Biodiversity, Conservation, and Natural Resources Management

Supporting meaningful inclusion and leadership of women in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management can lead to a more sustainable use of resources, conflict reduction, and equitable benefits for all users.

Sector Overview

Changes to ecosystems affect women and men in different ways. Gender inequalities rooted in social and legal norms shape roles and responsibilities related to natural resources, which in turn affect how women and men, respectively, can access and benefit economically from them. Control over and access to natural resources can also be a source of conflict and lead to forms of exploitation, such as gender-based violence, which can be a key mechanism for maintaining power. Supporting women’s leadership and meaningful inclusion of women in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management can lead to more sustainable resource use, reduce conflict, and generate more equitable benefits for all users.


Natural Resources Management

Natural resources management spans multiple, cross-cutting sectors, including fisheries, forestry, and wildlife. The fisheries sector plays a key role in food security, as an estimated one billion people depend on seafood as their primary source of protein. Women make up the majority of the world's industrial and small-scale processors, so many women's livelihoods directly rely on a sustainable supply of high-quality fish. Women can improve enforcement of regulations when they are engaged as stewards of fishery resources. Women’s access to processing technology has reduced losses, increased value of products, and improved livelihoods without resulting in overfishing.

In forestry and natural resource supply chains, women smallholders typically focus on the quality of their crops to a greater extent than their male counterparts do. However, exclusionary practices in natural resource value chains can lower productivity and have a negative impact on the health and well-being of communities. Women are not as well represented as men in forestry governance bodies and often lack access to higher-value timber, which men control.

Biodiversity and Conservation

Women around the world, particularly Indigenous women, are often the first to experience the impact of biodiversity loss. However, they are underrepresented in conservation efforts and leadership. An International Union for Conservation of Nature analysis in 2021 revealed that women held only 15 percent of top jobs as ministers of environmental sectors. Indigenous women face multiple, intersecting barriers to their safe and equitable engagement in natural resources management, but they are also significant holders of knowledge of sustainable Indigenous land and resource practices that are key to achieving food security and climate adaptation and mitigation goals.

Women are powerful agents of biodiversity conservation because of their unique roles and possession of knowledge on natural resources, particularly within rural and Indigenous communities. Women’s engagement and leadership can play a significant role in delivering sustainable results across biodiversity, conservation, and natural resource sectors, including increased food and economic security and improved health. Many data gaps remain, as do mechanisms that could help us better understand and systematically map the roles of women and girls in biodiversity, conservation, and natural resources management, especially through an intersectional lens. When resources are destroyed or depleted, women and girls are forced to travel greater distances to collect water, wood for fuel, and animals and plants for food and medicine.

Promising Approaches

  1. Promote women’s secure access to use and ownership of land and property.
  2. Promote women’s leadership, particularly Indigenous women, in fisheries cooperatives, natural resource management associations, and in conservation efforts, including supporting women and women-led conservation organizations through training, capacity building, and direct funding.
  3. Advance programs and policies to protect the rights of women environmental human rights defenders, including a focus on programming and policies that address the heightened risk of women environmental human rights defenders to gender-based violence.
  4. Expand access to finance, financial services, training, and innovative technologies for women-led conservation organizations, women entrepreneurs, business leaders, and workers in natural resource management sectors.
  5. Consider people’s intersecting identities and experiences, and how complexities of the inequalities women face might be exacerbated or alleviated through biodiversity conservation and natural resource management programming.
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