In developing countries, women make up nearly half of the labour force in agriculture and account for a large portion of the world’s food crops. They work as farmers, informal sector workers, entrepreneurs, in forestry and fisheries and are involved in all sectors of agriculture. Yet their role as users, custodians and managers of food and biodiversity resources is often overlooked and not immediately apparent, limiting their access to credit, land, investment, decision-making processes and preventing them from benefiting from biological resources such as genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.
A new project launched last week by UN Environment and partners aims to tilt this balance, putting women front and centre of national biodiversity action plans in Lao PDR and Myanmar. These pilot projects will ensure that gender concerns are incorporated into the two countries’ National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, promote gender responsive implementation and monitoring and share lessons learned with other countries in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Women play a central role in food production and the care of essential natural resources like forests, fisheries, water and food. What this project does is take cognizance of their role and builds this into future biodiversity action plans, a sure way of advancing protection of vital natural assets and ensuring that these plans are responsive to realities on the ground and benefit women, men and communities,” said Dechen Tsering, Regional Representative and Regional Director, UN Environment, Asia Pacific.
Studies have found that enabling women to access productive resources would yield several positive impacts, from 20-30 per cent yield increases to 4 per cent increase in agricultural output and a reduction in the number of hungry people by 17 per cent.
“GIZ is looking forward to this initiative,” says Katherine Vinegas, Senior Advisor on the Institutional Strengthening of the Biodiversity Sector in ASEAN Project for GIZ, the German development agency. “Good practices on gender mainstreaming in biodiversity conservation in Lao PDR and Myanmar will be documented and would serve as a model for other countries, particularly in the ASEAN region. We are optimistic that this initiative would spur discussions among them to achieve gender equality in fulfilment of SDG goals for Gender Equality, Life Below Water and Life on Land.”
The initiative is funded by GIZ through a joint collaboration with THE ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, the Ministry of National Resources and Environment in Lao PDR, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation in Myanmar, the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It will be aligned with the ASEAN-UN Action Plan on Environment and Climate Change 2016-2020. Lessons learned from the project will be used for learning and exchange and to scale up gender consideration in national biodiversity strategies and action plans in other ASEAN countries.