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  • Multi-stakeholder forums as innovation for natural resource management?

Multi-stakeholder forums as innovation for natural resource management?

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  • Enabling conditions to implement the 2018 forest proclamation to facilitate FLR in Ethiopia

Enabling conditions to implement the 2018 forest proclamation to facilitate FLR in Ethiopia

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  • REDD+ policy network analysis in Ethiopia

REDD+ policy network analysis in Ethiopia

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  • Study reveals government views on collective titling in Peru

Study reveals government views on collective titling in Peru

A CIFOR consultant discusses community frontiers in Campemento Neshuya, Ucayali River, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR
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To legally obtain title to their community lands, indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon must navigate a maze of legal paperwork and technical steps that can take as long as a decade to complete.

Research by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that the process is challenging not only for villagers, but also for government officials.

Lack of coordination among the many government agencies involved, conflicts over rights and boundaries, and the high cost of conducting technical studies, such as mapping community boundaries, were among the difficulties reported.

Underlying those obstacles are differences in the way indigenous people and government agencies understand territorial rights, said Iliana Monterroso, a CIFOR scientist, who led the research.

“Differing expectations, tight budgets and difficulties in coordination among government agencies are the main obstacles mentioned by those interviewed,” she said of the study, which surveyed 32 national and regional government officials.

The researchers examined two ongoing tenure reform processes in Peru targeting native communities. One involves changes in laws that recognize land rights, while the other involves rights to forests, including promoting access to forest resources and support for forest management.

“While the government perceived them as two different sets of regulations, with different institutions responsible for implementation, indigenous communities saw them as a group of measures that should ensure protection of their territorial rights,” said Monterroso.

The study also underscored differences between the way national and sub-national government officials view tenure reform. While those working for the national government see reforms as a way to formalize land rights, regional officers see them as a way to increase access and use of resources to support livelihoods for native communities.

“Besides incongruences in how regulations are perceived, these results also point to a need for greater coordination and communication between the different levels of government,” Monterroso said.

Read also: Reclaiming collective rights: land and forest tenure reforms in Peru (1960-2016)

Community members stand in front of a river in Cashiboya, Loreto Province, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

Shared responsibility, different expectations

Granting legal land titles was initially implemented by Peru’s central government. With the dawn of decentralization in the early 2000s, Lima handed regional governments responsibility – under national guidelines and  provision – for boundary demarcation, titling communal lands, and the granting of usufruct rights to forests.

Peruvian law considers all forest lands as public; indigenous communities bid therefore for titles on communal lands classed as agriculture and usufruct contracts for those as forests.

The process involves more than 20 steps and at least a dozen government agencies, both national and regional.

Overall, 60 percent of the government officials involved in implementing tenure reform, including recognition of rights to both land and forests, work at the sub-national level, Monterroso said.

Those officials generally have a significant level of education and experience. 90 percent of those surveyed had a university education, as well as averaging 10 years of work experience.

But working with indigenous communities poses particular challenges for government officials – nearly two-thirds mentioned indigenous communities or cultural norms as a stumbling block when implementing tenure reforms.

“They have the skills necessary for the administrative work, but can lack the cultural understanding needed when titling native communities,” Monterroso said. “Working in an intercultural environment requires the ability to recognize the needs of indigenous communities and how best to go about helping to resolve conflicts.”

Conflicts are not uncommon. When officials were asked about the main obstacles they encountered in the titling process, boundary disputes were mentioned most often, followed by illegal logging, overlapping permits for use of resources, and inefficient management of finances.

Around 40 percent then went on to say that their work involved educating communities about their rights, and the channels available to them to file complaints, but only six percent said they are directly involved in helping to resolve conflicts.

Previous research has shown that while Peru has a high level of conflict over land rights, a relatively small percentage of government officials report that is part of their responsibilities; this is a clear weakness in Peru’s legal system for titling.

Read also: Gender and formalization of native communities in the Peruvian Amazon

A dirt road leads to a community in Tingo de Ponasa, San Martin, Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR

Budgets and coordination are key

More than one-third of the government officials surveyed mentioned inadequate budgets as a significant obstacle to implementation of tenure reform.

Although titling is free for communities, the process is expensive for subnational governments because of the cost of transporting teams to remote areas. As a matter devolved, they therefore have to allocate from their budget assigned from the national Ministry of Economy and Finance, or use contributions from international cooperation agencies.

Costs could range as high as USD 10,000 or more for a single title, depending on the location, the amount of work required, and how long the process takes. Titling takes an average of eight years, although some communities have been waiting for their title for several decades.

“Limitations affecting implementation are mainly associated with inadequate budgets, inefficient communication among the various government agencies involved, and cumbersome procedures,” said Monterroso. “Despite this, overall the respondents had a positive view of how well tenure reform was being implemented.”

The study points to several ways in which the process could be made more effective, she said.

Officials responsible for implementing tenure reform should be prepared to work with indigenous communities and be sensitive to the views of women and young people.

Indigenous communities and government officials often have different understandings of land tenure, so they also must address diverse and sometimes contradictory views about forest and land management and conservation, said Monterroso.

Because the process involves allocating budgets and responsibilities among a minimum of 12 government agencies, it is not surprising officials were in agreement that inter-agency collaboration and coordination are key to making reforms successful.

That’s why Monterroso is calling for additional measures to facilitate better access and exchange of information to not only increase coordination among national and regional government agencies, but to “have a cost-effective way to advance tenure reform implementation.”

She added, “most importantly everyone involved must keep in mind that the role of the state is not simply to grant the community a land title, but to ensure that the resources in the territory can provide the inhabitants with a sustainable livelihood.

“Titling is just the first step.”

By Barbara Fraser, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

This study is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), and is supported by the European Commission, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Global Environment Facility, and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets.

FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Adapting land restoration to a changing climate: Embracing the knowns and unknowns

Adapting land restoration to a changing climate: Embracing the knowns and unknowns

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Key messages:

  • Land restoration will happen under climate change and different knowledge systems are needed to navigate uncertainties and plan adaptation.
  • The emergence of novel ecosystems presents a challenge for land restoration; they harbor unknown unknowns.
  • This brief presents key research linking land restoration and societal adaptation and an example of a practical framework for transformative adaptation.
  • It also proposes questions that can guide stakeholders in exploring different change narratives for adaptation and restoration planning.
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  • Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

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“Distribution and equitability contribute directly to reducing inequality, one of the root causes of environmental degradation.” © Ben Singer

Benjamin Singer of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Secretariat shares his views on inclusive landscape finance in the latest of this new interview series.

He brings a decade of experience from his role in implementing the UNFF’s Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network to the discussion. Here he reflects on using public funds to assist developing countries in their efforts to mobilize finance for sustainable forest management.

How do you define ‘inclusive finance’ and why is it important?

There are two distinct ideas to the concept of ‘inclusive finance’ in the context of sustainable forest and land management within the broader landscape. The first relates to the need to mobilize finance as a key ingredient for the implementation of sustainable forms of land and forest management. The second is how to distribute this finance equitably among all stakeholders, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable – local communities, indigenous peoples, women, youth and the elderly.

While much of the debate around sustainable or ‘green’ finance has focused on mobilizing finance, few have considered the equitable distribution of finance once it is mobilized – as if it were a mere side-thought to consider only after money had been secured.

Yet distribution and equitability contribute directly to reducing inequality, one of the root causes of environmental degradation. Wealthier, more powerful stakeholders often exhaust natural resources without having to face the negative externalities they are creating, whereas these tend to fall onto poorer sections of society who rely on these same resources for their livelihoods and even survival.

Empowering this second category of stakeholders, through equitable benefit-sharing, amongst others, would enhance their resilience in the face of environmental change – including climate change.

It could also help create a balance of power that would introduce checks and balances on the use of natural resources by wealthier stakeholders, therefore contributing to reducing environmental degradation in the first place.

Read more: Catalyzing partnerships for reforestation of degraded land

What are the underlying reasons for the underfinancing of small-scale agricultural and forest businesses?

There are trillions of dollars going into investments worldwide – so why is it so difficult to find just a few million to meaningfully reduce the overuse of natural resources? The reason is that the vast majority of these trillions follow well-trodden paths that have shown strong track records of producing returns on investments. Many of these paths are not productive. Some may even be very risky, but they will still be attractive if investors are familiar with them and the mechanisms of investing are straightforward.

In contrast, investing in small-scale agriculture and forestry in developing countries can be daunting to investors from the North – private or institutional. One reason for this is that knowledge of the financial performance within this subsector is scant, if it exists at all.

Such investment also varies considerably from one country to another, and often has a dismal reputation – though mostly unwarranted – of causing environmental degradation. Perhaps most importantly of all, the scale of financing required in each case, which may be one or two million at most – is simply incompatible with opportunities that interest institutional investors, which generally start at half a billion.

What are we not doing right, or not doing well enough, or not doing at all?

“Finance exists (lots of it), and the need for financing exists. The problem is that we are just not connecting the dots.” © Ben Singer

Finance exists (lots of it), and the need for financing exists. One problem is that we are just not connecting the dots. Instead, we are carrying on with business as usual. Investors tend to invest in the usual stock markets that finance the main agricultural commodities produced in developing countries, while foresters in developing countries continue to lament deforestation and forest degradation.

We need to focus on building bridges between sectors (finance, forestry and agriculture), between stakeholders (private investors, public authorities, and small-scale agriculture and forestry businesses) and between concepts (economic development and social and environmental sustainability). All the ingredients are there. The challenge is how to identify, experiment and scale up those win–win solutions that actually work.

Read more: Strengthening producer organizations is key to making finance inclusive and effective

How is your organization addressing inclusive finance, and what are your experiences and key lessons?

The UNFF Secretariat, through its Global Forest Financing Facilitation Network, supports its member states in mobilizing finance for sustainable forest management in three ways:

  • Assisting in the design of national forest financing strategies
  • Assisting in the design of project proposals to harness funding from multilateral financing institutions such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility
  • Creating a clearing house to highlight lessons learnt and best practices in forest financing in developing countries and those with economies in transition

One key lesson is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Despite appearing obvious, policy makers time and again underestimate the specificity of financing needs of different countries or different forest stakeholders.

It is essential to get a better understanding of the gaps, obstacles and opportunities related to financing specific forests or forest activities, before targeting financing sources. In some cases, for example, grants from multilateral financing institutions might be the best-adapted source, for others it could be micro-credit from non-governmental organizations.

What examples do you have of successful or promising ‘model’ approaches or innovations?

Policy makers and decision makers often lurch into mobilizing funds from a specific source because they have seen it work in other conditions, or because they have heard that it is easy to access.

However, I consistently recommend developing a forest-financing strategy that takes a step back and helps to understand the financing gaps, obstacles and opportunities. We take a four-step approach to developing such a strategy:

  • Identifying and quantifying forest financing needs
  • Mapping financing resources according to their origin
  • Matching the needs with the sources
  • Drawing up a list of tasks required to actually mobilize the shortlisted sources of financing

The idea of developing a forest financing strategy might seem like a cumbersome first step, but we have shown that it can save a lot of time and effort, as it helps identify the most promising sources of financing for the actual needs of the country or stakeholder concerned.

Read more: Background note on FTA financial innovations for sustainable landscapes interviews

What is your vision on how best to increase finance and investment in sustainable forestry and farming?

My vision is simple: partnerships. Again, this might seem obvious, but the financial sector is extremely competitive and this spills over into the world of forest finance. I have often seen supposed partners compete and withhold information and resources from each other, despite sharing the overall goal of sustainable forest management. And I have seen this result in failure for all, time and again.

Forest finance differs fundamentally from the broader finance sector in that the maximization of one’s personal gain as the overarching objective is replaced with a global gain, through the implementation of sustainable forest management worldwide. In this respect, competition is counterproductive as it inhibits the possibility of partnerships, which are crucial to increasing financing for forests.

To mobilize and equitably distribute the financial means necessary for the benefit of all – from local and indigenous communities to institutional investors, multilateral financing mechanisms, national decision makers and small, medium and large enterprises – we need to agree on both the overall goals and how to best achieve them.

However, building such partnerships is by no means a small task. All stakeholders first need to realize that forest financing is not business as usual, and that partnerships are much more productive than competition.

By Nick Pasiecznik, Tropenbos International.

This article was produced by Tropenbos international and the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • New online platform promotes collaboration in the Congo Basin

New online platform promotes collaboration in the Congo Basin

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Aerial view of the Congo River. Photo by A. Gonzalez/CIFOR

To address the duplication of initiatives in the Congo Basin, the Central African Forest Observatory (OFAC) – whose mission is to provide data to decision makers so they can create evidence-based policies – recently launched an interactive project monitoring platform. The online tool enables access to data and projects in the region, to promote collaboration and put an end to wasted resources.

Conservation of the Congo Basin forests is a critical, but complex undertaking. This massive tropical forest block, the world’s second largest, covers over 200 million hectares and spreads across six countries in Central Africa.

It is home to some of the world’s most critically endangered animals, such as lowland gorillas, as well as over 10,000 endemic tropical plant species.

It also provides livelihoods to 60 million people, who depend on forest resources for food, energy, and jobs – a significant economic contribution in one of the world’s least developed regions. And as if this was not enough, it stores around 46 billion metric tons of carbon, benefitting the whole planet facing climate change.

The importance of this ecosystem means that a multitude of actors, including donors, implementing agencies, national governments, and local organizations, are simultaneously carrying out conservation and development efforts on the ground.

While international interest, availability of funds, and political will are certainly good news, duplications of initiatives do happen. Information gaps and a lack of overarching coordination stand in the way of achieving environmental and development objectives.

“In the last two decades, the region has seen an exponential increase in the number of actors in the forest-environment sector,” explained Quentin Jungers, OFAC’s technical advisor, who leads the IT team behind the platform.

“The new project monitoring platform answers calls for better coordination at the regional and national levels. It will allow organizations and governments to share information, promote collaborations, and ensure harmonization.”

Read also: Can DRC’s community forests alleviate poverty?

A woman carries vegetables in Yangole, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

A call for a regional approach

Better coordination has long been part of the Congo Basin conservation agenda. In 1999, the Central Africa Forest Commission (COMIFAC), became the birth-child of all ten Central African countries; its mandate to oversee the sustainable management and conservation of the Congo Basin’s forest ecosystems.

In 2005, the finalizing of a first Convergence Plan provided a common strategy for the COMIFAC Member States and international partners to reach sustainable goals.

OFAC officially became part of COMIFAC in 2011, leading to the development of an integrated monitoring and evaluation system just a few years later.

“There are so many initiatives to support the sustainable management of Central Africa’s forests, that sometimes it is difficult for COMIFAC to have a clear vision of all the efforts that contribute to the implementation of our Convergence Plan,” explained Vincent Medjibe, OFAC coordinator at COMIFAC. “We expect this platform to give us an accurate overview of what is happening on the ground”.

Read also: Observatory addresses urgent need to monitor forests in East Africa

Digital solutions

The development of the project monitoring platform, the first of its kind in Central Africa, began in 2015 with a basic repository and took over 8 months of intense work to convert into an analytical platform, which was finally ready last year.

“We started by developing a basic database with experts, projects, and capacity building initiatives in the fields of environment and climate change, sustainable management of natural resources, and conservation,” said Donald Djossi, programmer at OFAC. Though he says the real technical challenge was to find the “interconnections” of the projects, so as to provide a comprehensive cross-view of all initiatives.

“Our goal was that all kinds of users, tech-savvy or not, could benefit from it,” added Jungers. Appetite for the platform is clear. Though it was only launched a couple of months ago, it already has an average of 60 users per week.

Users can benefit from a directory and an interactive map showing geolocation and explanation of each initiative, an analysis tab that examines the current state of projects, as well as a report generation tool.

People gather outside the parish of Notre Dame de l’Assomption in Yangambi, DRC. Photo by A. Fassio/CIFOR

Learn more: Go to the project monitoring platform website 

Contributions needed

This platform is a collaborative initiative, and its success will depend on the organizations’ will to share their projects’ information. Until now, over 651 projects have already been submitted, out of which 508 have been validated and published, a significant amount considering that they account for 5 billion euros of funding.

To contribute, it is first necessary to create a user account. This gives organizations access to a private module. Then they can fill out a form for each project. “That’s all is needed,” said Djossi.

After a project is submitted, OFAC’s team reviews the form to ensure that all information is accurate and to avoid duplications. “We need to go through this validation process to ensure that our platform is a reliable source,” explained Jungers.

To encourage organizations to feed the platform, with their user account they also get access to a free monitoring tool that can help them track the progress of their projects. “They can have a report with one click”, said Djossi.

The next step for OFAC is to use the information on this platform to produce a regional publication called “The State of the Projects”, expected in 2020. As a complementary instrument, it will analyze the impact of projects in the Congo Basin in the last 15 years, looking to better integrate them into national and regional environment policies.

“The State of the Projects will help regional policymakers understand what has been done to conserve Central Africa’s forests, and what still needs to be done,” concluded Jungers.

By Ahtziri Gonzalez, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

This research was supported by the RIOFAC,  funded by the European Union.

This work is also part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, ICRAF, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Scrutinizing the 'feminization of agriculture' hypothesis: Trajectories of labor force participation in agriculture in Indonesia

Scrutinizing the ‘feminization of agriculture’ hypothesis: Trajectories of labor force participation in agriculture in Indonesia

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Kartika Juniwaty, research associate at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), presented at the Seeds of Change: Gender Equality Through Agricultural Research for Development conference, held at the University of Canberra, Australia, on April 2-4, 2019. The conference was jointly funded by the Australia­­­n Centre for Agricultural Research, the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research and the University of Canberra.

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  • Researchers to gather at World Congress on Agroforestry

Researchers to gather at World Congress on Agroforestry

A man works on a cocoa farm in Peru. Photo by M. del Aguila Guerrero/CIFOR
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The 4th World Congress on Agroforestry (Agroforestry 2019) aims to strengthen the links between science, society and public policies. Under the high patronage of Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, the Congress is to be held at the Le Corum conference center in Montpellier on 20–22 May 2019. The Congress is a part of a Week of Agroforestry running from 19–23 May.

Open to researchers, students, farmers, NGOs, and political and economic decisionmakers, the Congress is expecting some 1,500 participants from more than 100 countries. FTA is a platinum partner for the event. It is being held in Europe for the first time, by the Agricultural Research Centre for Development (CIRAD) and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), in partnership with World Agroforestry, Agropolis International and Montpellier University of Excellence. It will be preceded on 19 May by a day of events for the general public, organized by the Fondation de France and the French Association of Agroforestry.

“We wanted, through this general public day ahead of the congress, to make agroforestry better known to civil society”, explained Emmanuel Torquebiau, Agroforestry Project Manager at CIRAD and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry.

Learn more: 4th World Congress on Agroforestry

Agroforestry, the future of agriculture?

The organizers aim to anchor the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry to the societal debate on agriculture. “It is time for technical solutions to be discussed within civil society and to become part of public policy”, commented Christian Dupraz, INRA Research Director and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Congress.

By combining science and dialogue with society, the Congress will be an opportunity to assess the contribution of agroforestry to the agro-ecological transition of agriculture at the global level.

A farmer displays their coffee beans in Brazil. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Agroforestry, which involves combining trees with crops and pastures, is now recognized to protect soils, address climate change issues and contribute to global food security. This practice could therefore be the future of agriculture. The fields of application are very diverse: hedges and alignment of trees or shrubs in and around plots, multilayer agriculture, timber or fruit production in cropland, fodder trees, trees for honey, shade trees for perennial crops (coffee, cocoa, grapevines) or livestock, multilayer agroforests and agroforestry gardens.

An International Union of Agroforestry will be created at the Congress, to federate agroforestry innovations on a global scale. On Thursday, 23 May, participants will be able to visit the main European experimental agroforestry site at Domaine de Restinclières in Prades-le-Lez (11 km north of Montpellier) where cereals (durum wheat and barley rotated with protein peas) are grown with many tree species, particularly walnut trees. In more stony soils, vines are grown with pines and cormiers. This 50-ha experimental farm, which belongs to Hérault County Council, is scientifically managed by INRA Occitanie-Montpellier.

Originally published by CIRAD.

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  • Gender equality in agricultural development starts with understanding complexity

Gender equality in agricultural development starts with understanding complexity

Cattle drink from a reservoir, often the last water point during the hottest and driest months of the year, in Zorro village, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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A farmer collects cobat fruit in Sorobouly village near Boromo, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

When Professor Katherine Gibson opened the Seeds of Change conference in Canberra last week, she asked the more than 200 participants to consider whether we are sowing the right seeds of change for achieving gender equality in agricultural development.

“Can the world’s rural areas be places where we can generate dignified agricultural livelihoods, where there’s material well-being, where there’s gender equity and sustainable environmental interactions?” she inquired.

Her questions were prompted by a series of graphs, known as ‘the great acceleration’, that show the world’s economic overdevelopment and its detrimental impacts on the environment. However, Gibson was quick to point out that the great acceleration has also brought about benefits, with some of the most prominent being increased education for women and slowed population growth.

“We really need to see the complexity here,” Gibson explained in a subsequent interview, referencing these contradictory results of recent development. Development and its gendered impacts are complex matters – a realization that permeated discussions during the three-day conference.

Convened by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research and the University of Canberra, the Seeds of Change conference brought together researchers and practitioners from around the globe. The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) contributed to the deliberations with three presenters showcasing studies that emphasize the importance of understanding complex gender relations for designing successful policies and interventions.

Read also: Women improve food security through land-restoration technology in Kenya

Villagers pose for a photograph in Jambi province, Indonesia. Photo by T. Saputro/CIFOR

Examining evidence

Kartika Sari Juniwaty, lecturer at the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Economics and Business and research associate at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), presented initial research findings that highlight why challenging generally accepted beliefs about women and agriculture is a good starting point.

“There is an underlying belief that feminization of agriculture happens in this one way – that men are leaving the sector and women are taking over. But in reality, it is much more complicated than that,” Juniwaty said.

Examining 20 years of longitudinal data, collected from more than 7,000 households in Indonesia since 1993, Juniwaty has found that while fewer and fewer people are employed in agriculture, men are not leaving the sector at a faster rate than women. This differs from the situation elsewhere, such as in some parts of South Asia, where men are migrating out of villages and leaving the agricultural sector. In addition, families seem to have left and reentered the agriculture sector many times during the 20-year period, raising questions about what drives such decisions.

Juniwaty stressed that policies and interventions must be informed by on-the-ground realities to be successful. Improved understanding of gendered transformations may better inform the design of policies, such as the Indonesian government’s social forestry program, which gives communities rights to sustainably use forests to boost their livelihoods and incomes.

“We might think that a program can be more beneficial for women if they are given more opportunity to participate,” explained Juniwaty. “But to design appropriate initiatives to encourage women’s participation in the program, improve their well-being, and avoid unintended negative consequences, we need to better understand women’s roles and contribution in the agricultural sector, including forestry.”

Moving forward with her research, Juniwaty hopes to tease out more information about why different households leave or reenter the agriculture sector. Rather than looking only at gender, examining different characteristics of household members – such as their age and education levels – may provide more information on what drives labor force movements in Indonesia. This is particularly relevant during a time when growing mechanization and investments might eventually lead more people to leave the sector.

Read also: Thinking of tomorrow: Women essential to successful forest and land restoration in Africa

Gender considerations essential for restoration

Two other scientists presenting FTA research at the conference highlighted the need to consider gender relations when designing, implementing and monitoring restoration initiatives in forested landscapes.

Mary Crossland, a PhD student from Bangor University, working with World Agroforestry (ICRAF), spoke of a study in the drylands of eastern Kenya, where farmers are testing the use of planting basins under a restoration project led by ICRAF. Her preliminary findings suggest that women often dig these basins without the help of men whereas other land preparation practices, such as plowing, are usually shared by men and women.

A villager shows a palm nut fruit in Jambi province, Indonesia. Photo by T. Saputro/CIFOR

“Whether this indicates a shift in labor and a risk for women in terms of increased workload or an opportunity in terms of increased autonomy to carry out activities that previously required men’s participation is something we hope to explore more in our future work,” said Crossland.

Along the same lines, Markus Ihalainen, a research officer working with CIFOR, examined how women and men have participated in, and benefited from, four different restoration initiatives, also in Kenya. He found that while many restoration activities rely heavily on women’s labor, women tend to lack secure access to many long-term benefits.

Together, these two studies point out why gender equality is critical to successful restoration initiatives. Without ensuring that the benefits of restoration outweigh the costs for both women and men, local support can quickly dwindle. Following this, restoration targets, and the livelihood benefits they are meant to achieve, may not be reached.

Read also: Picks and spades can triple farmers’ yields in Kenyan drylands

Staying focused

FTA is committed to tackling the complexities of gender in agriculture head on by prioritizing research, such as that presented above, which sheds light on how inequalities among women and men may prevent women from contributing to, and benefiting from, restoration and other environmental transformations.

Reversing the environmental degradation caused by the great acceleration described by Gibson is both urgent and essential. Only when degradation trends are overturned will healthy landscapes and forests be able to underpin food production and equitable, sustainable livelihoods.

Achieving this goal requires accounting for complex gender relations in policies, interventions and decision-making processes – getting gender relations right is a key ingredient in any plan to successfully achieve sustainable development outcomes.

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist.

This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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