7.3 Module C: Biodiversity Conservation

A detailed case study of a biodiversity conservation project with gender mainstreaming practices and results can be found in Case Study D from India.

7.3.1 Introduction

Conservation of biodiversity spans the continuum from development to CCA activities. A variety of approaches involve protected areas—from coordinated planning and management of landscape-level mosaics that include protected areas and buffer zones, to community-based and private conservation with different forms of resource ownership and use arrangements. These activities can be terrestrial or coastal, with marine protected areas. Although conservation activities include agricultural biodiversity, this module will focus on landscape-level conservation. Most biodiversity conservation projects now include environmentally friendly livelihood diversification activities, particularly those that increase returns from existing collection, production, or harvesting activities (i.e., forest certification, fair trade certification) or promote ecotourism. Another set of activities involves partnerships with health, WASH, and/or reproductive health providers in conservation areas.

With climate change, the dominant paradigm for conservation is shifting from a restoration and protection to one that is actively managing for changes, including climate change. Conservationists are managing for both ecosystem and human resilience. These approaches are still evolving. In some cases, even broader landscapes may become part of conservation mosaics. In other settings, a warmer climate may lead to an expansion of the optimal growing conditions for some species of plants. Some wildlife habitats will also increase. Elsewhere, weather may become too extreme for some protected species and non-native species will thrive;the results are not always negative from an economic perspective, but they do run counter to the long-standing goals of conservationists. Changing climate and extreme weather events may have negative impacts on ecotourism and may also foster the growth of pathogens for certified plants that generate local income near conservation areas, such as coffee and cacao.

7.3.2 Gender issues for biodiversity conservation

Gendered knowledge about ecosystems.
Women and men often have different knowledge of plants and animals, including locations, uses, populations, and availability. Women may be more aware of the utility of neglected species that have nutritional or medicinal value. Indigenous men and women often lack formal intellectual property rights.

Women have more insecure rights to land and water and lower rates of property ownership.
Women’s access to common property and private family or clan lands, as well as to trees and NTFPs, is often mediated by spouses, fathers, or clan leaders.

  • In the Asia-Pacific region, many forests are publicly owned. Women’s rate of land ownership is very low in most countries, despite constitutional protections, and their rights are imperiled if they become widows. Women are at risk of displacement when land values increase.
  • Lack of land ownership, or at least secure tenure rights, means that women do not have the required collateral for credit from formal financial institutions or meet the requirements for membership in some producer and marketing groups.
  • Furthermore, tree tenure and collection rights for NTFPs are often separate from land rights. Women’s access rights tend to be less than men’s;they do not always have formal collection rights due to gender barriers around negotiating with government officials and may face sexual harassment from forest guards.

Women are under-represented in conservation planning and management committees, both locally and at higher levels.

While there has been more progress at achieving greater gender balance at the community level, women’s percentage declines at higher scales as does the incorporation of their priorities. In situations with conservation on community lands, women may need to be members of the management committees to influence how earnings are distributed from private concession holders.

Women face more market-related barriers.
Women have greater mobility constraints for taking their products to wholesalers and retail customers.

  • Women’s groups may operate on a small scale but have weak market links.
  • Women have lower rates of membership in producer cooperatives or may be restricted from joining.
  • Women who make their livelihood from buying and selling or selling in municipal markets, often face greater levels of harassment, including sexual harassment, from officials in order to obtain marketing permits or space.
  • For the sale of processed NTFP food products, women may not have the resources to meet export standards of hygiene and sanitation during preparation.
  • With less access to credit, women may not have the means to make the necessary investments to secure and maintain international certification (e.g., fair trade, forests) for their products.
  • The value chains for wildlife meat and medicines, for urban and export markets, varies widely in terms of women’s opportunities.

Women are more often limited to low-profit, informal sector employment and enterprises related to ecotourism rather than formal employment and larger enterprises
. Women’s involvement in ecotourism is often limited to production and sales of food and handicrafts. While there is some gender bias in hiring, women do not always have the necessary literacy and education levels. Some of the employment opportunities have higher risks (e.g., serving as hunting or tracking guides) or require travel, driving skills, and time and lodging arrangements away from home and families. In some cases, larger tourism enterprises can displace women petty traders.

7.3.3 Gender and biodiversity conservation issues in the context of climate change

Climate change leads to ecosystem changes and availability of traditional foods and medicine.
Women primarily collect wild products in many cultures. Higher temperatures can shift the species composition and increase disease vectors and pathogens. Women may find it more difficult to find their favored species or substitute others.

Climate change may expand the scale of protected areas and reduce access to land for production.
As plant composition shifts, animal habitat changes and conservationists may want to expand protected areas to encompass new favorable habitat. If this practice were to remove marginal productive lands from use, women are more likely to end up with less available land.

Climate change, especially warming, can reduce the number of ecotourism visitors.
Decreased tourism will have negative consequences on the local and national economies and reduce revenues for local governments and small business owners. As they are more often small-scale service providers in the informal sector, women’s businesses are in a more precarious position when tourism declines.

7.3.4 Gender entry points for CCA biodiversity conservation projects

Conducting gender-sensitive vulnerability assessments for the biodiversity conservation sector
. Several types of analyses can be used to assess both human and ecosystem vulnerability for conservation programming and project design. For conservation areas and landscape mosaics, vulnerability assessments should include information on gendered management and marketing of wild plants and animals, as well as access rights to land and natural resources. Analyses of the local/national ecotourism value chain, with respect to climate vulnerabilities and risks, could also include gender analysis to ascertain men’s and women’s respective roles in terms of employment, enterprise and profitability, and expected climate impacts.

Planning and design of gender-sensitive adaptation strategies.
To increase household climate resilience and advance gender equality, several types of conservation activities for CCA projects should be prioritized:

  • Expand women’s participation in conservation management structures
  • Reform rights of access and use of public conservation areas to improve women’s tenure security
  • Expand women’s access to more profitable segments and employment within the forest products and ecotourism value chains.

When planning, various actions can be taken:

  • As with forestry and watershed management,
    stakeholder consultations
    with conservation committees, collector and livelihood groups, and the men and women involved in ecotourism-related businesses and employment will provide project design ideas and feedback on proposals.
  • Gender-sensitive institutional analyses
    can focus on the executing ministry/agency at relevant levels, and for different country partners, if relevant. These analyses, with client consultations, help to identify gender capacities and weaknesses among staff and in programming.
  • Institutional mapping
    can identify possible partnerships and expertise available to support gender mainstreaming.
  • At a local level, a closer look is needed at gendered access and use rights to conservation areas, participation in conservation decision-making, and the ecotourism gender division of labor (see Box 13).
    Conflict mapping
    , for a specific area, can pinpoint conflicts between different communities and sub-groups and protected area authorities over access rights to resources. These analyses will suggest specific policy reforms and local arrangements for access to forest products that improve women’s access, use, and ownership rights.

Box 13. Expanding Conservation Roles and Opportunities for Bangladeshi Women

Mangroves in Bangladesh are important wildlife habitat, fish hatcheries, and sources of wood. The Sundarbans Reserve Forest (SRF) have important global value as the world’s largest contiguous mangrove areas and provide subsistence for 3.5 million people in 17 subdistricts within a 20-km radius. Traditional user practices and sustainable harvesting of fishery and forestry products have broken down. Women have had traditional roles in gathering firewood and processing forest products. Their new activities, particularly for poor women and girls, include fishing and crab collection. But these tasks expose women to health and safety hazards, as well as high debt levels for the acquisition of boats and nets. Working with a gender consultant, the Sundarbans Biodiversity Conservation Project was able to reach equal numbers of poor men and women and to establish a project priority of reaching poor, female-headed households. It worked via women’s community-based organizations and expanded economic, employment, social infrastructure, and credit to benefit women. These organizations gave women critical mass and a legally recognized voice in resource management for the SRF and common property resources in the impact zone; it also offeredleadership training to women. Women used credit for alternative employment for women’s groups, including charcoal making, seedling plantations, and reforestation, and it reduced their reliance on private moneylenders. In terms of influencing natural resources management and conservation decision-making, the project opened opportunities for women representatives to participate in the Stakeholders Advisory Council and work with the Sundarbans Management Unit.

World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, and International Fund for Agricultural Development. 2009. Gender in agriculture sourcebook. World Bank, Washington, DC.


Implementing gender-sensitive biodiversity conservation for CCA.
While changes to local regulations, rules, and capacity building can help increase women’s access to local conservation decision-making, improve collection rights within protected areas, and widen opportunities within ecotourism, policy reform activities can also help lift gender-specific barriers. For example, national policy changes in Nepal set in place requirements for a specific percentage of women as group members and in the executive committees of community forest user groups. National laws and regulations can also help guarantee a certain level of local use of conservation areas and specify equal rights by sex. Similarly, government collaboration with credit and microcredit programs can earmark specific funds to be made available for women and women’s groups to invest or upgrade their ecotourism enterprises.

7.3.5 Monitoring gender impacts

TABLE 8. Illustrative gender indicators for biodiversity conservation CCA projects
Intervention Area Illustrative Indicators
Consultation inclusiveness Number and percentage of men and women, by social group, consulted about project plans and frequency
Improving gender balance of staff, partners, or clients/client groups Percentage of men and women for target group
Active participation Number and percentage of men and women actively participating in consultations, workshops, and committee meetings
Leadership Number and percentage of women serving in leadership positions in collector, enterprise, marketing, and planning groups
Adoption of practices Adoption of targeted practices, by sex
Increased livelihood diversification Livelihood changes for households headed by women and those headed by couples or men
Certification adoption Certification program enrolment by sex and land holding size
Nontraditional practices or roles adopted Number and percentage of women engaged in practices and roles that are new for women in their areas
Women’s status changes by household or community Proxy measures related to relative roles, by sex, in household expenditure decisions or incorporation of women’s priorities into group or community plans
Economic status Changes in income earned by sex over timeChanges in nature-based employment over time, by sex
Service provided Percentage of men and women clients
Inclusive service provided Percentage of women from female-headed households, socially marginalized, landless groups served by extension
Client satisfaction Satisfaction level changes with services (e.g., credit providers)Reported extension visits/meeting in past year, by sex
Policy change Inclusion, protection, and/or improvement of women’s rights in new or reformed agreements, regulations or laws

Box 14 lists additional literature sources on gender and biodiversity conservation.

Box 14. Further readings about gender and biodiversity conservation