women living in Tanala villages in the Ranomafana National Park buffer zone differ in their natural resource use and livelihood. Secondly, based on this information, the intention is to find out how the establishment of the park has influenced people living in the buffer zone from the gender point of view.

The data have been gathered mainly by using semi-structured interviews. Group interviews and individual interviews were carried out in three buffer zone villages. In addition, members of the park personnel were interviewed, observations were made during the visits to the villages and documents related to the planning and the administration of the park were investigated. The data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.

It seems that Tanala women and men relate to their environment in a rather similar way and that they have quite equal rights considering the use and the control of natural resources. Probably this is the reason why the management of the Ranomafana National Park has practically not taken gender issues into account in the planning of the park or in administering activities related to it.

Both Tanala men and women can own and inherit land, and in most cases they also exert full control over it. Similarly, women and men seem to control their own labour as well as the produce of their work. There is a strong gendered division of labour in Tanala villages, based on the conception of men doing the hard and difficult work and women's tasks being easy. This idea does not appear to correspond with reality, but it rather seems to be a social construction highlighting the importance of men's work at the expense of women's tasks.

At the household level, men and women have equal say considering environmental resources management as well as other kinds of issues, but at the community level women are significantly less active than men in decision making. Since the park management has not paid any special attention to this, women's voices and their interests have not been heard as much as those of men in park related meetings. In consequence, there have been no development projects focused on women's cultivation activities, for example. The establishment of the park has also had another important gendered impact. Since the creation of the park local people have been forbidden to enter the park forest. In practise this ban has mostly affected women, and the forest has become a men's space considering both the access to it and it's resources as well as the feeling of authority.

As a conclusion it can be stated that for achieving socially just nature conservation, it is important to take gender issues into consideration even if gender relations seem to be quite equal. In Ranomafana area the situation could be improved, for example, by listening more carefully to women's interests and needs.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 24.03.2006

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