Table of Contents
The connection between women and the natural resources was mainly sparked in the second half of the twentieth century when governments and policy makers became more concerned about the gender issues and the environment. Efforts were made to integrate women fully in safeguarding natural resources bearing in mind their specific traditional roles in the environment. Women play a very significant role in the general management of natural resources such as water, soil, energy, and forests and are equipped with profound knowledge of their environment due to the traditional duties assigned to them. When women were earlier ignored in environmental matters, special attention to the negative effects of the environment revealed that women would play a pivotal role in safeguarding the natural resources, because they are the most affected by natural calamities such as drought and floods.
In many parts of the world, women bear the responsibility of farm work and production of food. Many women are expanding their farming territories, something that makes them more engaged in natural resources management than men. This is especially popular in the developing nations like Africa where nearly all the tasks associated with food production are left to women. Despite the fact that women are deprived the right to own land in such communities, they are responsible for all the activities carried out in farms and are, therefore, in a better position to manage natural resources than men.
Since most of the land tenders found in the rural areas are uneducated women, it is important to enlighten them on the need to conserve natural resources and campaign against the popular overemphasis on agriculture as the only form of land use. Enlightening women on the importance of preserving and planting trees will encourage them to plant more trees than before. This practice will, in turn, lead to more water catchment areas as well as preservation of the already existing ones. Women have been identified as the gender that manages natural resources constantly through their traditional roles as household keepers and farmers. They are traditionally responsible for planting subsistence crops being more familiar with local species of crops as compared to their male counterparts. Additionally, since women collect firewood more than men, they can preserve trees by reducing their use of firewood (Volunteers For Africa 10).
The land tenure system, which advocates for passing land to men only, is a major challenging factor to women in the management of natural resources. Many cultures around the world prohibit women to acquire and own land. They only have the right to use land as instructed by men, and such rights are highly unstable. Women who do not own land in the rural areas often rely on communal property for fodder, food, and fuel wood. Overuse of such resources poses very acute threats to natural resources. The percentage of women in most communities is higher, yet they are the most victimized when it comes to land ownership and general management of natural resources. Many consequences arise from such deprivation.
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Firstly, without permanent land rights, women cannot access grants and loans from banks and other financial bodies. Such deficits render women powerless to engage in more land-conserving activities due to poverty, something that consequently affects their efforts to preserve of natural resources. They cannot grow more subsistence crops, and their efforts seem to be in vain, because they are financially challenged. Additionally, women lack the incentive to develop land that they do not own. Despite the fact that females are entitled to food production processes, men decide when, where, and how the crops will be planted. It is only when both women and men have equal rights to land ownership that they can effectively contribute to its development (FAO United Nations 8).
Improved management of water, such as irrigation, is crucial to better agricultural productivity as well as conservation of the water sources. Most women lack adequate access to proper irrigation networks, and when they do, such networks are linked to land ownership. This limited access to water sources forces women farmers to switch to poor farming methods that are likely to trigger soil erosion. In order to protect natural resources, women must be empowered to participate fully in decisions that influence their needs. Addressing such gender disparities in the management of natural resources will aid in coming up with effective strategies to conserve and use natural resources sustainably.