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Women's Role in Management and Utilization of forest resources in Garhwal hilly areas

Women and their Role in management & utilization of forest resources in Garhwal hills areas. The forest and water are the most important factors in the daily work and life of Hilly rural women and out of these forest are considered most important, for women forest is their mother's home as they are significantly dependent on the forest to meet daily needs such as water, fodder, fuels minor forest produce etc.

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 actively contributing with men in forestry operations and play important roles in forestry.

Gathering firewood or head loading as it is often called for domestic use as a source of income is the most widespread gender based activity for poor women. It is estimated that two to three million people are engaged in head loading with the majority being tribal and other poor women in Garhwal hilly areas, it is mainly women who manage loping and fodder collection. As many of these hilly regions have a high degree of male migration.

The responsibility of agriculture and animal husbandry generally lies with woman, gathering of fuel wood, fodder and NTFP's is an important subsistence and economic activity for poor women, the relative status of women within the family is higher in well forested villages & villages closer to natural forest because their contribution to subsistence and cash incomes of householders is greater, women particularly those who are poor depends heavily on common resources for meeting their survival needs.

Women's role in agriculture has traditionally involves integrating forestry with food production they have the knowledge of lopping cycles and practices to maximizes fodder and leaf production moreover they know how lopping could be used as a forest management strategy besides they also manage local fodder trees growing on their farm lands through systematic pruning they procure maximum fodder yield without damaging the growth of plants.

Women's role is significant in integrating agriculture with animal husbandry women realize the contribution animals make to crop yield, women know which leaves and grasses are best for fodder which can help mulch cattle and which plants have veterinary uses, the role of women in livestock rearing is very crucial, livestock rearing at the household level is largely a women led activity and therefore income from within the household are primarily taken by women.

Rural women rely heavily on natural resources for the survival of their families and shopping their livelihood.

The Garhwal Hill women's are also engaged in collection of medicinal plants and various types of edible forest products for their own consumptions as well as trade to earn valuable money.
It is increasingly being recognized that women can play a key role in natural resources management as they have the knowledge and experience gained from working closely with their environment and their analytical skills in their community can play a vital role in developing forest resources in a sustainable manner.

Mahila Mandals or village women's organizations existing at village levels throughout the country has also played an important role in women empowerment and uplifting their status.

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