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The devastating eruptions of Mount Tungurahua in the Ecuadorian highlands in 1999 and 2006 left many communities struggling to rebuild their homes and others permanently displaced to settlements built by state and nongovernmental organizations. For several years afterward, households diversified their economic strategies to compensate for losses, communities organized to promote local development, and the state and nongovernmental organizations sponsored many economic recovery programs in the affected communities. Our study examined the ways in which gender and gender roles were associated with different levels and paths of access to scarce resources in these communities. Specifically, this article contrasts the experiences of men and women in accessing household necessities and project assistance through formal institutions and informal networks. We found that women and men used different types of informal social support networks, with men receiving significantly more material, emotional, and informational support than women. We also found that men and women experienced different challenges and advantages when pursuing support through local and extralocal institutions and that these institutions often coordinated in ways that reified their biases. We present a methodology that is replicable in a wide variety of disaster, resettlement, and development settings, and we advocate an inductive, evidence-based approach to policy, built upon an understanding of local gender, class, and ethnic dynamics affecting access to formal and informal resources. This evidence should be used to build more robust local institutions that can resist wider social and cultural pressures for male dominance and gendered exclusion.


This article originally appeared in Mountain Research and Development, volume 34, issue 3, 2014, and can be found online at the following link:

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