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Gendered impacts of industrial logging

This study focuses on the local level impacts of a highly globalised industry: the international trade in tropical timber.

Notoriously unsustainable

Worldwide, China is the main importer and exporter of tropical hardwood. The majority of this wood presently comes from the Pacific, in particular from Papua New Guinea and neighboring Solomon Islands. In these two countries, the logging industry is notorious for its unsustainable and unregulated practices. In Solomon Islands, the logging industry is dominated by Malaysian companies, which operate in collectively owned forests to which they gain access through local brokers.

Effects on women

The EU-funded project ‘Women at the Cutting Edge’ looks at the differentiated impacts of this timber industry on women and men and on the relationships between them. Using an ethnographic approach, the project documents both objective aspects of well-being, such as the impact of logging on income, shelter, and food-security; as well as subjective aspects of well-being, notably relationships with others, the environment, and safety.

Environmental and social costs

The results from this research demonstrate the highly inequitable distribution of benefits and burdens from the logging industry at different scales. The bulk of the monetary benefits accrue to actors and institutions at the national and international level. At the most local level, the environmental and social costs of overexploitation of timber are felt by people who have the least control over decision making processes regarding logging activities, most notably women. Adverse effects of logging on women include loss of fishing grounds, pollution of drinking water, sexual exploitation and heightened levels of conflict within communities and households.

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