What is the significance of gender in European forest ownership and forest management?

Gro Follo, researcher at Centre for Rural Research, has for many years been interested in personal forest ownership. Along with research colleagues from six other countries, she has now published an article reflecting on the topic of women as so-called "new forest owners."

Nyhetsbilde Foto: Lars Johan Skjeggedal

The number of female forest owners is growing in Europe, and is currently estimated to be approximately 30 percent of all private owners. This new category of forest owners merits a closer look, believe researchers Follo, Gun Lidestav (Sweden), Alice Ludvig (Austria), Lelde Vilkriste (Latvia), Teppo Hujala (Finland), Heimo Karppinen (Finland), François Didolot (France) and Diana Mizaraite (Lithuania).

They introduce a gender perspective using three different research frameworks. Through these frameworks the article substantiates that gender plays a role in forest ownership, forest management, forest activity and the understanding of these three aspects. Where gender-disaggregated data is available, and gender is assessed as an empirical variable, the researchers find differences in gender distribution among forest owners in most countries they consider.

The proportion of female forest owners varies widely, from 3 percent in Bosnia and Herzegovina to 52 percent in Lithuania. By adding the concept of gender as a relational and structuralizing category, the researchers show that gender structures affect, for example, the actual behaviour of male and female forest owners and their self-assessment of forestry competence.

Furthermore, when considering gender as meaning category, the researchers explore how meaning produces behaviour and behaviour produces meanings, as well as how both behaviour and meanings shape institutions and natural and artificial matter. Here forestry competence is the applied example.

The authors give two recommendations for increasing the knowledge of new forest owners. Research colleagues within the same field of study are recommended to assume that gender plays a role, and to design their empirical studies accordingly. Policy makers are recommended to guarantee access to gender-disaggregated data in official registers and statistics.

The study has two main methodological elements. Firstly, a collection of current data and publications concerning European forest ownership. The collection is completed by other researchers who also participated in the broader European research cooperation FACESMAP, Cost Action FP1201, "Forest Land Ownership Changes in Europe: Significance for Management and Policy." Secondly, a collective meta-analysis of the collected data and publications. The meta-analysis of a total of 65 sources and publications was conducted by researchers who together discussed and examined information using their expert knowledge of European forestry and forest owners. Furthermore, the researchers in the meta-analysis were drawing on the different backgrounds they had (five in forestry, one in geography, one in pedagogy and anthropology, one in political science) and the individual country-specific knowledge of the contextual conditions in their home countries.

The article was published in the prestigious Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research. The title is "Gender in European Forest Ownership and Management: Reflections on Women as 'New Forest Owners'." Gro Follo is first author.

Link provided below for those who have access to the records online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02827581.2016.1195866

Gro Follo

Dr.polit.(Anthropology)

Mobile: +47 970 22 016

E-mail: Gro.Follo@rural.no