Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Natural Resources and Household Incomes among Rural Women: Analysis of Communities Domiciled near National Parks in Rwanda

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Natural Resources and Household Incomes among Rural Women: Analysis of Communities Domiciled near National Parks in Rwanda

Article excerpt

Background

In rural Africa, women play an important role in a wide range of economic activities that include agriculture, health, family care, firewood collection and food preparation (Deda and Rubian 2004). The involvement of women in these activities is crucial for the achievement of food security and sustainable economic development. Studies have shown that more than 40% of women contribute to labor in smallholder agriculture (FAO 2013). However, they often do not receive any form of economic remuneration resulting in low incomes (Berkes and Adhikari 2006). A nexus of determinants that include poor access to education, land, and financial resources has also resulted in their marginalization in rural societies (Barrett et al. 2001).

In recent years, rural communities located near national parks have been the subjects of a growing body of literature (Chowdury et al. 2009, Kideghesho et al. 2007, Heinen and Mehta 2000). The socioeconomic context of such societies is typically shaped by poverty, high population growth, and limited access to productive resources (Coad et al. 2010, Nyakaana and Edroma 2008, Ancrenaz et al. 2007, Hackel 1999). Many of the previous studies conducted in these areas have rarely defined "community" (Nyakaana and Edroma 2008, Mehta and Heinen 2001, Gillingham and Lee 1999). An assumption of a homogenous community negatively affects interventions because it does not consider differences in composition, culture and attitudes towards conservation (Agrawal and Gibson 1999). Consequently, interventions have often precluded rural women in the process of developing sustainable conservation initiatives (Wainwright and Wehrmeyer 1998). Strategies focusing on women are imperative because they have been shown to have positive impacts at the household level (Coad et al. 2010).

Rwanda is a country located in East Africa whose economic development relies on biodiversity found in three main national parks including Virunga, Nyungwe Forest, and Aakagera national parks (ORTPN 2007). The forests are anchored on protectionist values but they are also viewed as sanctuaries from which firewood, water, bush meat, honey, poles, timber, aesthetics, and recreation are obtained by rural communities domiciled near the parks (Nielsen and Spenceley 2011). Subsequently, challenges include but are not limited to illegal firewood extraction and hunting of wildlife (Hogan et al. 2014). The problems may be understood in a broader context where the country faces a burgeoning rural population depending on a limited land resource (Rurangwa 2002). The government, therefore, mandated several public bodies including Rwanda Agricultural Board, Rwanda Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, and Ministry of Natural Resources to foster sustainable utilization of natural resources through collaborative activities with rural communities living adjacent to national parks. Various strategies that include revenue sharing, construction of schools, water tanks, boreholes, roads, hospitals and lodges for ecotourism were enunciated (ORTPN 2004, Masozera and Alavapatti 2004, Plumptre and Williamson 2001).

There have been concerns that women have been previously excluded in natural resources oriented projects (Masozera and Alavapati 2004, Badola and Hussain 2003, Tomicevic et al. 2010, Mehta and Heinen 2001). The department of conservation in the VNP developed a number of initiatives including basket weaving and handicrafts making to help integrate women into a mainstream development process. Although previous studies have evaluated the contribution of economic activities to household income, they did not examine the socioeconomic factors that affect the generated revenues. The analysis is important because it provides insights on how various stakeholders can improve income streams from different activities conducted by women. The main objective of this study was to assess the monetary contribution of different activities to household income among rural women living near the VNP in the Northern Province of Rwanda. …

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