More training and support for women in forestry needed

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Quibileh Pollard is one of the women producing charcoal at Yarrowkabra, along the Soesdyke/ Linden Highway. It is a dangerous, arduous job but it is a profession that she and other women are involved in because of few job opportunities along the highway.

You might think that forestry is a male-dominated field, but like Pollard, many other women are increasingly involved in the sector. A growing number of women are working in the forestry sector, largely in leadership roles and the administration of community forestry organisations.

And the women in forestry aren’t only getting an income out of their work but they contribute to community development and the sustainable use of the resource.

Still, a new study on gender and forests in four local communities found that a need exists for more training and support for women in the sector, to facilitate more avenues for their participation in the sector.

The study was conducted in Yarrowkabra, Coomacka, Three Friends, and Mainstay/Whyaka. Each community has women involved in various aspects of the forestry sector though it was noted that logging remains male-dominated.

Salima Bacchus- Hinds, a gender and social development specialist who volunteered with the Gender and Forest Group that did the research, said it is evident that more women in those communities are interested in opportunities in the forestry sector.

“For a lot of them, they wanted more access to training, not just in relation to safety but for business opportunities, access to equipment and I think primarily the idea is to expand what they are doing.

“And for women in the communities, they have a really keen sense of what the business should look like,” Bacchus- Hinds said.

Pollard agreed with this.

A woman involved in forestry in Coomacka

She joined other women involved in the forestry sector and other stakeholders for a workshop to reveal the research on Friday. And there, she told the News Room that there is a huge need for training, especially on better safety practices, for the women running the charcoal venture.

Aside from safety and general safety, the research identified other ways the women could be supported. For example, economic diversification into agriculture or tourism ventures could prove useful as has been the case in Mainstay/ Whyaka.

The research also spotlighted the need for even basic infrastructure in some of the communities.

And it noted, “Lack of regularised structure for legal land titling in these communities has also made access to finances for expansion of operation, upgrading technology or even new ventures near impossible.”

Chairperson of the Guyana Forestry Commission and Gender and Forest Group volunteer Vanessa Benn told the News Room this research is just the start.

She explained that there are many other communities dependent on the forestry sector and further research could provide valuable insights into the role of women in the sector and how targeted interventions could be supported.

And is there an appetite to support women in the sector? Benn thinks so. In fact, she pointed out that Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton highlighted training opportunities that would be made available to the women interested, free of cost.

Pollard welcomed the research and news that the Gender and Forest Group was keen on more research.

According to her, there’s much more to learn about the women making waves in the forestry sector.

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