Does gender balance improve forestry and fishery management?

A new project aims to map the evidence on gender, natural resource governance and biodiversity conservation. And we're looking for your help.

Francesca Booker's picture
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2 July 2015

Francesca Booker is a visiting fellow with IIED's Natural Resources Group, and a consultant with CIFOR

The voices of women involved in farming and fisheries, such as these in Bangladesh, are often lost in decision-making (Photo: CBFM-Fem Com Bangladesh/WorldFish, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Differences in women's and men's access to, control over, and use of local natural resources shapes the way that these resources are managed. Yet women are often forgotten about, and their voices are not always heard in decision-making.

That is why IIED has been working with partners to systematically map how gender affects natural resource governance and conservation and we want your help.

The absence of women's voices poses an ethical issue. Where women's voices go unheard, decision-making can disproportionately and negatively impact on them. 

It is also presents an opportunity, as including both women and men in decision-making is thought to be one way that we can improve natural resource governance (e.g. by ensuring decisions advance opportunities for both women and men) and conserve biodiversity. 

So, what do we know?

Empowering women is key to conservation efforts – for example, women's active involvement in community forest management committees is linked to better forest conservation.

Women are also thought to have a vital role in conflict resolution. Including women in peace-building processes, for example, is believed to play a role in reducing natural resource inequalities in areas recovering from conflict.

Such emerging evidence is central to building understanding of how gender influences natural resource governance. But, added to this, we need to look back over time and see what other evidence exists. A systematic map can assist us to do this.

Mapping the evidence

IIED has teamed up with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), ICFI, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), USAID and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to undertake a systematic map of the evidence.

We are working together to create an overview of all the existing evidence that links the gender balance of natural resource management groups to resource governance and biodiversity conservation. Our focus is on forests and fisheries, and we're looking at non-OECD countries (although we are including Mexico and Chile). 

We hope that this work will provide policymakers and researchers with an outline of useful resources. And, we expect to identify gaps in the evidence base for further research enquiry.

You can see how we are conducting our research in a recently published protocol – 'Does the gender composition of forest and fishery management groups affect resource governance and conservation outcomes: a systematic map protocol'.

Help us!

You can help by sharing evidence with us. Can you think of any relevant documents (such as project reports, journal articles, book chapters and so on) that should be included in our review?

We're looking for documents that assess how the inclusion of women and men in forest and fisheries management groups contributes to natural resource governance and/or biodiversity conservation.

This might include, for example, changes in governance such as the strengthening and opening of dialogue between community stakeholders. Or, it could include outcomes related to conservation, such as improvements in forest cover, or more sustainable fish and invertebrate catches.

You can share any documents with us by leaving a comment underneath this blog, or by emailing lead author Craig Leisher (

Thanks! And, we look forward to sharing the results with you soon.

Francesca Booker ( is a visiting fellow with IIED's Natural Resources Group, and a consultant with CIFOR.

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