The role of Women in natural resource management in the Sugar belt: A case study of land in Malava district in western Kenya

Women play the primary role of natural resource management as they are the major land users. But it has been found that land ownership, access and control of land resources hinder women from proper participation in its management. While women perform much of the productive work on the land, their contribution has largely remained unrecognised. Yet empowerment of women in the management of natural resources has been tightly linked to sustainable development. This study sought to determine the role of women in land management in the sugar belt of Western Kenya. The findings show that women play an active role in land management through the number of hours that they are engaged in farm work. The study found that majority of women spent three or more hours per day in farming activities. The majority of women are engaged in farm work and in the sell of farm produce. These findings are in agreement with finding from literature, which have shown that most rural women are involved in farming activities and marketing of farm produce. Gender roles were found to be tratlitionally defined, with majority of women being responsible for reproductive activities-while majority of the men are involved in paid employment. The study also found that both men and women are actively involved in decision making as concerns what to grow on family land and how to spend household income unlike in most findings from literature which have shown that such decisions are usually made by men. On land ownership, the study found that the majority of residents in the study area did not own titles for the land they farm. Despite this, it was found that the majority of land users applied some form of proper land management techniques. The study found that some of the fanning techniques that women employ in land management include mixed cropping and crop rotation. The Study therefore underscores the need to promote and educate women on modern farming techniques since their involvement in farming activities is high. The Study therefore concludes that sustainable use and management of natural resources can only be reached through overall capacity-building of women through education, access to credit facilities, improved marketing skills and the provision of user-friendly technologies. To achieve this, policy makers, planners and development workers must have a better under¬standing of the relative and often shifting roles of men and women in agriculture and natural resource management, also with respect to decision¬making, use of traditional knowledge, division of labour and traditional practices of women and men.