Addis Ababa — Although women play key roles in forest protection and conservation, policies and laws are biased in favor of men, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday.
FAO's remarks were made at the opening of a gender workshop for forestry in Africa.
"One outstanding problem is the near absence of women in policymaking roles and processes concerning forestry," said Edouard Tapsoba, head of the FAO regional office for Africa in a statement issued in connection with the workshop..
For example, in Ethiopia, female professional employees in forest-related sectors of the federal natural resource bureau made up only 13.6 percent in total, FAO said adding that that was reflected in, for instance, on gender inequality in access to land.
"Land access is critical for people to be able to use its forest resources," the UN agency said "But both modern and traditional laws tend to be interpreted in favor of male ownership and control.
It said in some cases, laws bar women from acquiring or disposing of land without their husbands' consent, female-headed households are also often denied agricultural loans, including for forestry.
In Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe, on average, women received less than 10 percent of the loans directed to small land holders and one percent of the total loans to agriculture. Further, women tend to have more marginal and remote land than men, according to FAO.
"The lack of gender awareness constrains the sustainable use and management of forests and forest ecosystems throughout the world," Tapsoba added in the statement.
In her opening remarks to the workshop, Ghanaian Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines Esther Obeng Dapaah said: "Why are forests especially important in the lives of women? Far more women than men, in the developing world, are farmers, cutters and users of woodfuel, collectors and traders of minor forest products, and tenders of livestock," remarked, Minister of Ghana in her keynote address.
To address this gender imbalance, representatives of national forest services, international organizations and universities will review at the workshop, studies carried out on gender in forestry in ten African countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia).
They will then come up with recommendations for better inclusion of women in forest management and provide the basis for the creation of local networks of women in forestry.
FAO organized the two-day workshop in collaboration with the University of Ghana, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).