According to IUCN’s ‘Global Forest Watch’, from 2001 to 2017, 337 million hectares of tropical tree cover was lost globally — an area the size of India.
So, we appear to be losing the battle, if not the war, against tropical deforestation, and missing a key opportunity to tackle climate change (if tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank 3rd in emissions) and reduce poverty. A key question, then, is what can forest sector investors, governments and other actors do differently to reverse these alarming trends?
One way to speed up our efforts is to proactively include the role of women in the design of forest landscape restoration and conservation efforts. It is only recently that people developing forest restoration programs have thought about their impact on women, and the risks of failure that come with ignoring women’s needs and potential contributions.
We know that men and women access, use and manage forests differently, with differing knowledge and roles in the management of forests and use of forest resources. Although there is still limited evidence of the magnitude and breadth of impacts achieved by implementing gender-responsive policies and practices in the forest sector, we are starting to see more evidence that taking into account gender differences could lead to behavioral changes that increase tree cover and improve the livelihoods of the poor.
Considering gender differences in the use of, access to, and benefits from forest landscapes has led to more fair and effective design of interventions and institutional arrangements that have maximized program results and successes in addressing deforestation in many countries.
For example, in Brazil, supporting women’s non-timber forest product (NTFP) microenterprise groups resulted in increased incomes and empowerment, as well as a reduction in deforestation. In India and Nepal, increasing women’s participation in community forest management groups led to improved forest conservation and enhanced livelihoods. In Uganda, a gender-transformative ‘adaptive collaborative management’ approach for communities resulted in tens of thousands of trees being planted by women for the first time both on-farm and in forest reserves, improved food security, and the election of 50% women leaders in forest management groups. In Kenya, the Green Belt Movement launched by Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, with women’s empowerment at its core, has planted over 51 million trees.
However, better representation of women in local forest governance bodies on its own does not always lead to an equitable distribution of benefits. Actions that empower individuals and groups earning income by planting trees, harvesting and transforming forest products sustainably, and protecting forest landscapes through equitable certification and payment for ecosystem services schemes are also important.
The thought of designing and implementing gender-transformative landscape initiatives of any type (projects, programs, policies, capacity strengthening efforts, etc.) can be daunting for development practitioners or decision makers without experience considering gender. It doesn’t have to be.
A recently released paper from the World Bank’s Program on Forests (PROFOR) examines the types of gender inequalities that exist in forest landscapes, and the gender considerations or actions that many countries are taking to address these gaps. It reviews and synthesizes a wide range of World Bank and partner projects and forest sector investments in different regions.
The PROFOR paper aims to stimulate greater understanding of potential opportunities by providing suggestions for gender-responsive actions that developers and leaders of forest projects, programs and policies can consider. Depending on which forest actor you are, applying and tailoring these suggestions to your context specific circumstances can ensure more effective and equitable impacts:
· A developer or investor in forest landscape projects can consider establishing performance-based contracts with joint spousal signatures for planting and protecting trees on farms, as well as near and inside forests, or including budget line items for gender-targeted NTFP activities.
· Governments, particularly forest-related agencies, can train forest personnel in the collection of sex-disaggregated data and inclusive, participatory engagement and forest landscape management planning processes, or facilitating registration for forest-related programs in easily accessible spaces where women already go (e.g. schools, health care centers).
· Investors, development agencies and private sector actors can find ways in which to make direct payments to women (e.g. via cellphone) for forest restoration and agroforestry activities or supporting rural women’s leadership capacity and strengthening activities.
PROFOR’s paper, along with a guidance note for project designers, provide many more examples of how gender analysis and actions can contribute in forest landscapes and of how this research is already being applied on the ground. For example, the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) includes several countries that are using this tool to design REDD+ readiness and large-scale programs that ensure women are partners in the planning, operation, and deployment of climate finance.
The bottom line is that greater investment in forest landscapes and agroforestry will be critical in efforts to address climate change and rural poverty challenges in many countries. The success of these investments will be enhanced by considering gender-responsive activities and actions when designing and implementing forest landscape projects and programs.
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