Women's invisible roles as natural resource managers in Uganda a case of Buganga Sub-Location, Masaska District,Uganda
In rural Uganda women (and not men) are indeed the (invisible) managers of natural resources. These resources include land, water, forests and wildlife. Rural women are comparatively poor and uneducated and do not hold monthly paying jobs and therefore are commonly referred to as housewives(Boserup, 1989). Nevertheless, these women are great sustainers of rural micro-economic activities. However, their impact on this is significant due to their indigenous knowledge on, the management . of natural resources such as land, water, forests and wildlife(kinuthia,1993). Women are also important, because their traditional gender roles bring them in direct contact with these natural resources. There is a growing debate about gender and the environment which highlights women's roles in the use and management of natural resources (Braidotti et al. 1994). This debate has stimulated much development analysis and created greater awareness of the activities of women farmers. There are dangers in conceiving of women's roles in relation to the environment in a partial, narrow, or static way. Seeing women as isolated environmental actors, separate from men, with an innate understanding of Nature can be very misleading. Current development policy initiatives are often based on this essentialist assumption . \. that women's relationship with the environment is special and, therefore, women are particularly interested in and capable of protection of the environment. Such a view enables policy makers to argue that projects aimed at sustaining the environment will also benefit 4 women, and vice versa. This synergistic approach can be seen as creating both a trap and an opportunity. At the level of rhetoric and debate, it is widely understood that women, in their productive and reproductive roles, have close links with the environment in many countries and that they are often among the first to be affected by resource degradation. However, policy makers do not always appreciate the diversity and complexity of the relationship between women and the environment, resulting in unexpected failures in development projects. For example, a tree-planting project in Ethiopia, using women as labour, was seen by the funding agency as both improving the environment by reducing soil erosion and also assisting women by providing employment and additional firewood. Local women, on the other hand, see the tree planting as increasing their burden of work without improving their lives because men controlled the land and the trees (Berhe 1994). Thus an understanding of both property rights and the complexity of gender divisions of labour is vital to an appreciation of the link between women and the environment. To many poor rural farmers, women in the rural are as sustained by natural resources because they use these resources to feed their families. Thus when the World Environmental Protection and Conservation policies advocate for protection without any form of use, while ignoring rural women, they become the greatest victims of such a policy. Women constitute over half of the rural population. Women's activities range from family economic activities to running of homes and rural development projects. They are also a more appropriate group to target for cultural and social changes. Their activities in development and family care put them in the central position regarding impacts to land and other natural resources(Joekes,1987). Population increase leads to Destruction of forests, riparian habitats and other sensitive areas arise from increase of population. To be able to control population, improve rural development, and to protect natural resources, the role of women is critical. On the other hand the natural. resources like; wildlife, forests, wetlands, land, water and fisheries are decreasing.