Logging Conflicts in Southern Cameroon: A Feminist Ecological Economics Perspective


Veuthey, Sandra, and Julien-François Gerber. 2010. “Logging Conflicts in Southern Cameroon: A Feminist Ecological Economics Perspective.” Ecological Economics 70 (2): 170–77. 

Authors: Sandra Veuthey, Julien-François Gerber


Growing attention has been paid to gender in ecological economics, political ecology and development studies but a focus on gender in resource extraction conflicts is still rare. This article explores women-led resistance movements to commercial logging in South-eastern Cameroon, focusing on the moabi tree (Baillonella toxisperma). The latter provides oil, medicine and other non-timber products and use-values to local forest societies and particularly to women. Resistances arise because most socio-environmental costs of the international logging trade are imposed on the rural populations and especially on women of the extractive regions. The aim of this paper is to analyze the root causes of the gender structure of such mobilisations as well as the impacts on gender relations induced by such resource extraction conflicts. After proposing a typology of different environmental currents and their gender counterparts, this paper focuses on the gender construction of local Bantu societies, taking as a point of departure Paola Tabet's thesis that masculine control over production tools is the objective factor revealing the sexual division of work. In our case study, we found that the men's control over technology not only highlights the sexual work division but also the gendered division of access rights to natural resources. Thereby, we argue that the sexual division of access rights and work — revealed through differentiated control over technology — are two key institutions explaining the gendered structure of local mobilizations. We, then, discuss the empowerment allowed by the new forms of women's organizations, with a particular focus on the appropriation of new production tools by women. This highlights a non-Western form of environmental feminism.

Keywords: biodiversity, community forest institutions, environmental conflicts, gender division of work, logging, non-timber forest products



“We use Tabet (1998) theoretical insight – on the control of tools as the objective factors of the sexual division of work – and propose an extension of it by arguing that, in this case, control over technologies also reveals gendered access to resources” (171)

“Gender and empowerment questions are generally dealt with in the perspective of women’s catching up with men through their insertion in market economy (wage, labour, access to property and credit, and education). Of course, reaching equality is desirable, but over what standards? It is often the Western masculine model that determines the norms to be reached, thereby complying with the dominant ideology of development which demands that non-Western societies catch up with industrialized countries thorugh their rapid insertion in world markets” (171)

“In many environmental conflicts – such as the ones examined in this article – women play a key role because of the gender division of work, power, and access rights to natural resources, implying specific responsibilities, knowledge, and action spheres.” (171)

“Indeed, the ‘axe right’ (droit de hache), that is, the right to clear a forest plot for cultivation, ensures that control over land. By monopolizing ironwork and by explicitly prohibiting axe access to women, men are therefore the only ones able to obtain that right to land. In addition, the ‘axe right’ is reinforced by customary institutions that regulate access to natural resources.” (173)

“In summary, the moabi attracts specific feminine gender interest and its growing scarcity has a particular impact on women who (1) must find food alternatives, (2) suffer from a decrease in their income, and (3) lack materials for healthcare, particularly for the treatment of feminine genital illnesses.” (173)

“There can be gender conflicts within the household as men are more inclined to sell moabi for the monetary revenue than women, who are often opposed to that for two main reasons: feminine gender interests (pharmacopeia, food and income) and the fact that women do not benefit from its sale as they do not enjoy the ownership of moabi trees. So, gender rights over natural resources resulting from the gendered division of technology push women to actively resist the commercial exploitation of moabi and to fight for its conservation.” (173-174)

“Conflicts arise because the commodity chain of moabi is unequal as most socio-environmental costs of international trade are imposed on the rural populations and especially on women of the extractive regions, while the benefits remain within Western industries.” (174)

“It is interesting to point out that men monopolize a step of the process as soon as a new production tool is added, although oil processing is traditionally a feminine task. This accords with Tabet’s theory that activities ‘are allowed for women on when they are accomplished without tools or with very rudimentary ones, while the introduction of complex tools makes masculine even the most traditionally feminine activities’ (Tabet, 1998:20). The example of moabi oil extraction fits with this and it underlines the risk that CADEFE’s project could be taken over by men…” (175)

“The organization of production and commercialization of moabi oil simultaneously has two goals. This first one is feminist: it allows women’s control over new production tools in order to keep the management of oil production, and consequently, it may reverse masculine domination in an empowerment process… the second goal is ecological: it promotes the conservation of moabi trees by fostering their sustainable management…” (176)

“Inside Bantu forest societies, the gendered division of access to natural resources, work, and ecological knowledge are interrelated and lead to a different perception of moabi scarcity, pushing women to develop specific strategies and mobilizations against the commercial exploitation of moabi… gender specification makes women and men perceive and react differently to market intrusion as well as natural resources depletion.” (176)

Topics: Development, Economies, Environment, Extractive Industries, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Livelihoods, NGOs, Political Economies, Political Participation, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Africa, Central Africa Countries: Cameroon

Year: 2010

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