Applying an integrated approach to natural resource management
Applying an integrated approach to natural resource management that addresses issues at the landscape scale, and recognizes complexity and interdependence
Integrated approaches that include consideration of issues such as collaborative management and gender have had positive impacts on natural resource management and governance.
As an example, Cynthia McDougall, a former CIFOR scientist, explains how her work at CIFOR enhanced governance equity and improved outcomes for women and marginalized community members in Nepal.
Yet Cynthia tells us that while the integration of gender considerations has made great gains, and they are much more embedded in research programs and a higher priority for donors, there is still a long way to go.
Cynthia is currently the Gender Research Leader for WorldFish and the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-food Systems (“FISH”). She is an interdisciplinary social scientist with over 20 years of experience in food security, gender and social equity, and natural resource governance. In her current role, she leads gender strategic research as well as the integration of gender in aquaculture, fisheries and nutrition research in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Her particular interest is in mixed methods, participatory action research and gender transformative approaches and how these can leverage scalable shifts towards empowerment, equality, poverty reduction, food and nutrition security and sustainability.
Cynthia McDougall holds a BA Hons (Political Science and Development Studies) from Trent University in Canada, an MPhil (Geography) from Cambridge University in the UK, and a PhD (Knowledge, Technology and Innovation) from Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
Discover more about Cynthia’s research at ResearchGate.
Her professional website can be found here.
Watch her TEDX talk, Gender Equity, Equality and Development — Beyond Zero Sum here.
In conversation with Cynthia McDougall
What was the main focus of your work when you were at CIFOR?I worked on adaptive collaborative management (ACM) research of forests and also became the CGIAR gender focal point at CIFOR.
How have your research and activities paved the way for future forestry-related developments and research?When this work started, no one had heard of ACM. When our intrepid Ravi Prabhu gathered folks to start the program, he had to explain over and over what he meant and how it might work. Now, years later, I can see that this early work – in Nepal and all the other countries in which the excellent teams worked – are part of what laid the foundation for the ongoing research and scaling of ACM and ACM-related approaches. Interestingly, now that I work in the area of fisheries, I have come to see how significant these findings from forestry in ACM (bringing together common property – social learning – gender and social equity) are to other fields.
If you could choose one piece of work that would be the highlight of the research you did at CIFOR, what would it be? Why is it a highlight?The highlight of my time at CIFOR, other than the amazing ACM team, was being the leader of a research program in Nepal on ACM and working with such fantastic partners, led by ForestAction Nepal and with the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation, Nepal. This was the highlight because of the collaboration and the impacts we saw in terms of enhanced equity in governance and improved outcomes for women and marginalized community members. It’s hard to choose only one highlight in terms of outputs. In terms of methodological outputs, I would say the Basic Assessment Guide for Assessing Human Wellbeing, led by the wonderful Carol Colfer. I choose this because I still use it and meet people who appreciate the tools to this day! In terms of findings, one of my favorite outputs is the synthesis of changes in engagement of women and the poor through ACM because it was able to elucidate that engagement is so much more than representation – and how such changes can be triggered.
Since being at CIFOR, how have you seen research in your field evolve?I will answer this from the perspective of gender: when I joined CIFOR in 1997, gender was a marginal issue in the CGIAR and relatively so with donors. Due to champions like Carol Colfer, Jacqui Ashby, Vicki Wilde and others, the development of the Participatory Research and Gender Network, and now Gender Platform, gender is noticeably more embedded in the thinking and investments of donors and CGIAR Research Program leaders (such as in FISH, led by WorldFish where I work now). It is also far more mature as a field.
What future challenges related to your research area do you foresee? How does your research address these challenges?Still thinking of gender, while we have made excellent progress – there is still a long way to go and many challenges to face! One of the key ways my current research faces this is that we draw on social learning principles, as evidenced in ACM, and apply that to gender transformative change that is locally-driven, encouraging context-specific shifts in underlying gender barriers (see for example, Gender and systems research: Leveraging change and the keynote speech, Gender in integrated systems).
Why do you think that the work CIFOR does on forestry is key for the future of our planet and the people living on it?The work CIFOR does is critical for the future of the planet and the people living on it because it is a beacon of evidence-based light in an area that could quickly otherwise be overshadowed. Whether protecting people in a sea of forests, or forests in a sea of people, the people and systems CIFOR research works to protect is vital from human, health, environmental, and economic perspectives.