Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation: views from project supervisors in India

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  • Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation:views from project supervisors in India

    Monica V. Ogra

    Received: 3 October 2011 / Accepted: 18 November 2011 / Published online: 9 December 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

    Abstract Many international agreements, such as the 1992 UN Convention on BiologicalDiversity, posit that successful community-oriented (community-based) wildlife conser-

    vation depends on partnerships with stakeholders of different class, ethnicity, and gender.

    Gender is of particular interest because it often relates to environmental use, attitudes, and

    knowledge and operates across other key categories. This study uses fieldwork, interviews,

    and a survey of 52 project heads in India to address two research questions: (1) How are

    gender issues viewed by supervisors of community-based wildlife conservation projects, in

    relation to their work? (2) What types of resources would be most useful to project heads

    seeking to promote gender equity through their conservation work? The results suggest that

    while there is widespread support for integrating gender equity issues into community-

    oriented wildlife conservation, many believe that gender may be a potentially distracting

    and secondary issue. Several reasons for the variation in views were identified including

    the following: the dearth of relevant empirical research about gender issues in wildlife

    conservation; ambiguities about the concept of gender itself; and a lack of opportunities to

    critically discuss the role of gender equity issues for conservation. These factors may

    contribute to a disconnection between international rhetoric and on-the-ground practice as

    it relates to gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation. Increased opportunities

    for professional capacity building among project supervisors and staff members, coupled

    with increased collaboration between social and natural scientists, will be important for

    strengthening the links between international conservation policy and on-the-ground


    Readers should send their comments on this paper to within 3 months of publicationof this issue.

    M. V. OgraDepartment of Environmental Studies and Program in Globalization Studies, Gettysburg College,Gettysburg, PA, USA

    M. V. Ogra (&)Box 2455, 300 N. Washington Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325, USAe-mail:


    Environ Dev Sustain (2012) 14:407424DOI 10.1007/s10668-011-9332-6

  • Keywords Community-based conservation (CBC) UN Convention on BiologicalDiversity (CBD) Wildlife conservation Participation Women India

    1 Introduction

    In developing countries, wildlife conservation projects focused on large, charismatic ter-

    restrial species (e.g., large cats, bears, and elephants) have traditionally excluded local

    residents. In response, residents have often resisted conservation efforts, particularly when

    they are prevented from using local natural resources or are left out of the conservation

    planning process (Ghimire and Pimbert 1997; Berkes 2004; Agrawal and Redford 2009). In

    an effort to gain local support and promote a more democratic approach to conservation,

    many organizations have adopted community-oriented1 conservation paradigms that

    emphasize partnerships and collaborations with local communities (Western and Wright

    1994; Brechin et al. 2003; West et al. 2006).

    In principle, community-oriented conservation projects should reach out to all members

    of a community, including those of different socioeconomic groups and gender (Agrawal

    and Gibson 2001; Kaimowitz and Shiel 2007; Vencatesan 2008; Torri 2010). This concept

    is echoed by a wide range of international policy statements that cite important links

    between gender equity issues, environmental conservation, and sustainable development.

    For example, Principle 20 of the 1992 Rio Declaration describes womens role in envi-

    ronmental management as vital and claims that their full participation is therefore

    essential to achieve sustainable development (UN 1992a). The 1992 United Nations

    Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) also references womens historical exclusion

    from participation in decision making in many arenas including the environment (see also

    Agenda 21 (UN 1992b), chapters 13 and 24). Similarly, both the United Nations Mil-

    lennium Development Goals (UN 2000) and the Plan of Implementation created at the

    World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD 2002) describe links between sus-

    tainable approaches to environmental management, gender equality, and womens

    empowerment. Inherent to these documents is the idea that participation of both women

    and men is critical to ensuring the long-term viability and effectiveness of sustainable and

    equitable conservation and development practices.

    The peer-reviewed literature also points to important links between gender and conser-

    vation. Numerous studies have found that gender and other social factors (such as class, caste,

    race, and ethnicity) influence the use of environmental resources, and thus are important to

    consider in community-oriented conservation projects (Agarwal 1992; Leach 1992; Green

    et al. 1998; Rocheleau et al. 1996; Resurreccion and Elmhirst 2008). Women and men often

    differ in terms of access, use, and knowledge of specific resources such as forests, fisheries,

    grasslands, water sources, and agroecosystems (e.g., Abramovitz 1994; Thomas-Slayter and

    Rocheleau 1995; Fortmann 1996; Carney 1996; Schroeder 1999; Bennett 2005; Fochingong

    2006; Momsen 2007; Hawkins and Seager 2010; Nuijten 2010). Including both women and

    men in conservation projects has been shown to improve conservation outcomes: Agarwals

    (2009) study of gender composition in membership of 135 community-based forest man-

    agement groups in India and Nepal found that improvements in forest condition, forest

    1 Myriad variations of this term exist in the literature, including participatory conservation, community-based conservation (CBC), integrated conservation and development projects (ICAD or ICDP), andcommunity-based natural resource management (CBNRM). This paper employs the term community-oriented to include all such approaches.

    408 M. V. Ogra


  • regeneration, and canopy growth were significantly related to a higher proportion of women

    in the decision-making bodies. However, more typically, men participate in and benefit from

    conservation projects more than women (e.g., Guijt and Shah 1998; Agarwal 2001 and 2009;

    Nightingale 2002; Flintan 2003; Vernooy 2007; see also Svarstad et al. 2006).

    Gender issues are also important to wildlife conservation projects, in particular. For

    example, Hunter et al. (1990) showed that conservation projects in southern Africa typi-

    cally overlooked womens key roles as both users and managers of wildlife. Studies in

    Africa have shown that wildlife conservation projects, including the model CAMPFIRE

    program, have had unequal benefits that favor men (Nabane and Matzke 1997) or impose

    additional costs on women (Songorwa 1999). One study in India found gender-based

    inequities in terms of differentiated vulnerability to attack by wild animals including

    elephants and leopards, leading women to sustain disproportionate rates of deaths or

    injuries as compared to men (Ogra 2008). Many studies have found that women and men

    often hold significantly different views about the importance of wildlife or how conser-

    vation should be undertaken at the local level (Kellert and Berry 1987; Hill 1998; Kuriyan

    2002; Bauer 2003; Martino 2008; Campbell 2009; Yang et al. 2010).

    Collectively, these studies suggest that an understanding of gender is critical to making

    conservation projects more effective, equitable, and sustainable. But is this view shared by

    conservation professionals on-the-ground? Several studies have evaluated the percep-

    tions of gender held by conservation professionals working in large development institu-

    tions such as the World Bank (Kurian 2000; see also Goetze 1997; Crewe and Harrison

    1998). Other studies have contrasted the attitudes held about wildlife between wildlife

    agency managers and members of the public (Peyton and Langenau 1985; Kennedy 1985;

    Carr and Tate 1991; Bjerke et al. 1998; Kaltenborn et al. 1999; Koval and Mertig 2004). At

    least one study assesses conservation professionals attitudes about the use of participatory

    approaches to wildlife conservation in India (Karanth et al. 2008). However, few if any

    studies have examined the views of wildlife conservation professionals about the role of

    gender in community-oriented conservation.

    To help address this gap, this study takes a case study approach in India to examine views

    of project supervisors about the importance of gender issues in community-oriented wildlife

    conservation projects. Two research questions were posed: (1) How are gender issuesviewed by wildlife conservation project supervisors? and (2) What types of resources wouldbe most useful to project supervisors seeking to more fully address gender-related aspects oftheir conservation work? To examine these questions, a case study of the Indian wildlifeNGO sector was conducted. India is an ideal study area for several reasons. First, as one of

    17 megadiverse countries, it plays a key role in addressing the global conservation crisis

    (UNDP 2011; Karanth and DeFries 2010). Secondly, expanding human settlements and

    conflicts over control of environmental resources impose formidable challenges to the

    maintenance of species viability. For example, at least 65% of Indias protected areas

    contain human habitations or are located adjacent to rural villages, which are often char-

    acterized by high levels of dependence on natural resources (Kothari et al. 1989). Moreover,

    rural Indian villages are typically characterized by clearly defined gender roles, which in

    conjunction with class/caste help shape individuals interactions with the environment

    (Agarwal 1992; Mehta 1996; Badola and Hussain 2003; see also Agrawal and Gibson

    2001). Third, India has an established and vibrant conservation NGO sector comprising

    members who are broadly supportive of participatory approaches to conservation (Karanth

    et al. 2008). Indian conservation NGOs are largely self-governing and are strategically

    positioned to promote various development projects as part of their conservation work.

    Unlike project supervisors of government-sponsored or donor-led initiatives, conservation

    Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation 409


  • professionals in this sector are often able to establish their own project-based agendas

    including those related to gender. By adopting a case study approach, it is hoped that

    specific insights can be gained from the ground level that will have cross-cultural relevance.

    2 Methods

    Data collection took place using a mixed-methods approach including site visits of NGOs,

    an online survey questionnaire, and follow-up interviews. To develop the questionnaire

    items, response options, and overall structure, ten in-person interviews were conducted in

    2007 with executive directors and programmatic directors of prominent wildlife NGOs in

    India. A ten-item questionnaire was then distributed among 72 supervisors of community-

    oriented wildlife conservation projects. Follow-up interviews with 15 questionnaire

    respondents were conducted in 20102011 to learn more about individual projects and to

    further understand responses. Identification codes used in this paper were randomly

    assigned to ensure respondent anonymity. English was used in all parts of the study, as it is

    one of the official languages of India.

    2.1 Selection criteria, data collection, and analysis strategy

    Supervisors of community-oriented wildlife conservation projects were identified using a

    multi-step process. First, four national-level directories of environmental NGOs in India

    (IUCN 2011; ENVIS 2011; TERI 2011; Sanctuary Asia 2011) were searched for the terms

    wildlife, nature, and biodiversity, yielding a list of 317 potentially suitable NGOs.

    Database entries and/or web pages for each of the 317 NGOs were individually examined

    to determine whether the NGO focused on wildlife and demonstrated a commitment to a

    community-oriented approach. A total of 18 wildlife NGOs with an explicit commitment to

    community-oriented conservation were ultimately identified, of which eight agreed to be

    part of the study. The eight NGOs sponsored a total of 72 community-oriented wildlife

    conservation projects across India. Most projects were affiliated with four large NGOs with

    a national presence, whereas a smaller number were affiliated with the four smaller, locally

    oriented organizations (coded in Table 1 as NGOs A, B, C, D, and other NGOs, respec-

    tively). Beyond anti-discrimination policies for employment practices, none had formal

    gender-related guidelines in place at the time of the survey.

    Between April 2010 and July 2011, the supervisors of the 72 projects were invited to

    respond to a self-administered online questionnaire about their project-based experiences

    and professional backgrounds. When invited to take the survey, project supervisors were

    given information about study objectives, methodology, survey format, and confidentiality.

    Project supervisors were asked ten closed-ended questions and prompted, but not required,

    to provide explanatory comments. This paper focuses on the four questions related to

    personal experiences and related perspectives. To achieve a degree of standardization in

    the questionnaire, a working definition of the term gender issues was provided to

    respondents: any difference between men and women that could influence project out-

    comes. Several examples were given as a preface to questionnaire items, including the

    following: inequitable differences in educational status, employment opportunities, control

    of household resources, role in decision-making, status in the community, participation in

    stakeholder groups, use of environmental resources, or impacts of environmental use

    change patterns. Text of the actual questionnaire items reported in this paper is given in

    Tables 2 and 3. At the end of the survey, respondents were invited to provide contact

    410 M. V. Ogra


  • information if they were willing to participate in a follow-up interview. A total of 17

    individuals did so, leading to 15 follow-up interviews in-person or by phone.

    Simple summary statistics of responses were tabulated. In addition, Pearson Chi-square

    tests were used to determine whether there were significant differences at the p = 0.05level in the responses to questions 13 (Table 2) with respect to six demographic variables:

    gender (man or woman), age class (2534, 3544, 4554), years of professional experience

    (over or under 10 years), level of education (doctoral degree or other degree), main area of

    specialization (natural science or other), and institutional affiliation (NGOs A, B, C, D, and

    E). Respondents explanatory comments were hand-coded to facilitate interpretation of

    emergent themes related to differences in response frequencies (Denzin and Lincoln 2000).

    Selected quotations are drawn primarily from questionnaire responses and were chosen

    with representativeness and clarity in mind.

    Table 1 Respondent profile

    * These details were solicited asopen-ended text. Somerespondents did not provide bothtypes of dataa Biology, Botany, Computerengineering, ConservationBiology, Ecology, EnvironmentalEngineering, EnviromentalManagement, EnvironmentalScience, Marine Science, NaturalResources Management, SoilScience, Wildlife Science,Zoologyb Anthropology, DevelopmentStudies, Economics, SocialWork, Sociology, Psychologyc Geography, Human Ecology;Combination of above fields

    Percentage (%)

    Institutional affiliation (n = 52)

    NGO A 27.0

    NGO B 13.5

    NGO C 23.0

    NGO D 29.0

    Other NGOs 7.5

    Gender (n = 52)

    Male 63.5

    Female 36.5

    Age (n = 52)

    1824 0

    2534 32.7

    3544 51.9

    4554 15.4

    55? 0

    Years working in conservation, including education (n = 52)

    Less than 1 year 0

    12 years 7.7

    35 years 19.2

    610 years 21.2

    More than 10 years 51.9

    Educational background: degree earned (n = 47)*

    Bachelors degree 6.5

    Masters degree 51.0

    Doctoral degree 40.5

    Other (law) 2.0

    No data provided 6.0

    Educational background: degree field (n = 40)*

    Natural sciencesa 70.0

    Social sciencesb 15.0

    Interdisciplinaryc 10.0

    Other (law; literature) 5.0

    Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation 411


  • 3 Results

    3.1 Demographic profile of survey respondents

    Of 72 individuals invited to participate in the survey, 52 completed the surveys (a response

    rate of 72.2%). The respondents tended to be men, between 35 and 44 years of age, with a

    graduate degree in the natural sciences, and characterized by more than 10 years of pro-

    fessional conservation work experience (Table 1). Chi-square tests showed that responses

    to the four items examined in this paper did not differ significantly (p = 0.05) with respectto categories of gender, age, experience, level of education, area of specialization, or

    institutional affiliation. Thus, the quantitative results reported in Tables 2 and 3 are not

    reported within these categories.

    3.2 Research question #1: How are gender issues viewed by project supervisors?

    A key task of the questionnaire was to gauge respondents attitudes about the relevance of

    gender to their work. To this end, respondents were asked: In your opinion, identifying

    Table 2 Questionnaire responses: training experiences and related attitudes

    Q. no. Question text A highpriority

    A moderatepriority

    A lowpriority

    Nota priority

    1 In your opinion, identifying andaddressing gender issues incommunity-oriented conservationprojects should be





    Q. no. Question text Yes No Do notknow

    Did notanswer

    2 Have you ever participated ingender-focused training/skillenhancement in support of yourconservation work?

    12/52 (23.1%) 40/52 (76.9%) 0/52 (0%) 0/52 (0%)

    3 Would you be likely to participate infuture gender-focused training insupport of your conservation work,if given the opportunity?

    45/52 (86.5%) 3/52 (5.8%) 4/52 (7.7%) 0/52 (0%)

    Table 3 Resource rankings

    Q. no. How helpful would you find theseresources for incorporating gender intoyour conservation work?

    Most helpful Somewhat helpful Not helpful

    4 Written guidelines/policy 14/52 (26.9%) 34/52 (65.3%) 5/52 (9.6%)

    Case study materials 21/52 (40.3%) 26/52 (50.0%) 4/52 (7.7%)

    Technical training manuals 17/52 (32.6%) 30/52 (57.7%) 7/52 (13.4%)

    In-person training 34/52 (70.1%) 13/52 (25.0%) 4/52 (7.7%)

    Additional project member/Collaborator 21/52 (40.4%) 25/52 (48.1%) 6/52 (11.5%)

    Forum for discussion/interactionwith co-workers

    28/52 (53.8%) 17/52 (32.7%) 7/52 (13.4%)

    412 M. V. Ogra


  • and addressing gender issues in community-oriented conservation projects should be: a

    high priority, moderate priority, low priority, or not a priority (Table 2, Question 1). A

    total of 53.8% responded high priority, 44.2% responded moderate priority, and 1.9%

    responded low priority. No respondent selected should not be a priority.

    The qualitative responses offer insight into why respondents answered the way they did.

    Of the respondents who answered that gender issues should be a high priority, a few made

    a moral argument, citing a need to counter inequities against women or the importance of

    supporting goals of womens empowerment. Such respondents expressed a belief that

    addressing gender issues in conservation also requires devoting more attention to under-

    standing womens lives in general. For example:

    The women in society will be able to come forward easily and communicate better if

    their social and health issues are understood and if they are approached by people

    sensitive to these issues (Respondent #16, Male).

    Most community-oriented conservation projects are operated by ecologists who lack

    training or exposure to social issues in general. It is indeed a high priority to

    incorporate social aspects and gender issues in natural resource conservation projects

    (Respondent #28, Female).

    However, most of these respondents made the practical argument that integrating gender

    improved project outcomes. For example:

    Often development or conservation-oriented projects are designed with a one size

    fits all approach, and do not include interventions to address issues of equity and

    participation by the marginal groups/communities, including womenwithout

    which, these projects are bound to fail (Respondent #39, Male).

    In a given environment, womens day-to-day activities comprise as important a part

    of resource use as mens activities. Hence any conservation programme which fails

    to take account of their activities, world-views, decision-making capacities, and

    negotiations (largely because of their lack of visibility in the public sphere) cannot

    claim to have a holistic approach to the issue (Respondent #41, Female).

    In contrast, the respondents who answered that gender issues should be a moderate

    priority offered quite different perspectives from the high priority group. These perspec-

    tives fell into four general camps. First, several members of this group expressed concerns

    that an increased focus on gender issues could compete with conservation goals for project-

    related resources including time and funding. For example:

    In such projects, addressing the conservation issues should be the first priority.

    (Respondent #37, Male).

    Attempting to simultaneously tweak more than one sociocultural dial within such

    communities appears to be a difficult task, particularly when conservation money is

    hard to come by (Respondent #23, Male).

    Given that I had limited resources and time, it has largely been ignored (Respondent

    #31, Female).

    Secondly, a few of them believed that a community-oriented approach necessarily includes

    attention to gender issues; therefore, special attention to gender is not necessary. For


    Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation 413


  • If you work with the community, automatically you will be addressing gender issues

    (Respondent #18, Male).

    The main objective of the work is conservation, while ensuring the welfare of the

    community. Gender issues should be highlighted if and when there is a need for it,

    else we should try to focus more on the impact on the community and how they are

    using their resources In a conservation project, it is important to see the impact onthe whole community, rather than on men and women separately (Respondent #15,


    Third, many (56%) of the 18 moderate priority respondents who offered explanatory

    comments expressed doubt that gender is always relevant to conservation practice. For


    Basically I feel that it is a poor assumption that the attitudinal difference between the

    genders plays a major role in managing natural resources (Respondent #42, Male).

    It depends on your objective. If it is for a particular species, for climate change, etc.,

    then it is not a top priority (Respondent #16, Male).

    Respondents in this group suggested that gender is only one of many socioeconomic

    variables and it may not be among the most important factors for conservation

    professionals to consider. Some described gender issues as possibly peripheral and

    tangential in relation to other, more pressing concerns with implications for the success

    of conservation projects. For example:

    While gender issues are of great importance for overall community development

    projects, in the narrower window through which we approach it (primarily in relation

    to natural resource management), it may not be of the highest priority in relation to

    other aspects such as tenure rights, access, etc. (Respondent #32, Male).

    In the communities I work in, gender roles run deep, and while it is important to

    address issues within any conservation programme, they are, in my opinion, tan-

    gential to the purpose of our conservation efforts, which attempt to address liveli-

    hood issues related to ecosystem change (Respondent #23, Male).

    Although I am interested in trying to factor it in for a greater understanding that may

    lead to better outcomes, I had also felt that it was somewhat peripheral to the main

    work (Respondent #31, Female).

    Fourth, some respondents in this group expressed concern about the unanticipated

    consequences that could result from an explicit and expanded focus on gender. Two

    respondents voiced the concern that such an approach could inadvertently increase the

    overall workload for individuals, especially women, in project communities. As they


    Both the genders have a very clearly defined role in a community. It is important to

    understand these roles and plan the project accordingly. The project should not

    increase the burden on either gender by giving them roles that they are not familiar

    with or are unwilling to take part in (Respondent #15, Female).

    Women should be involved, but not overly as they are already overburdened

    (Respondent #13, Female).

    414 M. V. Ogra


  • One respondent reported that identifying and addressing gender issues in conservation

    should be a low priority. In explanatory comments, he expressed doubts about whether

    relevant gender differences exist at all, given that communities increasingly rely on cash to

    purchase environmental resources. However, suggesting that conservationists efforts to

    promote gender equity through their projects may not always be effective, he later added:

    It will be a good exercise to decide where gender equalities will work and where they

    will not (Respondent #42, Male).

    It is important to note that respondents, despite being given an operational definition of

    gender issues, often had distinct perceptions about what is meant by the terms gender

    and gender issues. In explanatory comments and interviews, the term gender was nearly

    always used as a shorthand term for womens issues and defined without reference to

    men. When programmatic directors and project supervisors were asked to translate the

    term gender into field languages or to provide their own definition, for example, they

    often had difficulty. As one such interviewee reflected:

    Hmm. How do I define gender? Its a philosophy. I dont know how to define it.

    When I go to a study I dont think of them as otheryou dont create a separate

    entity for women. No, I dont know, how would I put it? Its difficult its difficult.You know what you are not supposed to do, you know what you are supposed to do,

    dos and dontsbut how to put it across? You know that when you go to a com-

    munity you have to go and ensure that there is a parity, that everyone is feeling

    included, that you have to meet everybodys view, that whatever decisions you are

    making is not going in favor of one But if you ask me to define the whole thing,its a tough take. With gender, you cant have a blanket definitionthere is a bit of

    gender in everything (Interview, Oct. 2007).

    In addition, during fieldwork in India, I observed conservationists asking questions to each

    other about the gender (rather than sex) of a wild animal on numerous occasions. When

    asked to reflect on this issue during follow-up interviews, one suggested that the misusage

    was probably unintentional and, in his opinion, reflective of a style of English that some

    people use, especially those who write a lot (Interview, June 2011). These perceptions

    about definitions of gender and gender issues no doubt influenced questionnaire responses.

    3.3 Research question #2: What types of resources would be most useful to project

    heads seeking to more fully address gender-related aspects of their conservation


    In an attempt to gauge reach and effectiveness of gender-focused training experiences

    among the wildlife conservations surveyed, respondents were asked a series of interrelated

    questions. First, they were asked: Have you ever participated in gender-focused training/

    skill enhancement activities in support of your conservation work? A total of 23.1% said

    yes, while 76.9% said no (Table 2, Question 2).

    Respondents who answered no were then asked to identify which of four possible

    reasons helped to explain why. Multiple selections were permitted. Two main reasons

    emerged: Interested, but no opportunity (46% of respondents) and Lack of interest/not

    relevant to my work (41% of respondents). Interested, but no time was reported as a

    third reason (selected by 19%), while 3% reported Other reasons (in both cases, the

    respondent believed he was already sufficiently experienced). Respondents who answered

    yes (i.e., they had prior training experiences) were instead asked if the training was

    Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation 415


  • voluntary or required, and subsequently prompted by the questionnaire to briefly narrate

    the types, duration, topics, and perceived value associated with their training experiences.

    Out of these 12 respondents, 58.3% reported voluntary participation and 41.6% reported

    attendance as a work-related requirement. Nearly all training experiences were dedicated

    workshops or short courses, spanning a range of a half-day to as long as 2 weeks; graduate

    school coursework was reported by one person. Three main topics were reported as the

    focus areas of these training experiences: (1) gender theory, (2) women and natural

    resource use patterns in India (emphasis on forests), and (3) practical strategies for par-

    ticipatory approaches to conservation-development work. When asked to describe the level

    of utility of the training for the respondents own conservation work, all but one of the

    respondents described the experience in positive terms. For example:

    Very useful. These experiences have helped me in understanding the inequity in the

    present scenario and help me to think in a strategic manner while planning for the

    projects (Respondent #19, Male).

    It has been a lot of personal empowerment intrinsically, and led to the establishing of

    a new perspective for me (Respondent #12, Female).

    One respondent, however, evaluated it as having been not very useful and referred to the

    experience a single-day gender sensitization workshop (Respondent #38, Female).

    All respondents were also asked about their attitudes toward gender-focused training

    and willingness to participate in the future. When asked, Would you be likely to par-

    ticipate in future gender-focused training in support of your conservation work, if given the

    opportunity? a total of 86.5% said yes (Table 2, Question 3). These respondents

    expressed a view that training would be valuable for improving research design and

    planning for more effective wildlife conservation activities, especially in cases where

    gender linkages are not obvious. For example:

    Would training and awareness on gender need to be preceded by some sort of social

    science training? Most conservationists do not even get that basic exposure to the

    social dimensions of conservation (Respondent #46, Male).

    Though it is a very important issue, not many consider it during project imple-

    mentation. I think the training should start early in life (Respondent #1, Male).

    I am now starting to work on the questionnaire surveys and did not think it [gender]

    to be relevant at this point of time. However, I am sure that training in this regard

    might lead to a more varied approach. I would like to know more about gender

    analysis in wildlife conservation (Respondent #24, Female).

    I did not realize the importance of gender issues until later Because the issue washunting, I naturally focused on men in the community. Most decision-making

    seemed to be largely by men. However, women do go to the forests to collect

    firewoodmen also assist in a large way in thisand also go fishing in the com-

    munity I work withWomen are likely to play a significant role in decision-making,even if it appears that men are the ones taking it. A better understanding and sen-

    sitivity to of gender differences and inequities is also necessary [and] may have a

    positive impact on project outcomes (Respondent #31, Female).

    Of the seven respondents in the do not know and no category, five were men and

    two were women. Time constraints were reported as the main factor in willingness to

    participate for one of the three respondents who answered no and for the two women,

    416 M. V. Ogra


  • who said do not know. The other two do not know respondents were men who cited the

    need for demonstration of linkages and relevance of such training for their work. Resistance

    and skepticism of deriving benefit from training was reported by the remaining two

    respondents, who cited the value of their own experiential knowledge in responding no:

    I am aware of the gender issue and its importance, and that is sufficient for my work

    (Respondent #16, Male).

    I dont want my way of thinking and ideology to get diluted/polluted by the textbook

    knowledge on these topics spitted out by these so-called resource people. I trust that

    my experiences are better than these trainings (Respondent #37, Male).

    Lastly, respondents were presented with six specific possible training resources: (1)

    written guidelines/policy, (2) case study materials, (3) technical training manuals, (4) in-

    person training, (5) additional project member/collaborator, and (6) forum for discussion/

    interaction with co-workers. Respondents were then asked the question, How helpful

    would you find these resources for incorporating gender into your conservation work? and

    instructed to rate each as either most helpful, somewhat helpful, or not helpful

    (Table 3). Two resources received a modal response of most helpful: in-person training(selected by 70.1%) and forum for discussion/interaction with co-workers (selected by53.8%). The other four resources had modal responses of somewhat helpful: writtenguidelines/policies (65.3%), technical training manuals (57.7%), case study materials(50%), and additional project member/collaborator (48.1%).

    In explanatory comments, several respondents expressed that in-person training is

    important to help bridge gaps between policy and practice, both at institutional levels and


    Government has passed a law to get more participation of women in the development

    process. However, training for capacity building is still not on the priority agenda

    (Respondent #51, Male).

    In todays context, where governments are trying to decentralize natural resource

    management, the role of women needs to be recognized in a much larger context

    (Respondent #49, Male).

    The understanding of the issues has still to be developed and understood (Respondent

    #20, Female).

    Explanatory comments also underscored the views that the availability of training

    opportunities and the creation of new forums for discussion could be useful for promoting

    reflection about the ways in which conservation practice can engage with gender issues

    more effectively. For example, of the 19 respondents who contributed final thoughts

    upon completion of the questionnaire, 47% indicated that they were now thinking more

    about the role of gender in conservation work or asked if further information could be

    disseminated. These respondents indicated that participation in the study was itself one

    such entry point. For example:

    I might have considered incorporating gender issues into my study if I had the

    opportunity for training. Could I contact you in case I have queries? (Respondent

    #30, Female).

    It is a very well thought-out and interesting questionnaire. I would be interested in

    finding out the results of your study (Respondent #31, Female).

    Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation 417


  • This questionnaire helps in motivating people to carry out or include components

    related to gender issues. I am not now involved in any projects relating to gender, but

    I am planning to develop programs pertaining to human-wildlife conflict and gender

    issues (Respondent #41, Female).

    This was a simple yet quite effective survey (Respondent #18, Male).

    It is only when someone like you comes along to ask such questions that we take the

    time to actually think about and discuss such issues (Respondent #7, Male).

    While written resources (guidelines/policy, case studies, and training manuals) each

    received a modal response of somewhat helpful, many respondents described them as

    most helpful (Table 3). Two respondents who placed a high value on formal policies

    observed, for example, that project supervisors sometimes need an official push to adopt

    a gender-based approach. For example:

    There needs to be an external driver to do this. Left to itself, a conservation orga-

    nization may be sensitive to but still not apply gender-focused work ethics

    (Respondent #5, Male).

    The organization does do some lip service to gender-equality or inequality as part of

    its projects, but that is more because of donor compliances and because it is polit-

    ically correct to do so! (Respondent #2, Male).

    Respondents prioritizing case studies noted that dissemination of success stories and

    practical examples of the issues would be particularly helpful and called for more

    empirical research illustrating gender-based linkages to wildlife conservation. A few

    reported a particularly acute need for lessons drawn from studies conducted in the marine/

    freshwater ecology context, and others noted a need to learn more about cultural contexts

    beyond the Himalayan region. Several respondents cited a need for specific strategies to

    guide gender-based data collection and analysis.

    Lastly, additional collaborators or project members were ranked as most helpful or

    somewhat helpful by 88.5% of respondents, although there were mixed opinions about

    what such a person might do. Two respondents comments are illustrative of respondents

    reactions to the suggestion that their own work might be enhanced through project staffing:

    I believe that gender issues are important in and of themselves, and need to be

    addressed with separate skilled programmes geared specifically for the cause

    (Respondent #23, Male).

    Rather than any of these, the commitment and sincerity of the person is the most

    important thing (Respondent #37, Male).

    4 Discussion

    This study presents a picture of the demographic profile, perceptions, priorities, and atti-

    tudes held by supervisors of community-oriented conservation projects in India. In contrast

    to other studies that identify education, work environment, and age as important predictors

    of conservationists attitudes (Karanth et al. 2008), this study found that answers to

    questionnaire items did not vary significantly by gender, age, institutional affiliation, level

    of education, degree type, area of specialization, or years of professional experience. This

    418 M. V. Ogra


  • finding is interesting as it suggests that the views of project supervisors are may be shaped

    by factors that are not specific to any particular demographic group. In the case of gender,

    this result may come as something of a surprise given that it is a widely held assumption

    that womens presence in development organizations, for example, is itself sufficient to

    promote womens larger strategic interests and needs (Porter and Sweetman 2005). As

    Porter and Sweetman point out, and as this study also demonstrates, this is a misplaced


    The study also shows that project supervisors are broadly supportive of integrating

    gender into conservation work so long as the practices have been shown to improve

    conservation outcomes. Nearly all (98.1%) of the surveyed project supervisors reported a

    belief that identifying and addressing gender issues in community-oriented wildlife con-

    servation is a moderate or high priority, most (86.5%) were willing to participate in gender-

    focused training, and most (90%) reported that they would find in-person training

    opportunities to be valuable in terms of their personal capacity building and professional

    development. While it is possible that respondents felt obligated to respond in politically

    correct ways by expressing support, there is no evidence from the survey to support this

    interpretation. To the contrary, numerous respondents who believe that gender issues are

    important to conservation also openly expressed diverging opinions on how, why, and the

    extent to which gender issues are relevant. The disagreement on the details may be one

    reason why gender issues have been only unevenly integrated into community-oriented

    conservation, despite the push from policy guidelines and within the peer-reviewed


    The study suggests several reasons for the diverse views on the details of gender issues

    in community-oriented conservation, which may cause the disconnection between rhetoric

    and practice. First, the project supervisors represented in this study, who are primarily

    natural scientists, lack guidance about gender and wildlife conservation that is grounded in

    empirical research. Most gender-focused research on in-situ biodiversity conservation does

    not directly relate to wildlife, but instead to agrobiodiversity, traditional resource man-

    agement strategies, and collective environmental activism. In the absence of research that

    directly applies to their particular environmental and cultural setting, project supervisors

    simply make assumptions about what is or is not related to gender. This was illustrated by

    some respondents explanatory comments, such as the project supervisor who suggested

    that gender issues are not relevant to projects concerned with specific wildlife species or to

    climate change. The respondent was not aware of the growing literature related to gender-

    based aspects of human-wildlife conflict (e.g., Treves et al. 2006; Ogra 2008; Yang et al.

    2010; Campbell and Alvarado 2011) or climate change (e.g., Cutter 1995; Denton 2002;

    UNCSW 2008; Terry 2009). Increased levels of collaboration in scholarship and research

    between wildlife biologists and social scientists could help to address this research gap.

    Field-based conservation researchers (i.e., project supervisors and their staff members)

    could also assist in filling this gap by identifying potential gender issues associated with

    their projects at an early stage and by writing and talking about them. Such steps would

    support project supervisors in making decisions based on evidence, rather than gut feelings,

    highly theoretical literature, or general policy prescriptions.

    A second reason for the diverse views on gender issues in community-oriented wildlife

    is a lack of gender-related training or other professional development opportunities for

    project supervisors. The existing empirical and theoretical research on the links between

    gender and community-oriented conservation has been influential in the realm of inter-

    national policy but has largely not been incorporated into professional training. Moser and

    Mosers (2005) review of gender policies and practices in 14 large international institutions

    Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation 419


  • (including the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme) reports a

    consistent need for additional and improved gender training at all levels. The questionnaire

    results in this study suggest that project supervisors are receptive to such training but have

    not had many opportunities. Yet even if training was more commonly available, the type of

    training offered in NGOs often does not result in substantive change (Porter and Sweetman

    2005). An ongoing and consistently refreshed institutional approach that offers frequent,

    high-quality, culturally appropriate, and context-specific training opportunities, however, is

    likely to address the additional constraints of staff turnover and initial participant resistance

    (Moser and Moser 2005: 17). Such an approach should not rely on gender specialists but

    instead focus on creating a cadre of professionals who are each responsible for ensuring

    that the planning and implementation of their projects account for gender issues where they

    relate to conservation (Wendoh and Wallace 2005; Dawson 2005).

    A third reason for the diverse views on gender issues in community-oriented wildlife

    conservation is linguistic and conceptual in nature. This study reveals that some confusion

    exists in the conservation community over the meaning and implications of the key terms

    used by gender specialists. Among social scientists, the term gender refers to a culturally

    assigned identity usually (but not always) associated with ones biological sex. However,

    the term is often misunderstood as an isolated concept related exclusively to womens

    issues or used as a synonym for biological sex, divorced from its important connotations

    with cultural context and related power hierarchies. These are important differences with

    real implications. When projects are designed with women in mind and not gender more

    broadly, women may bear an undue burden of participating in a project, thereby increasing

    their already heavy workload (Guijt and Shah 1998; Elmhirst and Resurrection 2004).

    Similarly, it is clear from the study that gender is also sometimes viewed as of secondary

    importance when compared to land tenure issues, access to rights, and livelihood issues

    more broadly. This position, however, contrast sharply with a wide and well-established

    body of literature, which demonstrates that gender-based factors interact with class/caste/ethnicity to influence conservation outcomes related to such socioeconomic issues

    (Agarwal 1994; Rocheleau et al. 1996; Agrawal and Gibson 2001; Deda and Rubian 2004;

    Elmhirst and Resurrection 2008; Flintan and Tedla 2010).

    Together the cases of linguistic and conceptual muddiness reported here suggest that

    without a clear, theoretically and empirically informed framework to guide their work,

    project supervisors will continue to find it difficult to discuss or make informed decisions

    about how projects can (or should) engage with gender-related issues. Again, culturally

    appropriate training experiences would likely help to demonstrate relevance, clarify the

    challenges, and suggest feasible entry points for conservationists seeking to implement the

    equity-related aspects of the CBD, Agenda 21, MDG, and similar international agreements.

    The lack of guidance, the lack of formal training, the lack of a standard vocabulary all

    point toward a simple and easily implemented measure: providing additional opportunities

    for members of the conservation community to discuss gender issues. Many project

    supervisors believe they would benefit from more opportunities to discuss the potential role

    of gender inequities for conservation outcomes and the specific ways that their proposed or

    ongoing projects can influence social outcomes (including perpetuation of or challenges to

    gender inequities). Several respondents reported that the questionnaire and follow-up

    interviews themselves were a catalyst for reflection about gender issues in their conser-

    vation work. At an institutional level, increased opportunities might include distribution/

    discussion of relevant case study resources, or institutionally sponsored forums where

    conservation professionals could simply exchange ideas and experiences about their pro-

    jects. Workshops, email lists, discussion groups, social media such as Facebook pages, and

    420 M. V. Ogra


  • other forms of communication could also help project members share ideas. Increased

    partnership with the international donor community could also help to support efforts to

    improve the integration of gender issues, an emphasis in project work that Wendoh and

    Wallace (2005) suggest is often a pre-condition for funding agreements.

    5 Conclusion

    This case study of attitudes and perceptions of project supervisors of community-oriented

    wildlife conservation project reveals that while there is widespread general support for

    integrating gender issues into community-oriented wildlife conservation, many are con-

    cerned that gender represents a potentially distracting and secondary issue. Several reasons

    for the diverse views on gender and wildlife conservation were identified: a dearth of

    empirical research about gender issues and wildlife; lack of training opportunities;

    ambiguities about the concept of gender itself; and a lack of adequate opportunities to

    discuss the role of gender in conservation. These factors may help explain the discon-

    nection between perspectives on the ground and the forceful policy statements related to

    gender and conservation.

    The study draws on experiences of project supervisors from India, but the issues raised

    by the study are cross-culturally relevant. Gender differences in resource use exist across

    diverse ecological and cultural settings. The success of community-oriented wildlife

    conservation to a large extent depends on a keen understanding of local dynamics related to

    gender, caste, and class. More studies of perspectives on the ground are needed to create

    a comprehensive picture of conservation professionals views about gender in a multitude

    of settings. To strengthen links between conservation rhetoric and practices, increased

    opportunities for professional capacity building among project supervisors and staff

    members will be critical. Increased collaboration and intellectual exchange between nat-

    ural and social scientists in conservation will also continue to be essential.


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    Gender and community-oriented wildlife conservation: views from project supervisors in IndiaAbstractIntroductionMethodsSelection criteria, data collection, and analysis strategy

    ResultsDemographic profile of survey respondentsResearch question #1: How are gender issues viewed by project supervisors?Research question #2: What types of resources would be most useful to project heads seeking to more fully address gender-related aspects of their conservation work?