The agro‐pastoral system in the mountains of Hunza and Nagar in Northern Pakistan is under severe pressure. Basic conditions are difficult (cultivation is on steep slopes formed of friable rock and scree, and rainfall, at around 150mm pa is inadequate), population growth is rapid, and communal forest has been heavily depleted. Even so, incomes have increased substantially over the past 20 years. This is due to the construction of a metalled all weather road in the late 1970s, and to investments made by the local NGO, the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP).
This article examines different arguments about the nature of the relationship between women and environmental resources in the context of rapid socioeconomic changes in this area. It argues that there is no special spiritual affinity between women and the environment; that women's livelihood is not closely linked with common property resources; that the welfare impact of environmental change on women is not obviously more marked than on men in terms of labour demands, though certainly they have risen, especially for older women; and, finally, that while women's bargaining power has not increased during the period of upheaval in the livelihood system, it is not negligible and has been significantly supported by the projects for women undertaken – largely on women's initiative – by the AKRSP.