Empowering Women in Community-based Resource Governance amidst Forest Landscape Change in Thailand and Lao PDR
In Southeast Asia, there is the important problem about forest landscape changes, such as, land degradation is estimated to be a high percentage of total land area in countries. Moreover, the preliminary study found that forest landscape management often ignores women’s voices or has incorrect planning practices about gender role. In Thailand, capitalists grow cash crops in large plots, causing the driving out villagers. The land inequality is so high. Later, in 2008, villagers in Southern Thailand have occupied the land of the capitalists to campaign the land reform. SPFT (Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand) was found, while making a living from the land and forest. Studies have found that although women are more active, but they still need to be more appropriately adjusted. In Lao PDR, The Government of Laos (GOL) also has plan to increase forest cover area of the total country to reach 70% by 2020, by allocated the degraded forest areas to foreigners’ companies for planting industry trees species across the country. Burapha Agroforestry Co., Ltd is one of the companies that poured a lot of money on plantation in Lao PDR since 2000, and it acquired the largest of degraded forest area for planting tree. This company is really successful in collaborating with communities in many areas of collaboration such as business benefits sharing with local household, community’s livelihood development in the affected areas. However, women in remotes areas are rarely participate to activities in the societies, while GOL has encouraged women to have equal role as men. So, this research question that needs to be answered is to find ways to empower women in community-based in the context of forest landscape transformation. The primary objective of our research focus on the empowerment of women in decision-making and participation in community-based resource governance in areas of forest landscape changes. This will ultimately contribute to the higher impacts of local livelihoods security and rural poverty alleviation. This research areas are in the southern region of Thailand, Surat Thani province, and in Lao PDR, Vientiane province. Forest management in this context of changing forest landscapes differs from conventional understanding of community forest management. In the case of Thailand, the research site reveals the contestations over the reserved forest landscape where the oil palm plantation companies have illegally exploited the forestland through monocropping agriculture and the villagers have gained more traction over the degraded forest landscapes. The local villagers, particularly the rural women in the target areas, have faced with restrictive access to forest resources in the face of the intensified exploitation of large-scale plantation and land seizures. In the case of Lao PDR, the concession is granted to private companies for forest plantation in the production forest and the buffer zones in conservation forests. Forest resources in some of these areas have previously been accessed by local villagers for their livelihoods, particularly for the rural women. Tensions can emerge when such access becomes restricted after the companies’ land seizures.
The specific objectives of our research is to enhance capacities of women and men in target sites to be able to co-create knowledge and new understanding about the gender-differentiated effects of forest landscape changes on local livelihoods and poverty in the target research areas, consisting of effects on living, cultures, communication, transportation, education, infrastructure development and environment of the community, among others. The data collection and analysis employ participatory processes with the participants in the areas. The research teams aim to build technical skills and knowledge of the target male and female participants on relevant state policies and mechanisms that facilitate and hinder community and village forest management, knowledge on the strategies to strengthen new community and village forest organization, and to negotiate or mitigate forest landscape changes. These include knowledge regarding the processes of forest and land grabbing, loss, degradation, and restoration, as well as other legal protection mechanisms such as compensation and petition protocols.
The other specific objectives is to foster constructive policy deliberation through the insightful and evident-based policy analysis, knowledge, and solutions at the local, provincial, national and Thai-Lao cross-country levels. The research teams will collaborate with government and non-government partners, other stakeholders, academic institutions, male and female beneficiary groups to disseminate the project findings to wider general public and policy makers. The policy products from this project relate to those policies on forest and land, land reform, particularly community and village forests, among others. The research teams will particularly work to raise the voices and enhance the agency of women from target sites to be present at the cross-scale policy dialogues and platforms.
Goal 1: No Poverty
Goal 5: Gender Equality
Goal 16: Peace Justice and Strong Institution
Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals