Drylands and Gender – Strange Combination, But You Can’t Ignore It
(Cali, 2014) A revival of the drylands research, policy and practice dialogue is becoming increasingly essential. Gender relations in drylands, including dry forests and rangelands, are critical to understand social inclusion and exclusion.
Drylands account for about half of the globe’s land area and the largest concentrations of poverty are found among the two billion marginalized men and women who live there. These areas lack basic services such as health care and education and are often the scene of conflict and political instability. Therefore, they pose the biggest development challenge for the international community.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those countries experiencing serious droughts and desertification, particularly in Africa, was adopted on 17 June, 1994. Every year since 1995 the ‘World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought’ is observed on June 17. ‘Land Belongs to the Future, Let’s Climate Proof It’ is the theme for the 2014.
In last two decades (1994-2014) since the adoption of the Convention to Combat Desertification a great deal of attention has been devoted to the drylands. This has resulted in the more efficient use of water resources and decreasing incidences of large-scale food crises in some areas of the Sahel. Despite these successes, enormous challenges remain and new issues are emerging.
With the fragile state of dryland ecosystems, marginalized groups (pastoralists, indigenous people, women and youth) are being confronted with deforestation, groundwater depletion, erosion and high levels of land degradation combined with low production levels due to natural causes and human interventions. In some areas, large tracts of land and important water sources are being acquired by outside investors for mining purposes, biofuel crops or wildlife conservation, which is resulting in dispossession among local users, particularly women.
Drylands gender research continues to remain an under-studied topic. A forthcoming edited book (by Purabi Bose and Han van Dijk) on Dryland Forests in Africa and Asia: Gender and Management Dimensions provides a number of case-studies of how marginalized populations and women are excluded from decision-making about dryland management.
The African Studies Centre (ASC) in Leiden, the AEGIS network and CIAT’s CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry – Gender is taking initiative to create new innovative partnerships between disciplines and institutions in order to establish new collaborative research and policy agendas.
This initiative will be developed over three consecutive meetings (Netherlands, Kenya, and France).
The first meeting (attendance by invitation) Drylands Dialogue: Bridging Policy, Research and Practices will be held at the African Studies Centre in Leiden on Tuesday 17 June 2014.
The second dialogue meeting is being planned for early 2015 in Nairobi so that the partners can review their findings and prepare more specific regional and sector agendas. And the final third dialogue meeting will be in Paris in June 2015 when a roundtable discussion will be organized at the 6th European Conference on African Studies so that the findings can be shared with a larger audience.
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