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3.1 Introduction. 3.2 Women and Livestock

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3.1 Introduction Human beings are at the centre of concern for sustainable environmental conservation and protection. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with the Mother Nature.
3.1 Introduction Human beings are at the centre of concern for sustainable environmental conservation and protection. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with the Mother Nature. There is increasing evidence today that women in developing areas of the world are considered as the primary users of natural resources (land, forest, water) because they are the one s responsible for gathering food, fuel and fodder for their family. Women play an essential role in sustainable development, ecologically sound consumption, production patterns and approaches to natural resource management. Thus, women have always been the principal conservers and protectors of their surrounding environment. Each day, all over the world, women make limitless choices that affect the environment. Women play a very significant role in a family and her community brining decisive changes. In their hands lie exceptionally extensive decisions about the use of community resources water consumption for the household, land use for agriculture purpose, wood collect for heating and cooking, plants and animals for food and sale. They perform fundamental duties such as seed selection for farming activities, multiplication and conservation though they rarely get the credit for nurturing these life support systems. As the world moves forward at a phenomenal speed with scientific and technological advances, there is a growing feeling that environmental empowerment of women is absolutely essential for progress. 3.2 Women and Livestock In animal husbandry women play multiple roles. Women take care of animal production. Their activities vary widely ranging from care of animals, grazing, and fodder collection, cleaning of animal sheds to processing milk and livestock products. In livestock management, indoor jobs like milking, feeding, cleaning, etc. are done by women in most of the families. But in our study, we have seen that since women of our study has to spend 2-3 hours for fodder collection for their animals and 68 for this reason they are now not able to take much care of their animals properly as they were used to, like 5 years before. Women accounted for most of the total employment in dairy production. Depending upon the economic status, women perform the tasks of collecting fodder and collecting and processing dung. Women also prepare cooking fuel by mixing dung with twigs and crop residues. Though women play a significant role in livestock management and production, women s control over livestock and its products is negligible. The vast majority of the dairy cooperative membership is assumed by men, leaving only a small part for women. A Government report indicates that though most of the rural women are engaged in livestock activities, their share in income is not so high. Despite their considerable involvement and contribution, women s role in livestock production has often been underestimated or, worse, ignored. In this study we have seen that women of our study have to spend more 2-3 hours from their home for a bundle of firewood or for a sack of fodder and so they give less time to livestock production and that too is also underestimated or ignored. Women are involved in livestock production activities since a long time. In the last two decades, policy-makers and planners have started realizing the importance of mobilizing the women for livestock production activities. The studies on role of women in livestock production have started emerging. This helps the invisible workers (women) to become more and more visible. But there are hardly any published reports on involvement of women and children in small-scale village-based livestock production. This has also been revealed in our study where there is no published report on women s contribution towards livestock production. Since the last decade or so the contribution of women in dairy production is getting due recognition. It is realized that women handle most of the critical jobs like feeding, milking, and care of newborn and administration of medicine. Women are well aware of each animal s behaviour and production characteristics. Women are knowledgeable about local feed resources and are able to identify beneficial grasses, weeds and fodder trees for feeding of dairy animals. Women know the feeding behaviour of each animal and prepare feed mixtures accordingly. In tribal communities, much of the work with regard to animal management has to be looked after by women due to migration of males for work. 69 However, in many cases like the case of our study, we have seen that neither does the income from dairy animals and their products remain in the hands of women, nor does the decision regarding the sale and purchase of the diary products are discussed with the female members of the households Feeding Women play a crucial role in feed preparation, providing water to animals, mixing ration etc. In hilly areas they collect and transport the fodder from far places Management Women perform all the activities related to management of animals like cleaning of animals and their sheds, milking and preparing the dung cake Health care Activities like care of sick animals, care during pregnancy and the care of new born calf, applying and giving medicines are performed by women Processing and marketing The rural women participate in processing activities more than marketing related such as selling of milk, purchase and disposal of animals 3.3 Women and Natural Resources Women particularly those living in rural areas have special relationship with the environment. They are more close to the nature than men and this very close relationship makes them perfect managers of an eco-system. The life of mountain women is so much intertwined with the environment that whole ecosystem revolves around her and she can t even think of her survival without it. Women have vital role in conservation and management of sustainable eco-system. Since time immemorial, women are traditionally involved in protecting and conserving their natural resources in mountain areas. With their extraordinary skills and traditional knowledge, women have proved how land, water, forest and other natural resources can be used and managed. They have devised their own system and ways to sustain and manage the resources, which are the basis of survival for their families and communities. Through their practical experiences and managerial skills, they have acquired immense knowledge of the various types of 70 plants. They know better than any scientist that what grass, herbs, shrubs, trees are best for them and should be planted to maintain a balanced eco-system and well being of their families and communities. They always prefer a mixed forest, which can meet their demands of fuel, fodder, fruits and food as well as maintains the bio-diversity of the mountains. They are perfect in making an optimum use and conservation of natural resources. The linkage between women, natural resource and the domestic economics of poor rural households are clear and categorized into three patterns:- 1. First natural resources are central to the livelihood in India. Many studies have documented that poor household are dependent on free biomass and common property resources. 2. Second, women are the primary gatherer and managers of biomass goods in poor rural households. They also play an important role in the processing, storing, utilization and marketing of biomass goods. 3. Women s role and responsibility are pivotal not only to the management of natural resources but also to the management of domestic economy. Studies have shown that women work longer hours and assemble more of their income to household budget. They effectively manage the day to day consumption and cashflow needs. Women have deep relationship with all the components of ecosystem. The perfect ecosystem can be maintained only when women will be recognized as the best manager of eco system. The relationship of land, water, forest, animal with each other can be understood only by women in a broader and more holistic way than anyone else. Therefore they should be given opportunity to participate in the village ecosystem planning. The same thing has been revealed in our study where we have analysed the environmental resource management of the various village forest committees existing within 5 kms from forests of Tinsukia District and have seen that out of 11 seats in ecosystem planning; only 2 women are allotted seats in that ecosystem planning. Sita Kumari (2004) also reveals that women are the direct victims of environmental degradation, pollution etc. To illustrate, in some areas a few decades back women went to fetch water from sources that were a few feet away. But now, because of excessive mining and allied activities, they have to walk miles together for a pot of drinking water. In the same way, a few decades back women went to collect 71 fuelwood and fodder from forests that were few feet away. But now, because of excessive of deforestation, they have to walk miles for a bundle of fuelwood or for a sack of fodder. This picture is not different in our present study also. In this study, we have analyzed the impact of environmental degradation on women residing within 5 kms from forests of Tinsukia District for a period of 5 years, i.e., where we have seen that women of our study have to walk 2-3 kms from their home for a bundle of firewood or for a sack of fodder. Women are the principal practitioners of traditional agro forestry in production systems such as home gardens in Kerala State in India and Sri Lanka (Kumar and Nair 2004). They are also often innovators who develop or adapt new agro forestry technologies, such as dairy fodder and the domestication of indigenous fruits (World Agro forestry Centre 2008). Yet their presence in policy, decision making, and the science of agro forestry remains proportionally minimal. 3.4 Women and Forest Management The day-to-day survival of families in rural India especially Tinsukia district of Assam depends on the forests. The forest and water are the most important factors in the daily work and life of rural women and out of these, forests are considered most important. For her, forest is her mother s home as she is entirely dependent on the forest to meet her daily needs such as- water, fodder, fuels, minor forest produce etc. As a result of the gender division of work, it is primarily women who are the major gatherers of a wide range of Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP) for subsistence and as a source of income. Women are also employed along with men in forestry operations of the forest and other Departments. An emerging understanding of above said participation of women in forest related activities has triggered interest of society in studying the role of women in forestry and the forest economy. The women play important role in forestry in essentially three areas: Gathering fuelwood and fodder Gathering firewood, or head loading as it is often called, for domestic use and as a source of income is the most widespread gender-based activity for poor women. It has been estimated that two to three million people are engaged in head loading, with the 72 majority being tribal and other poor women. In Assam especially in Tinsukia district, almost all the women of the sample household collected are engaged in head loading and very little fodder is grown on agricultural land and livestock graze mainly in pastures and forests. In these regions, tree fodder is predominant and it is mainly women who manage lopping and fodder collection. As many of these regions have a high degree of male migration, the responsibility of agriculture and animal husbandry lies with women. Gathering of fuelwood, fodder and NTFPs is an important subsistence and economic activity for poor women. Thus, these women, particularly those who are poor, depend heavily on common resources for meeting their survival Employment and income: a) Direct employment: - This includes direct employment under regular forestry activities in forests under the control of Forest Department and through special afforestation programmes. The forestry staffs prefer women for forestry operations such as nursery work, transplanting and tender leaf collection b) Self-Employment This refers to individual or family units geared towards deriving income from activities such as the sale of firewood, livestock rearing (where income is derived from the sale of milk) and collection, processing and marketing c) Secondary Employment - This refers to employment in wood-based and small-scale forest-based enterprises. Although women s participation rate in some large enterprises such as the match industry may be very high but is less than half in small-scale enterprises. The main forest-based activities from which people derive employment and income are: - Sale of firewood and fodder - Rearing of livestock (grazing in and / or collecting fodder from forests) - Collection and processing of NTFP - Forest-based handicrafts and cottage industries But in case of the women of the forest areas of Tinsukia district, the employment level of the rural women, both directly and indirectly, is much negligible. 73 3.4.3 Management and Protection of Forests The significant contribution of women to forest-based livelihoods has always been overlooked and women have rarely been accorded due importance in planning of forestry programmes and formal forest management and protection systems. Therefore, their role in protection and management of forests, largely through informal and self-initiated women s groups (mahila mandals/samitis) remains largely invisible and consequently unrecognised, unacknowledged and poorly reported. As a result, their invisible forest management systems are often destabilised when supervision of participatory programmes, is transferred to the male elite. Participation of women in the forest derived economy as primary collectors of forest produce, as wage employees in forestry operations and forest-based enterprises and in forest management as well as the dominant role played by women in mass movements to protect forests has led to a growing realisation that forestry projects can only partially succeed if they do not involve women. There has been an increasing focus on gender and equity issues in international and national forum and policymaking and on the need to analyse gender issues for each sector and programme. A study commissioned by the Human Development Resource Centre of the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) and United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural organisation (UNESCO) to examine the women s role and contribution to forest- based livelihoods, with special reference to non-timber forest products (NTFPs) recommended gender focus in forest policy, forestry schemes and Government programmes. Gender reporting of women in forestry in The Census, National Sample Surveys and National Accounts Statistics Departmental data are indicators that capture women s roles in forest-based livelihoods including an evaluation of the adequacy of workforce, participation rates and wage rate differentials as a proxy for women s control over forests and forest produce. There have been suggestions for strengthening gender reporting on issues related to forests for national databases. In our study also, we have found that though the mahila samitis or mandals existing near the forest areas of Tinsukia district have been trying to do a lot of works like making people aware of the problems of deforestation, how to protect and preserve our natural resources etc but till now they have not been able to 74 succeed to a great extent because the supervision of participatory programmes still lies in the hands of the male elite. Deterioration of forest due to developmental activity has some observable impacts on the lives of women. The women of rural and hilly areas has a view that forests give them cool air, important to them in many aspects and worried that it will be ended. They suggested that more trees should be planted and cutting should be done through branches only. The women have played an important role during the Chipko Movement in the protection of trees from commercial exploitation, because they knew the importance of forests in their lives. Moreover, nowadays women have slowly-slowly started participating actively in the afforestation programmes and in the nurturing of tress planted by the Forest Department. The women have proved themselves to be the protectors of forests after some awareness was created and they were allowed to participate in the management of forests. Women are also employed by the Forest Department and contractors to work as unskilled labour. Women are also preferred for nursery raising & leaf collections. Women are also allowed to participate in management of afforested area under community forestry and JFM (Joint Forest Management programme). But regarding the case of the women of the forest areas of Tinsukia district, though they are allowed to participate in JFM but their participation rate is very low till now. 3.5 Women and Biodiversity When a girl is born, in our culture we say that the mountain laughs and the birds cry, because her future activities include maintaining the forest and are not / connected with logging in order to sow (so her work will not feed the birds). In the case of a boy, the opposite is said, that the mountain sheds tears and the birds laugh, because men will partially log to cultivate when needed and, at the same time, the food they grow will also feed the birds. These metaphors reflect the difference in functions, but not as a kind of superiority or inferiority. Biodiversity is essential for securing livelihoods and reducing poverty. Rural women in particular have an intense interaction with natural resources, given their heavy involvement in collecting and producing food, fuel, medicinal remedies and necessary raw materials. With knowledge passed down through many 75 generations, women frequently acquire a profound understanding of their environment and of biodiversity in particular, yet their contribution goes unrecognized. Biodiversity loss and biopiracy now endanger their knowledge and resources, including through the erosion of their diverse resource base. Lack of ownership and control over land and resources along with limited access to education and services impose major constraints. For many women, biodiversity is the cornerstone of their work, their belief systems and their basic survival. These relationships extend far back into human history, when division of responsibilities by gender began. Scientists have discovered that already in the early Stone Age (15,000-9,000 B.C.), women's roles and tasks in hunter-gatherer communities were explicitly linked to biodiversity, with the natural environment in essence determining their status and well being. For example, Owen (1998) describes women collecting and conserving edible plants that contributed 50 to 70 per cent of dietary requirements today, women continue to gather firewood and other bush products for food, medicine, paint and house-building. This is a common feature regarding the women of Tinsukia district. Wild food enhances food security in many communities during unfavourable situations such as famine, conflicts and epidemics (Kenyatta and Henderson, 2001). Women also take charge of many agricultural activities. After men have cleared the land, women sow, weed, hoe and bind the stalks. On their own plots, they manage home gardens, growing a wide variety of vegetables, relishes and condiments. Women farmers have in fact been largely responsible for the improvement and adaptation of many plant varieties. Around the world, women usually oversee small household livestock and sometimes even cattle, including choosing and breeding for preferred traits based on local conditions, such
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