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  • Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

Trees stand in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
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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 interview has also been published on the Tropenbos International website.


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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  • Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

Forest finance partnerships more productive than competition

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

“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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  • 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.

  • Home
  • Gender equality in agricultural development starts with understanding complexity

Gender equality in agricultural development starts with understanding complexity

A farmer collects cobat fruit in Sorobouly village near Boromo, Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A villager shows palm nut fruit in Jambi province, Indonesia. Photo: T. Saputro/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 farmer spreads organic fertilizer to her rubber seedling on her farm 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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  • SDG synergy between agriculture and forestry in the food, energy, water and income nexus: reinventing agroforestry?

SDG synergy between agriculture and forestry in the food, energy, water and income nexus: reinventing agroforestry?

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) three broad groups coexist: first, articulating demand for further human resource appropriation, second, sustaining the resource base, and third, redistributing power and benefits. Agriculture and forestry jointly interact with all three. The SDG portfolio calls for integrated land use management. Technological alternatives shift the value of various types of land use (forests, trees and agricultural practices) as source of ‘ecosystem services’. At the interface of agriculture and forestry the 40-year old term agroforestry has described technologies (AF1) and an approach to multifunctional landscape management (AF2). A broadened Land Equivalence Ratio (LER) as performance metric indicates efficiency. Agroforestry also is an opportunity to transcend barriers between agriculture and forestry as separate policy domains (AF3). Synergy between policy domains can progress from recognized tradeoffs and accepted coexistence, via common implementation frames, to space for shared innovation. Further institutional space for integral ‘all-land-uses’ approaches is needed.

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  • The Tamale Declaration: a regreening plan for northern Ghana

The Tamale Declaration: a regreening plan for northern Ghana

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An international workshop has called for an integrated plan to regreen the region.

The climax of the international workshop held late November 2018 in Tamale, the capital of Ghana’s Northern Region, was when the nearly 60 participants issued an urgent call for a ‘comprehensive Regreening Plan’.

The Plan would see the integration of trees with crops and livestock across northern Ghana, which they say is needed to ‘restore landscapes and improve livelihoods’ in the three regions that comprise the country’s northern belt.

Their call was addressed to all key policy-makers in Ghana’s Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions, including the Northern Development Authority, metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, traditional authorities, and also the ministries of Land and Natural Resources, of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, and of Food and Agriculture. The workshop called on these institutions to allocate budget and incentive systems to support the Regreening Plan.

The theme of regreening is a crucial one in Ghana, which is one of eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa involved in the ambitious Regreening Africa project, which is funded by the European Union. The aim is to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households and across 1 million hectares. In Ghana, Regreening Africa is targeting 40,000 households on 90,000 hectares of land to be restored by 2022.

As part of the Bonn Challenge, in 2015 Ghana also pledged to restore 2 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030, in addition to two previous land-restoration pledges by the Government: the Forestry Development Master Plan launched in 1996, which aimed to plant trees on 200,000 hectares of unproductive forest land and the savannah zone by 2020; and the National Forest Plantation Strategy, which aims to rehabilitate 235,000 hectares of forest plantations and enrich planting of 100,000 hectares of under-stocked forest reserves by 2040.

Fergus Sinclair, leader of Systems Science at World Agroforestry, who led one of the sessions at the workshop, said that, ‘With such ambitious targets to meet, this multi-stakeholder workshop in Tamale — Restoring Landscapes for Resilient Livelihoods in Northern Ghana — could not have come at a more opportune time.’

A broad range of perspectives and expertise
The participants came from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and from all over Ghana, representing a broad range of perspectives, backgrounds and professions: national and regional governments; donors; international and grassroots non-governmental organizations; farmers’ organizations; and one paramount chief.

Aftermath of a fire. Photo: World Agroforestry/Gloria Adeyiga

While there was consensus about the urgent need for land restoration, it was abundantly clear that there are still major challenges to be overcome: gender relations and imbalances in decision-making powers; the nature of land and tree tenure among different ethnic groups and in different regions; policy and legislative gaps in protecting and managing trees in the landscape and the environment as a whole; negative impacts of fires; indiscriminate cutting of trees (including for charcoal production); and clearing for agriculture and mining.

Paramount Chief Bong Naaba Baba Salifu Alemnyarun of the Bongo Traditional Area expressed his concern that the power of traditional authorities to protect the environment had been whittled away over the years.

“If we, the chiefs, had all the powers like our forefathers used to do, there wouldn’t be any destruction of the environment; nobody would cut a tree [without permission],” he said.

While acknowledging the role of chiefs in enforcing rules, there was also consensus that it is important to vest powers of managing trees with farmers and ensure that regulations do not stifle their ability to benefit so that there is an incentive for regreening.

It was noted that there were bylaws to protect trees and the environment but they were not enforced, prompting a call for lawmakers from the Attorney General’s office to attend future workshops to address these issues.

Shea tree in parkland. Photo: World Agroforestry/Emilie Smith Dumont

Analysis of the causes of land degradation revealed a lack of coordination, weak political will and poor funding, legislative and policy gaps, restrictive sociocultural norms, economic barriers, and a shortage of scientific evidence. Nevertheless, they expressed determination to overcome the challenges.

After the workshop, Gloria Adeyiga, a researcher with the Forestry Research Institute who is working with the West Africa Forest-Farm Interface (WAFFI) in Ghana, said she felt optimistic about the prospects for regreening the northern region.

“The workshop highlighted some concerns I’ve always had about issues around regreening,” Adeyiga said. “But I learned that others share these concerns and that we can address them for more sustainable interventions and long-term impact.”

“The future of land restoration and improving livelihoods lies in building evidence through participatory research,” said World Agroforestry’s Emilie Smith Dumont. She has coordinated WAFFI in northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso and is the focal point for Regreening Africa in the region.

One session presented land-restoration projects on a map of northern Ghana, revealing many separate projects with similar goals. This highlighted the need for better communication and coordination.

Patrice Savadogo, who is taking over Smith Dumont’s role next year, emphasized that restoration, ‘also depends on increasing coordination between efforts to address common bottlenecks in activities to increase tree cover. Recognizing this, as we did together at the workshop, is the first step in overcoming them.’

Aaron B. Aduna, chief basin officer for the White Volta River with the Water Resources Commission, said the workshop was excellent in its diversity of participants and in how it generated discussion.

“Looking at the calibre of people gathered here,” said Aduna, “I am optimistic that a lot will be achieved in the regreening of Ghana.”

Aduna added that it is time that people paid attention to the importance of regreening and to trees in the landscape because, he said, “If there is no forest, there is no water.”

For more information, please contact Patrice Savadogo: [email protected]

The workshop was a collaboration between Regreening Africa and the West Africa Forest-Farm Interface (WAFFI). WAFFI is led by CIFOR in collaboration with ICRAF and Tree Aid with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. WAFFI aims to identify practices and policy actions that improve the income and food security of smallholders in Burkina Faso and Ghana through integrated forest and tree management systems that are environmentally sound and socially equitable.

Regreening Africa is a five-year project that seeks to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households across 1 million hectares in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Incorporating trees into crop land, communal land and pastoral areas can reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes. In Ghana, the work is led by World Vision in collaboration with ICRAF and Catholic Relief Services. Partners in Regreening Africa and WAFFI include Catholic Relief Services, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), European Union, Economics of Land Degradation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Organization for Indigenous Initiatives and Sustainability, Tree Aid, World Agroforestry, and World Vision.

This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Regreening Africa project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.


By Joan Baxter, originally published by The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

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  • CATIE presents results on sentinel landscapes in Nicaragua-Honduras

CATIE presents results on sentinel landscapes in Nicaragua-Honduras

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Photo by CATIE

One of the most innovative approaches from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the establishment of a set of ‘sentinel landscapes’.

These have formed part of a global analysis of networks and helped to understand issues and processes relevant to ecosystems worldwide.

A sentinel landscape is a geographic area or set of areas bound by a common issue, in which a broad range of biophysical, social, economic and political data are monitored, collected with consistent methods and interpreted over the long term.

CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), in conjunction with FTA, has coordinated a Sentinel Landscapes initiative since 2012. The long-term data are essential for addressing development, resource sustainability and scientific challenges, such as linking biophysical processes to human reactions and understanding the impacts of those reactions on ecosystems.

CATIE – a regional center dedicated to research and graduate education in agriculture, and the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, and a strategic partner of FTA – recently held four workshops for 164 participants from 45 organizations representing government, academic, productive sectors and NGOs.

The workshops, held on Nov. 5, 7, 9 and 27, 2018, focused on presenting the results and advances of the Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape initiative and were held in the cities of Matagalpa and Siuna in Nicaragua and Catacamas and La Ceiba in Honduras. The Nicaragua Honduras Sentinel Landscape is characterized by a variety of land uses. Tree cover is therefore diverse, competition for land is high, and speculation and renting land are common, but these arrangements drive deforestation, hinder long-term investments and exacerbate land degradation.

Watch: Analysis and monitoring of deforestation dynamics in FTA sentinel landscapes

The gatherings aimed to provide a space for the exchange of information between decisionmakers and key actors in the sectors of environmental management, forest management, protected areas, livestock, cocoa, coffee and biodiversity.

Around 64 participants from 45 organizations representing government, academic, and production sectors as well as some NGOs updated their knowledge of the Sentinel Landscapes initiative, exchanging information on their projects and activities, which served to improve levels of coordination among participating organizations.

Photo by CATIE

Since the initiative began, CATIE students have conducted valuable thesis studies that have contributed to improving knowledge and research methodology in the sentinel landscape.

The Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape is a mosaic of forests, agricultural lands, cattle ranches and agroforestry systems, covering 68,000 square kilometers, including two biosphere reserves and 13 protected areas.

“This landscape also contains the largest forest area in Central America,” said Norvin Sepúlveda, CATIE’s representative in Nicaragua.

Watch: CIFOR’s Robert Nasi on Sentinel Landscapes

The initiative develops and implements a standardized matrix that includes a set of indicators and livelihoods to monitor landscape sustainability in a wide variety of cultural, institutional and environmental settings.

Sepulveda also indicated that socioeconomic and biophysical baselines have been developed in conjunction with universities and local organizations.

José Manuel González, CATIE representative in Honduras, mentioned that it is important to make these databases available to organizations, to continue with studies and monitoring, as well as to strengthen local and national alliances.

In this sense, Alan Bolt, coordinator of the Collaborative Management Committee for the Peñas Blancas Protected Area and director of the Center for Understanding Nature, stated that CATIE’s support, through the initiative, had been important for the institutionalization of the committee and the thesis studies carried out by students have improved research methodology.

Indeed, sentinel landscapes can provide a common observation ground where reliable data from the biophysical and social sciences can be tracked simultaneously and over time so that long-term trends can be detected, and society can make mitigation, adaptation and best-bet choices.

By Priscilla Brenes Angulo, CATIE Communication Assistant, first published by CATIE.

For more information, contact Norvin Sepúlveda, [email protected].

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  • What do gender norms, innovation and trees have to do with each other?

What do gender norms, innovation and trees have to do with each other?

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Women prepare lunch in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Augusta/CIFOR

Gender researchers present findings from Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan that shed light on how gender norms shape, and are influenced by, forest and tree-based innovation processes.

A new report based on case studies from the GENNOVATE: Enabling gender equality in agricultural and environmental innovation comparative qualitative research initiative presents findings from Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan that shed light on how gender norms shape, and are influenced by, forest and tree-based innovation processes.

An estimated 1.6 billion people live in and around and depend in part or in full from forests for their livelihoods and well-being. Yet, the benefits from forests, trees and agroforests are unequally distributed across communities based on the gender, socioeconomic status, generation or age, and other social characteristics of their members. These inequalities make it even more difficult for already disadvantaged groups to benefit from new opportunities and innovations in agriculture and natural resource management (NRM).

Innovation processes related to agricultural and NRM — whether centered on technologies (e.g. hybrid seed or mechanization) or institutions (e.g. new knowledge applied to NRM or ways of organizing production) — can reduce some of these inequalities, or they can exacerbate them. And gender norms, or the social ‘rules’ that determine appropriate behaviour for men and women, that maintain these inequalities can hinder women’s capacities to innovate. For example, norms that pose constraints on women’s mobility or labour or that make it socially inappropriate for women farmers to interact with men extension agents in some contexts, can make it difficult for them to try out and adopt new practices.

The report, whose co-authors are from Bioversity International, University of Brighton, CIFOR, and University of Indonesia, contributes to the GENNOVATE comparative study.

Rural livelihoods worldwide are changing

This is due to various factors, including migration, new markets, and new agricultural and NRM technologies, institutions, and practices. The newly released report Understanding gendered innovation processes in forest landscapes: Case studies from Indonesia and Kyrgyz Republic highlights how gender norms as well as local women’s and men’s agency (the ability to make and act upon decisions that shape the direction of one’s life) influence how forest dwellers experience these processes.

In Indonesia, commercial investments in oil palm offer some new wage work opportunities, but supplant other forms of livelihoods and access to resources. In Kyrgyzstan, new opportunities and challenges are emerging because of the country’s integration into a market economy and because of changes in forest tenure (ownership and access) regimes. In both countries, these changes have uneven effects for women and men, young and old, richer and poorer community members; and these different groups have unequal abilities to try out, adopt, or adapt innovations. The report highlights the importance of considering and addressing those differences and their underlying causes in project design and implementation.

The study finds that gender norms affect men’s and women’s agency and capacities and priorities for innovation. Photo by M. Elias/Bioversity International

Some of the main findings of the report are that:

  • Gender norms affect men’s and women’s agency and capacities and priorities for innovation
  • Gender norms influence who has access to information, decision-making power, and land, labour and capital. As these typically favour (better off and older) men, while women — and particularly those disadvantaged by their ethnicity or caste, socioeconomic status, generation or age, or marital status — are less able to take advantage of what new opportunities may arise
  • Gender norms and innovation interact dynamically, and both shift over time and place. Gender roles, rights and responsibilities can be renegotiated because of innovations that change what it means to be a woman or a man in a given environment.

In light of these findings, how can we better support men’s and women’s ability to lead the lives that hold value to them?

The authors argue for gender-responsive and transformative initiatives that can equitably support men’s and women’s capacities to learn about, engage in, and lead innovation processes. To achieve this, they suggest:

  • Supporting women’s collectives that can work towards changes in gender norms that disadvantage women
  • Including men in interventions that seek to promote gender equality, to harness their support
  • Recognizing the diversity that exists among men and among women, and adopting strategies that can support differentiated groups of women and men according to their own priorities and circumstances
  • Capitalizing on ongoing changes in gender norms caused by many drivers of change (e.g. the formal schooling of girls, new policies, institutions and markets, etc.) and creating a dialogue around them to support greater gender equality
  • Supporting a critical mass of champions for change acting as role models to bring about transformations in livelihoods and gender norms
  • Carefully monitoring and mitigating possible forms of exclusion that can arise from innovation processes, which can reproduce inequalities.

Read the report: Understanding gendered innovation processes in forest-based landscapes: Case studies from Indonesia and Kyrgyz Republic

By Giulia Micheletti and Marlène Elias, originally published by Bioversity International.

For more information, contact Marlène Elias.


This research is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.


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