With women, it’s possible!

Washington: Having more women involved in governing bodies that make decisions about land management can help boost conservation, as well as help reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, a study has found. The research showed that when more women are involved in decision making, the group conserves more — particularly when offered financial incentives to do so.

The study, involving 440 forest users from three developing countries, sheds new light on the role gender quotas for local governing bodies could play in reducing global deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions while also curbing local inequalities.

“When policymakers think about what to do to increase conservation around the world, gender quotas don’t even come up as a viable policy instrument,” said Krister Andersson, a political science professor at University of Colorado Boulder in the US. Previous research has shown that women tend to have a greater affinity for the environment, support conservation measures more and are more concerned than men are about problems of inequality.

Members of the research team travelled to 31 villages near collectively-managed forests in Indonesia, Peru and Tanzania. They staged a day-long tabletop simulation game in which local forest users were divided into groups of eight and asked to make decisions about how many trees they would harvest from a shared forest.

Half the groups had gender quotas requiring that 50 per cent of members were women. Half had no quotas. In the first stage of the game, all participants anonymously chose how many trees they would cut down, knowing that they would receive a small payment (5 tokens) for each tree.

In the second stage, the participants were told that an external organisation would pay them 160 tokens as a group if they did not cut any trees down and the elected leader would decide how to distribute those tokens. “We found that the groups with the gender quota reduced their harvesting rate far more when the incentive was introduced and also distributed the payments for conserving more equally,” said Nathan Cook, a postdoctoral research fellow at University of Colorado Boulder.

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