Inclusive Conservation and Livelihoods in Tropical Forests: Exploring Gender Transformative Approaches


KIT Royal Tropical Institute and Farm Africa are conducting a participatory action research study on forest conservation, livelihoods, and gender in the Bale Ecoregion in Ethiopia. The study will guide and support women in communities around the Harenna forest in the pursuit of alternative income-generating activities that empower them, improve their wellbeing, and that contribute to forest conservation.

Biodiversity Hotspot

The Bale Ecoregion in Ethiopia is a global biodiversity hotspot and is home to species of flora and fauna that are not found anywhere else on earth. Population growth and persistent poverty are, however, putting pressure on the forest resources in the region. Farm Africa and its partner organisations work to improve the livelihoods of households in forest communities and to conserve the forest in the Bale Ecoregion. To be effective in their work, they require a thorough understanding of the different ways in which women interact with forests and what barriers they are facing in improving their livelihoods.

Harenna Forest and Bale Mountains. Photo: Sabine Sunbird

Including Women's Voices

In our participatory action research study, the women are considered co-researchers. This increases both the validity, salience, and legitimacy of research while empowering women to affect real-world change. Through qualitative methods, insights will be gathered on gender-based differences in access to resources, decision-making authority, and the prevailing social, cultural, and institutional norms.

Depending on their needs, women will be supported through technical and financial training, transfers of inputs, assets, or cash, establishing business relationships, household and community engagement on gender norms, and the inclusion of women’s voices in participatory forest management groups. The effectiveness of this approach will be assessed through a randomised control trial, in which the performance of the women participating in the program will be compared with a control group. If proven successful, the evidence can be used to scale up the approach.