A farmer at work in Kenya’s Mount Kenya region [Photo:Neil Palmer, CIAT]

African policy makers have been urged to consider partnerships with local communities, especially women in the implementation of policies on forest management.

The scientists and policy makers, who converged in Kampala to share outcomes of research on forestry management, underscored the need for continued inclusion of women in the implementation of forest tenure issues in order to make them more effective.

Women in Africa remain the pillars of most households. They wake up early to undertake household chores. They fetch water and firewood to ensure the children have a meal.

“If there is no firewood, if there no water there’s no food the home is dead,” says Iyango Lucy, Assistant Commissioner in the Wetlands Department, Uganda ministry of Water and Environment.

Despite their crucial role, they are often sidelined in important decisions in forest management. This is dictated by the patriarchal nature of the African society, where women are not supposed to be heard. This also cascades to community meetings on forest management.

It is them who forage the grounds. In many cases they are not informed. They are left out intentionally.” says Concepta Mukasa, who belongs to the Association of Uganda Professional Women in Agriculture and Environment.

The meeting on forest tenure reform implementation in Uganda brought together researchers, academics, scientists and policy makers. They underscored the need to make policies more gender sensitive, which will in turn encourage forest tenure. A number of policies are working key among them the National Gender Policy

“In Uganda if you don’t have a certificate to show that your budget is engendered, you will not get that money,’ said Iyango, an indication that the government is making intentional effort to include women, youth and less privileged sections of the population.

But with social forests or community forestry in place, we have had communities having their community forests managed together on their communal land in some places for the benefits of providing products and services they need. These social forests and practitioners needed the support from the technocrats

The Centre for International Forestry Research CIFOR is engaged in partnership with other institutions to spearhead forest research and management across the globe.

Dr. Esther Mwangi, team leader at the CIFOR Nairobi hub says

“There is urgent need to go back and evaluate how best we can actually secure the tenure rights of women and give them a much stronger role in decision making and in the forestry sector”

Among the forest resources include wild fruits, bees, trees and water from rivers near the forest. Dr. Mwangi further says women’s’ participation in decision making needs to be realized, as stipulate din the forest policy.

Participants identified the lengthy tiring process of registration for collective rights and also private individual rights to forest, as one of the hindrances to implementation. One of the reasons for the tedious process is that it is interdisciplinary, involving two government ministries, that of Water and Environment and the Ministry of lands, which according to Dr. Justine Namalwa of the School of Forestry, Environment and Geographical Sciences at Makerere University, “never move at the same pace.”

“This calls for some harmonization of the process, probably to have a one stop centre,” she said.

The tenure reforms are geared towards addressing extensive deforestation. The study looked into constraints and enablers of forest reform implementation especially at the government agency level.

“If somebody is sure that their tenure or the right to access and manage and own is clear, “Then they will be looking at the resource of forestry in the long term, and when they look at those in the long term, it behooves them to conserve it,” said Bob Kazunga, a senior forest officer in the Forestry sector support Department, Ministry of Water and Environment.

Researchers are proposing more training of communities and integration of gender in reform implementation. They underscored increased and longer term financial and technical funding to promote community forests. They also want the National Tree Fund established in 2003 made operational to support tenure reforms.