A study conducted in 10 African countries on gender mainstreaming in Africa has recommended that African countries should mainstream gender in national polices, programmes and institutions in conformity with their national policies to enhance inter-ministerial collaboration.
According to the study, countries that were yet to develop their guidelines and regulatory instruments in the forestry should seize the opportunity to incorporate gender mainstreaming.
The 10 countries were Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania and Mali.
It also recommended that forestry policies and programmes should be reoriented towards priorities and needs of forest users, especially the poorer majority of rural producers, with a clear focus on women and girls as primary producers and users of forestry products.
According to the report, this should be in consultation with local communities and stakeholders to ensure that gender concerns and needs were not overlooked.
The study, which ran concurrently in all the 10 countries, was an FAO-Netherlands Partnership Programme. It began in November 2006 and ended in July 2007.
Mr Edouard K. Tapsoba, Officer-in-charge, FAO Regional Office for Africa, who made the report known at a workshop on mainstreaming gender issues in forestry in Africa, said there was the need for countries to improve on data availability for national development in all sectors.
He said lack of statistical data on the role of women in forestry was a handicap in policy planning and formulation making women's contribution undervalued and under-reported.
The two-day workshop at the instance of the University of Ghana, Centre for International Forest Research and the International Union of Forest Research Organisation, would discuss the report and develop an action plan based on recommendations.
Participants are drawn from the 10 African countries, United States of America, Norway and the Netherlands.
Mr Tapsoba said gender disaggregated data, including the forestry sector, should be developed and made available at national and regional levels.
"Such a baseline study should permit an update of the gender situation in forestry and women's contribution in all the sectors to develop a reliable system of data management for monitoring to allow a clear vision on the situation of women in forestry at all levels," he added.
He said women played pivotal roles in both the formal and informal forestry sector such as agro-forestry, watershed management, tree improvement, and forest protection and conservation.
"From nurseries to plantations, and from logging to wood processing, women make up a significant proportion of the labour force in forest industries throughout the world but their roles are not fully recognised and documented, their wages are not equal to those of men, and their working conditions tend to be poor," he said.
Mr Tapsoba said another outstanding problem was the near absence of women in policy-making roles and processes in forestry.