• This report also in French and Spanish.

(February 2002) In Thailand, foresters invited a group of village men to a meeting to plan a community forestry project. The men told the foresters that they needed hardwood tree species to make furniture and woodcarvings to sell. But when 3,000 hardwood seedlings were provided, they all died. Why? Because in that location, women care for the seedlings, and they prefer softwood tree species for fuelwood and fodder. No one had told them that the trees were coming. Women were included in the next meeting, allowing the foresters to learn about women’s and men’s roles and preferences. Eventually, the project delivered seedlings of both types, satisfying both the men and women of the village.

Women and men have different gender-based roles and responsibilities in their own lives, families, households, and communities. They have different knowledge of, access to, and control over natural resources, and different opportunities to participate in decisions regarding natural resource use. Understanding women’s and men’s relationships to the environment plays an important role in developing solutions for more sustainable use of natural resources. Ignoring gender distorts the understanding of human impacts on the environment.

This brief, part of PRB’s series Emerging Policy Issues in Population, Health, and the Environment, examines how gender differences play a part in natural resource use, how resource depletion affects women and men differently, and what has been done worldwide to integrate gender concerns in environmental planning.