UCL Research Domains


Project Plan: The role of gender equity in the conservation outcomes of natural resource management

2018-19 Social Science Plus Pilot Project (£10,800)

Overall Research Question
This project asks: how does enhanced gender equity affect conservation outcomes in natural resource management (NRM) projects?
We aim to advance understandings of: 1) the relationship between societal gender equality and environmental conservation and the trade-offs involved; 2) the mechanisms through which aspects of gender equity and inequity may influence conservation effectiveness; 3) the factors enabling: the meaningful participation of women in NRM, recognition of women's knowledge, and equitable distribution of costs and benefits; and 4) the role of men's and wider societal perceptions and behaviour in influencing equity.

The project will work at two scales. For research aim 1 we will explore large-scale social and ecological data across sub-Saharan Africa. A case study in Kenya will allow us to explore aims 2,3, and 4. In the pastoral rangelands of Kenya there are efforts to involve women in NRM, high levels of biodiversity but complex pressures on the social-ecological system.

Focus, rationale and societal relevance
International policy on sustainable development and biodiversity conservation increasingly focuses on gender equality (e.g. Sustainable Development Goal 5). Environmental change can disproportionately affect women, and women and their children may benefit more from conservation (UNEP 2017). However, there may be trade-offs between social equity, agricultural production and biodiversity conservation. Gender equity is commonly understood as a means of achieving equality. As one aspect of equity, women's participation in natural resource management (NRM) is typically viewed by conservation organisations as instrumental in improved conservation outcomes. Studies in forestry and fisheries suggest that women's participation in NRM results in improved resource governance (Clabots 2013), greater compliance with rules and increased enforcement (Agarwal 2009) but there is limited understanding of the mechanisms involved and ecological impacts (Leisher et al. 2017). Recent conceptualisations of equity also include the recognition of knowledge and rights, and the distribution of costs and benefits (Schreckenberg et al. 2016). Gender may intersect with a variety of factors such as age, class, and livelihood to further marginalise or better enable women to benefit. Gender roles are a negotiated elements of social relations and therefore the role of men in gender equity is important.

These issues are pertinent to sub-Saharan Africa where there are huge challenges around environmental conservation, social equity and growing demand for food. On the pastoral rangelands of Kenya there are increasing community-based conservation efforts, high levels of gender inequality, and ecological pressures from land tenure change, expanding agriculture, growing populations and the illegal wildlife trade.

Research design and methodology
To understand broad scale relationships between gender equality and ecological change (research aim 1) we will:
Explore and model relationships between available social data (e.g. through WorldPop) relating to gender equality (e.g. land ownership, political representation, maternal health, literacy, contraceptive use) and biodiversity (e.g. IUCN species ranges, species richness, and biodiversity intactness).
Draw upon knowledge and datasets created through the SENTINEL project (https://www.sentinel-gcrf.org/) which is exploring trade-offs and synergies between conservation, agricultural development, and social equity in sub-Saharan Africa.

To approach the complex factors and relationships involved in gender equity and conservation outcomes (research aims 2, 3 and 4), we will use the case study of community conservancies in Northern Kenya. This will involve:
A two day UK workshop bringing together researchers and stakeholders (FFI, Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT); two community conservancies) to (i) develop theories of change on the relationship between societal gender equality, gender equity in NRM projects, improved conservation governance and effectiveness; (ii) develop a research strategy and design for collecting data on gender equity, ecological/biodiversity outcomes, and how causal inferences will be made as a basis for a future research grant.

Qualitative interviews and a pilot survey across two conservancies where there have been efforts to improve gender equity. The pilot study will take a theory-based design to trace the impacts and relationships between aspects of equity and changes in resource governance. It will also draw upon available data from KWCA and NRT who support conservancies across northern Kenya.