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Gender, Conservation, and Community Participation: the Case of the Ja£ National Park, Brazil

Publication date: 
Tuesday, June 1, 1999
Author: 
S. Anderson
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How do gender relations affect people's knowledge, use and control of and impact on natural resources? The Funda?Æo Vit¢ria Amaz?nica (FVA) is a local NGO which has carried out pioneer work on gender, community participation and partnership building in their conservation activities in the Ja£ National Park (PNJ). They are part of the MERGE (Managing Resources and Ecosystems with Gender Emphasis) programme, funded by USAID and coordinated by the University of Florida. PNJ is the largest National Park in Brazil and the largest protected area of tropical forest in the world. FVA is responsible for the management plan for the park and wants to involve the population in all management activities. Their strategy includes diverse activities like training, research, mapping or resource use, institutional strengthening, participatory elaboration of management plans and monitoring and evaluation. During the consultation process, participatory and gender sensitive approaches such as informal interviews, gender analysis and gender mapping of natural resource use were used to measure men's and women's use of subsistence natural resources in fishing, hunting and agriculture and of commercial natural resources such as vines and Brazil nuts. The findings helped FVA to re-evaluate and adjust their work to involve the community in resource management.Activities and tools include: . Initial interview with the household resulted in the domination of the interview by men. Therefore, separate informal interviews of men and women and gender-specific questionnaires were used as an initial step to value women's knowledge and to draw them into the consultation process about the park. . During informal meetings with individual families, members were invited to draw a map of their area of use and to identify the use of resources by men and by women. In a second stage, residents groups were asked to place on the maps little flags representing resources (i.e. the house, river port, agricultural fields, hunting, fishing) and activities (already divided by gender) like fertility, mortality, migration, consumption, marketing and leisure activities and where each family of the area lived. . Participatory methods were used to stimulate resident participation, as well as discussion of complex topics such as the management plan for the part, and the role of community organisations. Outcomes include: . In general, women had more complete knowledge on issues of fertility and mortality, leisure activities, migration and consumption than men. Women that were heads of family also answered questions about marketing, which is generally considered a male activity. . The gender division of labour within the family led to gender differentiated consumption and production. . Women preferred to answer questions formulated by the women in the team. . Women are responsible for family health and generally maintain a small medicinal plant garden. They also know who are the prayer healers (men and women), curers (only men) and midwives (only women). . The female questionnaire disclosed that 74% of the people living in the Park were illiterate and that men were 61% of the literate population. Women pointed out that communication system with the residents should be through the radio programme that broadcasts announcements because they are widely heard. Lessons learnt include: . The presence of the team in the area and their participation in residents' activities was vital for building trust. Daily contact with the park's residents also enabled the facilitators to better evaluate the levels of participation by women and men, and understand the gender differentiation between consumption (subsistence activities) and production (commercial activities) of the residents of the park. It also enabled the researchers to gather a picture of resource use over time. . Female interviewers interviewing female interviewees was crucial in eliciting information from women residents. . The use of gender-specific questionnaires or open questions directed to men and women enabled FVA to gather important information about the population of the Park that helped to define future project activities. For example, during the mapping carried out in the Park, FVA was able to identify the artisans along the Ja£ River by gender, the principal fibres they use, and what they produce. A project was then developed to train these artisans in organisation, marketing and management of their products is the goal of this project. . Gender analysis was instrumental in understanding how natural resources are used by men and women in protected areas and how then to develop projects. However, the team needed to make better and more consistent use of gender analysis throughout the process. This would require more training on participatory methods and gender analysis tools, for example methods of participatory mapping.