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How gender and culture affects n atural-resource Based Livelihoods: the case of the Baka community in Cameroon


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With the impact of climate change, men and women could be affected differently due to place-specific circumstances in the environment. The study examined the role of culture within households and minority groups, and its impact on livelihood outcome for different household types, taking power relations into consideration. A mixed method approach was used to provide a complete analysis of the objectives. The results indicate that culture affects gender structured households differently and highlights the challenges faced by marginalised forest-dependent communities whose culture is often not understood within the climate change discourse.
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Conference Proceedings of Adaptation Futures 2018 153
How gender and culture affects natural-resource Based
Livelihoods: the case of the Baka community in Cameroon
Baa Enokenwa Ojong
, Sheona Shackleton
, Kaera Coetzer-Hanack
With the impact of climate change, men and women could be affected differently due to place-specific
circumstances in the environment. The study examined the role of culture within households and
minority groups, and its impact on livelihood outcome for different household types, taking power
relations into consideration. A mixed method approach was used to provide a complete analysis of
the objectives. The results indicate that culture affects gender structured households differently and
highlights the challenges faced by marginalised forest-dependent communities whose culture is
often not understood within the climate change discourse.
Key words: Gender, Culture, Natural resources, Livelihoods, Cameroon
Sub-Saharan Africa has been depicted as one of the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate
change (Niang et al., 2014), with average temperatures in Africa predicted to rise by 1.5 3 oC by
2050 (Gemeda & Sima, 2015). Given that this region still has the largest proportion of people reliant
on natural resources to meet livelihood demands (Shackleton & Shackleton, 2012) and who live
below the poverty line (Serdeczny et al., 2017), the implications of this trend, and the associated
climatic and non-climatic challenges, are likely to be considerable (Pettengell, 2010; Shackleton &
Shackleton, 2012).
The literature indicates that different types of households will be affected differently by the impacts
of climate change (Babugura, Mtshali, & Mtshali, 2010), with issues linked to gender inequality and,
specifically, the marginalisation of women which is central to vulnerability to climate-related shocks
and stressors (Djoudi & Brockhaus, 2011; Shackleton, Cobban, & Cundill, 2014). In this study we
unpack the complexities of climate change, gender, and natural resource use within and across
different gender-structured household types through an understanding of power dynamics and the
role of culture in natural resource access and use, using the Baka community in Cameroon as a study
(Permunta, 2013). We then discuss what this means for livelihoods outcomes in the face of a
changing future climate.
Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Conference Proceedings of Adaptation Futures 2018 154
For the broader study we worked in two parts of Cameroon, namely the South West and East regions.
Here we present results from villages of the Baka communities in the East region of Cameroon. The
Baka are forest-dwelling people sometimes referred to in the literature as ‘pygmies’, now considered
a derogatory term meaning ‘primitive’ (Permunta, 2013). The Baka are mainly involved in hunting
and fishing, as well as collecting wild fruits and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) from the forest
to secure their livelihoods (Pyhälä, 2012).
The study considered Social ecological systems theory, the feminist political ecology theory, as well
as the social justice lens as grounded theoretical and conceptual framings. The Moser gender
planning and the Harvard analytical tools were considered appropriate in shaping the research
objectives related to gender power relations, division of labor and access and control over resources.
In this light, a mixed method approach was used, where surveys were collected from 70 households
comprising of 29(41.4%) female respondents and 41(58.6%) of male respondents above the ages of
18 years (Creswell, 2014; Leavy, 2017). We also used in-depth interviews and focus group
discussions to address the research objectives for this study. We used the purposive sampling
technique to identify the households to get a representative data, especially as the study focused on
specific household types. The data was gender disaggregated and analysed using SPSS and NVivo as
quantitative and qualitative tools respectively. The table below (Table 1) shows the different
categories of participants both male and female placed in the order of headship considered in this
study as gender household types.
Table 1: Gender household types for participants (Source: Authors own)
Household structure types
Num bers
Perc entages (%)
Male headed households only
Female headed households only
Male headed households with adult females
Female headed households with adult males
Total number of households
The total number of households (70) were further categorised to show respondents who fell within
the different age group as shown on Table 2.
Table 2: Age group of respondents across household types (Source: Authors own)
Male headed household
Fem ale headed
ho usehold only
(y ears)
18 - 27
28 37
38 47
48 57
58 67
Conference Proceedings of Adaptation Futures 2018 155
68 77
Above 78
Findings and Discussions
A wide representation was reflected with (92.9%) of all respondents from the 70 households
indicating that women must adhere to the cultural norm that restricts them from hunting, which has
always been a male assigned task (Figure 1). However, other respondents (7.1%) felt it was about
time such a cultural practice be dropped. In-depth interviews with male respondents felt it was
appropriate for women to follow the customs and further explained by stating that women were able
to do fishing near to the house. The implications for this are huge, especially as communities are fast
experiencing climate change impacts on local resources, with rivers drying out and deforestation
reducing animal numbers for hunting, making it difficult even for the men who hunt. This scenario
presents a challenge for both men and women who may want to stick to cultural practices that might
not prepare them for better adaptation options.
Figure 1: Cultural norm with respect to hunting (Source: Authors own)
The findings with regards to land access showed that most of the respondents from male-headed
households with adult female(s) present (37.1%) could easily access land. While 4.3% of
respondents from “female only” headed households (with no male present) expressed the difficulty
they encountered in accessing land. Surprisingly, 8.6% of respondents from female-headed
households, where male family member(s) were present, indicated that they easily had access to
land. This could mean that women found within these households had access rights as widows or
had financial capital that enabled them to rent land as shown on (F igure 2).
n= 5
n = 65
Cultural norm with respect to hunting
Women are not supposed to hunt
Women should be allowed to hunt
Results in % for total households (n = 70)
Conference Proceedings of Adaptation Futures 2018 156
Figure 2: Access to Land (Source: Researcher’s data analysis).
Further findings revealed that women within the male-headed households had a bigger challenge
accessing land (31.4%) as compared to those in only female-headed households. This means that
their access could mostly come through their husbands or adult male relatives. Such a situation might
be problematic if marriages ended. In terms of decision making by households on what, how and
when to use available land, the results indicated that men in male headed households (79.2%) made
decisions without consulting their wives or other adult female member(s) as shown in (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Decision over land use (Source: Researcher’s data analysis)
In our qualitative results, a man in a male-headed household with an adult female present (his
wife) had this to say:
Well, it is normal for me to control everything about land in my house. I don’t
see anything wrong in deciding what to plant, when and how without talking to my wife……
Remember, she is a woman and is under me no matter how young I am……. that is how it has been
made…… We have to follow it
n= 1
n= 9
n= 26
n= 6
n= 1
n= 3
n= 22
n= 2
Male headed hh only Female headed hh only Male headed (with adult
Female headed (with
adult male)
Yes No
Results in numerical values (and %) for total households (n=70)
n = 2
n = 38
n = 11
n = 1
n = 8
0 0
n = 9
Male headed
households only
Female headed
households only
Male headed
households with adult
Female headed
households with adult
Man Woman Both
Results in numerical values (and %) for total households
Conference Proceedings of Adaptation Futures 2018 157
This too was noted in female-headed household with adult male(s), where all the respondents
(100%) of the women said they made decisions without the consent of the male relatives(s) since
they were in a position to make decisions.
Evidently, there is a kind of conflict of interest as seen in both household types and this could have
negative consequence in securing food where land has a major role to play. These findings highlight
challenges faced by marginalised forest dependent communities whose culture is not understood in
light of climate change.
In a context where adaptation strategies must be achieved, considerations of vulnerability should
not only be restricted to binary categorisation of ‘male’ or ‘female’. Our results have highlighted that
hidden inequalities exist beyond this categorisation, with the manner in which households are i)
gender-structured, and/or ii) mediated by culturally-ascribed gender roles affecting the adaptation
options available to them.
Our study therefore, enabled us to understand how vulnerability could be influenced by gender
structured households and be limited by cultural practices. Many found it difficult to diversify
livelihood activities, due to such entrenched cultural and gender biases, especially in the face of a
changing climate. This could be challenging where many communities are dependent on natural
resources for their livelihoods and are heavily affected by climatic impacts. Thus, there is need to
evaluate cultural dimensions within communities to better understand their limits to adaptation
whilst building on the positive cultural roles that some communities exhibit.
We thank the Sandisa Imbewu Fund under Rhodes University for funding this research and for
providing funding for the presentation of this work at the Adaptation Futures Conference, 2018.
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Nous avons opéré 6 ateliers participationnels en séparant les hommes des femmes dans deux communautés pour évaluer la vulnérabilité et les stratégies d'adaptation à la variabilité et au changement climatique affectant les revenus dépendant de la forêt et du bétail. La migration représentait l'une des stratégies les plus importantes pour les hommes. Les femmes , par contre, percevaient cette stratégie comme une cause de vulnérabilité, plutôt qu'une stratégie d'adaptation, car les activités des hommes ont été traditionellement ajoutées au fardeau des femmes ( comme la garde des ruminants). Les axes historiques montrent que les projets de développement visant les femmes n'ont pas intégré le changement climatique et la variabilité dans leurs plans. La plupart des activités ont été façonnées autour de l'agriculture à petite échelle. Le lac de Faguibine s'assèchant, ces activités, dépendant de l'eau, ne sont plus d'actualité. 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Widely renown for his work and publications on qualitative and mixed methods research, John W. Creswell recently published the third edition of Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. The book is structured around 2 parts and 10 chapters that mirror the main stages of development of a research project. Although a plethora of books covering research design exist, this book is especially interesting because it very simply and clearly discusses the subject, mainly bringing useful comparisons between qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches that aid the researcher in planning a research endeavour. While Creswell's book covers the essential questions and concerns enabling the operation-alization of a research project, it furthermore addresses issues that, to our knowledge, having read many books on the subject, are scarcely found elsewhere. These issues are presented in the first part of the book under the heading Preliminary Considerations and include an overview of the main uses and modes of presentation of the review of the literature in a research protocol or report, as well as the use of theory. As an example, in Chapter 3 entitled Use of Theory, Creswell explicitly discusses the roles of theory that differ according to the types of research design (e.g. theory generation, theory verification), acknowledging that there are many possible variations within each research approach. Hence, this expanded and restructured edition of John Creswell's Research Design is a user-friendly and rich scientific resource, and appears as a must for any researcher wanting to tackle the indispensable subject of research design by contrasting qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches.
The governance of nature as development and the erasure of the Pygmies of Cameroon
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Climate Change Adaptation: Enabling people living in poverty to adapt
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