Traditional gender dimensions in resource access and use patterns among the Upper Balongs of Cameroon
In the face of concerted actions to implement sustainable management of natural resources as a guarantee for a better future for all, measures most of the time are taken in circles where women are absent with the blurred notion that they do not constitute any threat to the environment. Even when they are considered as actors, they are treated as by-product or a tiny part of a programme. This article exposes the dynamics of resource access and exploitation in a rural milieu where masculinity is theoretically captioned as the main force in land tenure system. This work combined a range of qualitative methods in collecting data on the traditional gender dimensions in resource access and use patterns among the Upper Balongs of Cameroon. Discussion meetings were organised in the concerned villages where all the segments of the population (men, women, old and young) interacted in a participatory manner. Key informants were later singled out among the participants for in-depth interviews. Guided observation tours were carried out in resources specific locations within the community and in buffer zone of the Korup National Park. Data were analysed using the content analysis method where raw data were regrouped or matched into themes and sub themes. The data were subsequently retrieved for analysis and reporting. Due to its proximity to the Korup National Park and the Nguti Council Forest, conservation of natural resources here is regarded as a sensitive issue, considering the community’s reliance on these resources for livelihood boosting. This sensitivity renders the notion of “local people” an unavoidable element in conservation rhetoric. This initiative is likely to be jeopardised as gender issues either are ignored or are only given cosmetic treatment. Due to the patriarchal structure of most African societies, community participation is usually taken to mean the involvement of a limited number of local institutions such as Chiefs, councillors, elites and natural resource management committees whose interests often conflict with other users, notably women. Consequently, specific gender roles are relegated to the background, blurring important data on resource access modalities, exploitation, use and commercialisation. This study therefore sought in-sights into who intervenes at the community level in natural resource exploitation and how the intervention is regulated. It was found out that NTFP areas are accessed by women. Though they do not access bush meat hunting grounds, they nevertheless command the commercialisation which is the final force that triggers hunting. Therefore, women should be considered in equal terms with men when it comes to sustainable management of natural resources.
Key words: NTFP, Women, Commercialisation, Household livelihoods, Resource management
© THE AUTHORS. The JCAS is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.