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  • A five-part road map for how to succeed with agroforestry

A five-part road map for how to succeed with agroforestry

A Lubuk Beringin villager looks over fields in Dusun Buat village, Indonesia. Photo by T. Saputro/CIFOR
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“We are like 1,200 little ants,” said Tristan Lecomte, president of the PUR Project, of the global experts and scientists attending the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry last month. “We are all specialized in our own little fields – some of us on the leaves, some on the roots, some on the crops.”

Tea pickers in Mount Halimun Salak National Park in West Java, Indonesia collect tea leaves in a basket. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

Lecomte’s point, that agroforestry is a multi-dimensional concept not easily captured by a single catchphrase, was evident after 3 days, 38 sessions and 600 poster talks.

Still, several speakers made the case for simplicity: Agroforestry will only make its way to the top of global development agendas – fulfilling its rightful role as a solution to climate change, biodiversity loss, malnutrition and poverty – if we are able to deliver a clear message. “Actually it’s simple,” said Patrick Worms, president of the European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF). “Just do it.”

The question is how. Let’s take a closer look at five lessons on how to succeed with agroforestry, based on work presented by scientists contributing to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

Read also: Agroforestry: Development underdog headed for center stage in global sustainability efforts

  1. Put farmers first.

Agroforestry has the potential to reverse planetary degradation trends, but efforts necessarily start with the farmers themselves. “It brings multiple benefits at the level of the landscape and the planet – that we know – but how can farmers decide to opt for these systems?” asked Vincent Gitz, director of FTA.

A cabbage plantation on the slope of mount Gede Pangrango Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia. Photo by R. Martin/CIFOR

One answer, coming from researchers working with World Agroforestry (ICRAF), is through close collaboration with farmers themselves. ICRAF scientists have established , which are training, experimentation and demonstration hubs, to co-design agroforestry solutions together with farmers.

“Some projects fail because they are promoting trees disconnected from farmers’ needs,” said Catherine Muthuri, scientist with ICRAF. “We are promoting trees that farmers have prioritized – they are planting trees that they know, and they understand why.” The rural resource centers are being expanded as a model for agricultural extension in a bid to increase food security in Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda and to boost climate resilience in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad.

  1. Remember, it’s not only a man’s world.

Agroforestry solutions need to be tailored to on-the-ground realities, of course, and accounting for . In Nicaragua, for example, . Their findings indicate that, in the nine communities studied, men tended to prefer agroforestry crops such as cocoa and coffee, which provide sources of income. Women, on the other hand, placed higher value on basic grain crops such as rice, perceiving them as better sources of food.

“We risk missing the mark completely if we don’t account for gender,” explained Laurène Feintrenie, scientist with the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD). “You can imagine projects ending up promoting only cash crops because they’re basing their recommendations only on men’s preferences, and then not contributing to food security or poverty alleviation at all.” Designing agroforestry interventions to ensure that everyone – men and women – both perceive and attain the benefits of these practices is essential to success.

  1. Go after the money.

“One big motivation for farmers is to be able to improve their household income,” said Clement Okia, scientist with ICRAF. “When you can demonstrate to farmers that this thing can increase their incomes, farmers get excited.”

A farmer holds a Gnetum (okok) plant in the village of Minwoho, Lekié, Center Region, Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

He presented research on how strengthening value chains can increase farmers’ interest in adopting agroforestry practices. The underlying rationale was often repeated during the congress: What good does it do to produce a high-quality agroforestry product if no one wants to buy it? Everyone needs to make a living.

Okia and his colleagues have worked with farmers to establish innovation platforms in Uganda and Zambia. The innovation platforms are networks that allow farmers to engage with value chains, markets and business opportunities. Already, results are promising. In Uganda, for example, 5,000 coffee farmers have identified production challenges, received training and established new practices. This has allowed them to export specialty coffee to the Australian market.

  1. Think landscape.

Agroforestry represents an opportunity to create synergies across sectors at the landscape scale. This is especially useful in places like Indonesia, where fierce competition over land prevails. At the same time, government agencies tend to plan for each sector in isolation, resulting in overlaps and inefficiencies. That’s why scientists from ICRAF and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) have created a policy platform for authorities, the private sector and farmer cooperatives to collaborate on integrating different land use options.

“On Sumbawa Island, the agricultural department has been encouraging corn crops, but this depends on contracting land from protected forests,” said Ani Adiwinata Nawir, scientist with CIFOR. “We offer alternative options, so that local communities can learn that there are other options besides corn that could bring them more benefits. Some fast-growing timber species, for example, can be intercropped with non-timber forest products.” Collaborating with the private sector ensures a market for products such as timber, honey or natural dyes.

What’s more, preserving forests and regenerating deforested land can help prevent disasters such as the destructive floods that swept across Sumbawa Island in 2017. District authorities have already adopted landscape-level thinking into their planning, and the approach is currently scaling to the provincial level.

  1. Plan for the long term.

Trees are around for a long time. Whether this is a challenge or a blessing depends on your perspective. “Trees are a bit more complicated when it comes to climate change,” said Roeland Kindt, scientist with ICRAF. “With crops, you can see how the climate is changing and then select the right varieties, but with trees – you plant them now, and they’ll still be there in 10 or 30 years.”

An Acai nursery in Acre, Brazil. Photo by K. Evans/CIFOR

Therefore, Kindt and his colleagues are using modeling to recommend tree species fit for a climate-change future. In 2017, they published an atlas to help coffee and cocoa farmers in Latin America determine what species will continue to be suitable as shade trees, considering climate change risks. Now, a similar atlas for Africa is under development, and will be used to inform large-scale restoration projects in Gambia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and elsewhere.

“We focus on fruit trees, timber trees and those that improve soil fertility, which can generate income for the farmers,” Kindt explained. “In some areas, it is possible that coffee will no longer be a suitable crop in the future, and then, timber and fruit trees can make up a new agroforestry system.”

Once you take a step back from the anthill, you begin to see the ingenuity of it. Agroforestry may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, but it is an adaptable, applicable practice that fits the complexity of today’s development challenges. And, with these top five lessons in hand, farmers, development practitioners, donors and private sector actors may be better placed to achieve its potential.

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist. 


The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (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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  • Reversing ‘dangerous decline’ of nature requires global initiatives to engage both men and women

Reversing ‘dangerous decline’ of nature requires global initiatives to engage both men and women

A woman works in the fields in the village of Nalma, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR
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A woman carries food for her family in Nalma village, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Our planet is in the midst of an ecological emergency, according to several recent reports. Deteriorating biodiversity is putting food security, economies as well as human health and well-being at risk.

Reversing this ecological decline requires restoration initiatives to incorporate the needs, interests and knowledge of both men and women.

This month, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a global assessment finding that the health of ecosystems is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.

This is happening despite the efforts of several global restoration initiatives. Scientists say that such alliances would be more successful if they were more equitable.

“Not accounting for gender in restoration is equal to ignoring 50 percent of the population,” said Iliana Monterroso Ibarra, co-coordinator of gender and social inclusion research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “On the other hand, restoration processes that include both women and men can learn and benefit from their different knowledge and practices, making the process more efficient.”

Monterroso and other experts from the CGIAR Research Program on Forest, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) shared research on the value of gender-responsive restoration work during a recent workshop organized by UN-Women and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The workshop set out to gather input for a new, gender-responsive Global Biodiversity Framework, which is to guide the countries adhering to the Convention on Biological Diversity once the current Aichi targets lapse in 2020.

According to Tanya McGregor, gender program officer at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, there is substantial interest in, and engagement on, addressing gender issues among country parties and stakeholders involved in implementing the convention.

“We still need to build capacity and clarify what types of objectives and actions may be most appropriate to advance gender-responsive approaches to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in the context of the new framework,” she said.

Read also: Gender equality in agricultural development starts with understanding complexity

Gender lessons from REDD+

FTA has long-standing experience with research on incorporating gender dimensions into forest landscape restoration. The program’s research has shown that reaching desired social and environmental outcomes from ecosystem restoration hinges on the contribution and cooperation of the women and men who depend on these ecosystems for their livelihoods.

A woman in the village of Nalma, Lamjung, Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

After more than 15 years of implementation, the REDD+ initiative in particular can provide important clues, according to scientists. Although REDD+ is primarily a mechanism for reducing carbon emissions from forests, it does offer lessons on what implications such a long-term, on-the-ground effort has for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“The first lesson to highlight is the need to account for different interests, needs, values and behavior of both men and women around land and resources. For example, we have learned that so-called gender-neutral initiatives – really meaning initiatives that ignore the issue – risk perpetuating social differences and creating inequities,” Monterroso said.

Also, excluding either men or women will influence their willingness to participate over time, risking not only opportunities to strengthen their livelihoods, but also the potential for sustainable restoration.

The second lesson is related to putting in place the right safeguards to increase the chances for successful implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Such measures include understanding whether women and men have secure rights to the land being restored, making sure that restoration work does not rely disproportionately on women’s labor, and finally recognizing existing governance structures that determine how men and women participate in decision-making processes.

“Ensuring the participation of all kinds of groups allows for an implementation that provides more benefits on the ground, not accumulating only for some,” Monterroso said.

Read also: The Gender Equality in Research Scale: A tool for monitoring and encouraging progress on gender integration in research for and in development

Starting points for biodiversity conservation

Understanding and acknowledging the importance of gender-responsive restoration work is only the first step. Second comes the question of how to make these insights operational for the countries tasked with implementing the post-2020 framework.

A Lubuk Beringin villager harvests palm nut on her agroforestry farm in Indonesia. Photo by T. Saputro/CIFOR

“We have to be very careful – not only in the design, but also in the implementation – to understand where gender considerations are important,” said Monterroso.

She explained that REDD+ experiences show that sometimes, communities and customary practices are actually highly equitable, but it is during the implementation of restoration initiatives that implementing institutions – particularly governments – can introduce inequities. Therefore, building the capacity of government officials is important, as is ensuring that they have the right tools to incorporate gender-responsive methods.

Relatedly, operationalization of the post-2020 framework is underpinned by selecting the right indicators. They need to be designed to capture data that shows the different roles and contributions women and men have in the process toward meeting the targets, she explained.

“It is not enough to count how many men and women participate in projects – we need to better understand issues such as unequal access to and control over land and productive resources as well as decision making, not only to be able to assess progress across different dimensions of gender equality but also as part of the moral imperative to leave no one behind” she said.

Finally, governance structures that implement the framework must themselves have gender equitable and inclusive processes. Monterroso: “To dream big, as they say, we need to make sure that these institutions are 50 percent women and are allocating leadership positions to women.”

An inclusive process

The FTA team noted that the recent workshop represents the kind of inclusive, multi-stakeholder process necessary to ensure that appropriate gender lessons can be identified, discussed and included going forward. Governments, multilateral and international organizations, research institutions as well as indigenous and women organizations were active in the workshop dialogue, bringing forth the right evidence and underscoring their commitment.

“The importance of including gender considerations is about more than whether the targets will be met – it’s making sure that we’re making the changes that these broader conventions, like the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sustainable Development Goals, are calling upon us to promote – to achieve more equitable development that involves everyone in the process.”

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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  • 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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  • 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
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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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  • 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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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

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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  • Land restoration to enhance gender equality in Burkina Faso

Land restoration to enhance gender equality in Burkina Faso

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Widows who are members of a women’s self-help group have been allocated collective land to improve their livelihoods. Photo by Marlène Elias/Bioversity International

Not all farmers are able to adopt or benefit from landscape restoration practices equally. A research initiative highlights how inclusive initiatives have the potential to improve both the environment and the lives of women and their communities.

Gender disparity in landscape restoration 

Amid degradation of their natural resources, farmers in Burkina Faso’s Oubritenga province, in the country’s central Plateau, are adopting various practices to restore their lands. Landscape restoration enhances soil fertility and facilitates the establishment of trees that can provide benefits for human well-being as well as the environment.

The techniques include the creation of stone barriers to slow water flow and prevent runoff, agroforestry techniques, assisted natural regeneration of valued trees in fields, and the creation of small zaï pits to retain water and soil nutrients for crop growth. The problem is that not all farmers are able to adopt or benefit from these practices equally.

New research conducted by Master’s students from the University of Ouagadougou cosupervised by Bioversity International and other partners from Burkina Faso considers the various barriers women face in restoring their lands and landscapes to support their equitable participation in restoration initiatives for the benefit of the entire community.

Entrenched gender norms make it difficult for women to obtain the same opportunities as men to implement restoration practices. Gender plays an important role in determining who does what, who makes decisions, and who has access to resources and other assets, including benefits from restoration initiatives. Gender, however, is not the sole factor that determines who will implement and potentially benefit from landscape restoration practices. Whether a woman is married, where her husband resides, whether her husband has allocated her plots that are large enough to adopt agroforestry practices, and even whether the woman has adult male children can all greatly influence the probability of a woman implementing restoration practices and gaining some of the benefits.

In the study sites, farmers need to vouch for each other and women tend not to be considered eligible participants. Yet, not all women face the same exclusions. Women farmers who have a male head present in their household may be considered eligible, and can obtain access to material and financial resources, as well as training to apply restoration practices. This means that, unless they have an adult son, widows and wives of migrated husbands are particularly disadvantaged.

Read more: Gender at the center of Bioversity International’s research

Zai pits are dug to improve soil fertility and water retention. Credit: Adidjata Ouédraogo/Université de Ouagadougou

Inclusive initiatives go beyond trees

By studying the approach of Association Tiipaalga – an NGO that has been supporting restoration in the country since 2006 – Master’s students from the University of Ouagadougou are identifying good practices from restoration initiatives trying to promote gender equality. The NGO is working to secure access to land for women’s self-help groups, composed primarily of widows and young women. It is helping these groups fence off their land to promote natural regeneration and plant certain species of trees and crops that can offer the women income-generating opportunities.

Moreover, it is organizing exposure visits for women and men farmers to visit villages in other parts of the country where restoration practices are being implemented, allowing farmers to learn from each other. The initiative is also supporting women in building improved cookstoves that require less fuelwood – saving women’s time collecting the fuelwood and reducing forest degradation – and to access microcredit to pursue income-generating activities such as trade, horticulture, and processing of non-timber forest products. Most importantly, collectively having access to land is enabling women to strengthen their social ties, cultivate vegetables and increase their incomes.

In addition to material gains, women have also built greater confidence and have become more vocal when it comes to accessing or managing natural resources in their village. During village meetings, for example, they are stating their opinions, and may even express ideas that contradict those of the men – which was something unheard of in the past. Women are also reporting having a greater say within their household on what to grow and what agricultural techniques to adopt in their fields as a result of their participation in restoration initiatives. Moreover, the provision of tools and equipment has freed up some of the energy and time, which the women can now invest in activities that foster their personal development. Many have chosen to learn to read, others are learning about family planning, sanitation and keeping their households healthy.

As one of the participants, Ms Kabore Minata puts it, “Thanks to these efforts, we women were able to have land, even if only on loan, and tools to cultivate crops. Were it not for these interventions, this would be only a dream because [as a woman having married into this village] I am considered a stranger here. Aside from a small parcel of land for growing condiments, what else could a woman like me have had otherwise?”

This article was originally published by Bioversity International


The University of Ouagadougou, Association Tiipaalga, and Burkina Faso’s National Tree Seed Center partnered with Bioversity International on this initiative.

This research was carried out by Adidjata Ouédraogo and Safietou Tiendrebeogo, Master’s students at Université de Ouagadougou, in the context of the project ‘Nutrition‐sensitive forest restoration to enhance adaptive capacity of rural communities in Burkina Faso’, led by Bioversity International. This research component has also received the support of Association Tiipaalga and the Centre National de Semences Forestières. The project is funded by the Austrian Development Agency.

This resesarch was conducted as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, and is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Addressing equity in community forestry: lessons from 20 years of implementation in Cameroon

Addressing equity in community forestry: lessons from 20 years of implementation in Cameroon

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A community forestry approach was adopted by Cameroon as a strategy to promote the sustainable management of forests, participation by local communities in forest management, and poverty alleviation. However, results have been moderate and community forestry has largely failed in achieving its initial goals. Our work, based on existing literature, uses the three inter-related dimensions of equity: distributive, procedural, and contextual to highlight the main equity challenges encountered in implementing the community forestry approach over the past 20 years in Cameroon. The main constraints to distributive equity identified include: the absence of clear benefit-sharing mechanisms and rents capture by elites, insecure tenure, and limited use rights of forest resources. Regarding the procedural dimension, we observed an exclusion of vulnerable groups, especially women, and a lack of information flow and transparency in decision-making processes. Finally, for contextual equity, the main constraints are unfair laws and regulations that give more advantages to the state and logging companies than to the local population. Moreover, poor community capacities and high transaction costs in the process of obtaining and exploiting community forests are additional constraints to contextual equity. The authors recommend a few measures to improve community forestry contribution to socioeconomic development, equity in benefit sharing, and sustainable management of forest resources. These include the need: (1) to promote transparency in community forests management with fair and gender-based policies that consider socioeconomic differences existing within and between forest communities; (2) to strengthen local community members financial and technical capacities and increase their representation and participation in decision-making structures; and (3) to set up mechanisms that guarantee existing policies are fully implemented.

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

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

Women prepare okok seedlings in Minwoho, Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Women prepare okok seedlings in Minwoho, Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

African community leaders know that women play essential roles in restoring land and forests, even though it is not always easy for them to contribute.

However, do high-level decision makers grasp the unrealized potential of women’s leadership? Taking cues from grassroots experiences can help regional restoration initiatives improve their chances of success.

Late last year, African community leaders put together a manifesto that underscores how important communities are for successful restoration. It also provides cues on how to accelerate restoration in Africa, with two points explicitly calling out the need to include women on equal footing with men.

Strengthening women’s tree and land tenure rights as well as ensuring equitable distribution of benefits from forests will be crucial, according to the manifesto. Its recommendations build on 12 success stories collected from women and men working to reverse degradation across the continent.

The notion of equality as crucial for progress resonates as International Women’s Day on March 8 draws near, with this year’s theme encouraging us to think equal and build smart. But how can community experiences help build smarter restoration initiatives?

Read also: Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Women show leadership and commitment

The AFR100, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative that seeks to recover 100 million hectares of currently degraded land in Africa by 2030, is one effort that could benefit from grassroots experiences. Esther Mwangi, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist who collected the 12 success stories, explained:

“Many regional or global policy processes, like AFR100, risk missing the point because they are top-down, often defined by governments. Governments are important, but what matters for restoration is what happens on the ground. The stories document what communities already know about what tends to work.”

Many of the stories portray women who display outstanding leadership in restoration, which is interesting as women lack the tenure rights that would give them access to long-term returns.

One reason for women’s commitment is that impacts from forest or land degradation often hit them the hardest, leaving them no choice but to act. This is the case on Cameroon’s eastern coast where, as one story recounts, mangroves are being exploited for fuelwood and timber, mostly by men. For women, this has meant losing access to fish, fruit and nuts used for food or income.

Aiming to restore these past benefits, women are willing to invest in replanting trees, even though only men can own the land on which the mangroves grow. Without land rights, women can only hope that the restored mangroves are eventually inherited by their sons.

That women are arguably more organized than men and better at collaborating on restoration is another lesson to be learned. A case in point is Kenyan woman Zipporah Matumbi who has a decade-long track record of mobilizing women in her community to protect and restore forests. When she launched her efforts, many women were initially reluctant to plant trees in case it was interpreted as putting a claim on land that customarily belongs only to men.

However, over time, Matumbi managed to normalize the idea that women can plant trees, and today women are able to capitalize on their efforts, for example by selling tree trimmings as fuelwood and spending the income on educating their children. Matumbi said that is why women are planting trees – because they are thinking of tomorrow.

Read also: Local communities a driving force behind recovering Africa’s landscapes

Mixed-use land is seen in Kenya’s South West and West Mau Forest. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR

Empowering women to contribute

While the stories show that there is huge potential for women to lead successful restoration efforts, not many women are able to contribute to or benefit from such initiatives.

“When the community leaders wrote that manifesto, they were right on target,” said Mwangi. “It is like [former US president Barack] Obama once said, about having a whole team, but only letting half of them play. That doesn’t make sense. When you bring in women, you’re bringing in the other half — knowledge, skills, motivation and leadership.”

The problem is that empowering women to contribute is not always simple. Women’s lack of land tenure and rights, as illustrated by some of the success stories, are one challenge. Policies that give women rights equal to those of men are important. Otherwise, hardworking women are easily exploited by contributing to reforestation and restoration efforts without access to the benefits.

That being said, rights are not the only critical factor. Many other entry points exist for improving women’s opportunities.

For example, providing water and sanitation facilities can free up women’s time to plant and look after trees and attend meetings and training. Training women on how to negotiate with men can give them access to benefits and reduce the amount of time spent on household chores (which are often allocated by men), giving women opportunities to demonstrate their leadership skills, which can change how men see them.

Working with men can also help to address crucial gaps in managing restoration initiatives, such as monitoring to keep seedling predators at bay or apprehending the unsanctioned harvesting of grown trees. Additionally, providing viable, long-term livelihood alternatives can enable women and men to ease pressure on forest and land resources.

AFR100 and similar initiatives can greatly benefit from understanding how such actions can start to shake up gender norms, slowly allowing women to play a greater role and thus increasing the chances of long-term restoration success.

Read also: Can research be transformative? Challenging gender norms around trees and land restoration in West Africa

Communities give directions for road ahead

Communities’ experiences can also serve as a starting point for more research on the complex dynamics between gender and restoration.

“For me as a scientist, these stories give me a really good starting point. They provide research questions I can ask and hypotheses I can test – for example on women-targeted incentives or on leveling the playing field. That means I might eventually be able to share more rigorous evidence on what difference women make to restoration, and that can inform future initiatives,” Mwangi said.

The stories reinforce FTA’s priorities to improve gender equality by focusing on structural barriers and drivers of change. When well understood, such barriers can be overcome and changes made, allowing women to meaningfully participate in restoration, access benefits and contribute to decisions about how forests and land are used.

Through the manifesto and stories, communities are showing how to equitably expand opportunities for both men and women to restore and benefit from forested landscapes.

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist.


This research 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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  • Thinking of tomorrow: Women essential to successful forest and land restoration in Africa

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

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Women prepare okok seedlings in Minwoho, Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

African community leaders know that women play essential roles in restoring land and forests, even though it is not always easy for them to contribute.

However, do high-level decision makers grasp the unrealized potential of women’s leadership? Taking cues from grassroots experiences can help regional restoration initiatives improve their chances of success.

Late last year, African community leaders put together a manifesto that underscores how important communities are for successful restoration. It also provides cues on how to accelerate restoration in Africa, with two points explicitly calling out the need to include women on equal footing with men.

Strengthening women’s tree and land tenure rights as well as ensuring equitable distribution of benefits from forests will be crucial, according to the manifesto. Its recommendations build on 12 success stories collected from women and men working to reverse degradation across the continent.

The notion of equality as crucial for progress resonates as International Women’s Day on March 8 draws near, with this year’s theme encouraging us to think equal and build smart. But how can community experiences help build smarter restoration initiatives?

Read also: Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Women show leadership and commitment

The AFR100, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative that seeks to recover 100 million hectares of currently degraded land in Africa by 2030, is one effort that could benefit from grassroots experiences. Esther Mwangi, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist who collected the 12 success stories, explained:

“Many regional or global policy processes, like AFR100, risk missing the point because they are top-down, often defined by governments. Governments are important, but what matters for restoration is what happens on the ground. The stories document what communities already know about what tends to work.”

Many of the stories portray women who display outstanding leadership in restoration, which is interesting as women lack the tenure rights that would give them access to long-term returns.

One reason for women’s commitment is that impacts from forest or land degradation often hit them the hardest, leaving them no choice but to act. This is the case on Cameroon’s eastern coast where, as one story recounts, mangroves are being exploited for fuelwood and timber, mostly by men. For women, this has meant losing access to fish, fruit and nuts used for food or income.

Aiming to restore these past benefits, women are willing to invest in replanting trees, even though only men can own the land on which the mangroves grow. Without land rights, women can only hope that the restored mangroves are eventually inherited by their sons.

That women are arguably more organized than men and better at collaborating on restoration is another lesson to be learned. A case in point is Kenyan woman Zipporah Matumbi who has a decade-long track record of mobilizing women in her community to protect and restore forests. When she launched her efforts, many women were initially reluctant to plant trees in case it was interpreted as putting a claim on land that customarily belongs only to men.

However, over time, Matumbi managed to normalize the idea that women can plant trees, and today women are able to capitalize on their efforts, for example by selling tree trimmings as fuelwood and spending the income on educating their children. Matumbi said that is why women are planting trees – because they are thinking of tomorrow.

Read also: Local communities a driving force behind recovering Africa’s landscapes

Mixed-use land is seen in Kenya’s South West and West Mau Forest. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR

Empowering women to contribute

While the stories show that there is huge potential for women to lead successful restoration efforts, not many women are able to contribute to or benefit from such initiatives.

“When the community leaders wrote that manifesto, they were right on target,” said Mwangi. “It is like [former US president Barack] Obama once said, about having a whole team, but only letting half of them play. That doesn’t make sense. When you bring in women, you’re bringing in the other half — knowledge, skills, motivation and leadership.”

The problem is that empowering women to contribute is not always simple. Women’s lack of land tenure and rights, as illustrated by some of the success stories, are one challenge. Policies that give women rights equal to those of men are important. Otherwise, hardworking women are easily exploited by contributing to reforestation and restoration efforts without access to the benefits.

That being said, rights are not the only critical factor. Many other entry points exist for improving women’s opportunities.

For example, providing water and sanitation facilities can free up women’s time to plant and look after trees and attend meetings and training. Training women on how to negotiate with men can give them access to benefits and reduce the amount of time spent on household chores (which are often allocated by men), giving women opportunities to demonstrate their leadership skills, which can change how men see them.

Working with men can also help to address crucial gaps in managing restoration initiatives, such as monitoring to keep seedling predators at bay or apprehending the unsanctioned harvesting of grown trees. Additionally, providing viable, long-term livelihood alternatives can enable women and men to ease pressure on forest and land resources.

AFR100 and similar initiatives can greatly benefit from understanding how such actions can start to shake up gender norms, slowly allowing women to play a greater role and thus increasing the chances of long-term restoration success.

Read also: Can research be transformative? Challenging gender norms around trees and land restoration in West Africa

Communities give directions for road ahead

Communities’ experiences can also serve as a starting point for more research on the complex dynamics between gender and restoration.

“For me as a scientist, these stories give me a really good starting point. They provide research questions I can ask and hypotheses I can test – for example on women-targeted incentives or on leveling the playing field. That means I might eventually be able to share more rigorous evidence on what difference women make to restoration, and that can inform future initiatives,” Mwangi said.

The stories reinforce FTA’s priorities to improve gender equality by focusing on structural barriers and drivers of change. When well understood, such barriers can be overcome and changes made, allowing women to meaningfully participate in restoration, access benefits and contribute to decisions about how forests and land are used.

Through the manifesto and stories, communities are showing how to equitably expand opportunities for both men and women to restore and benefit from forested landscapes.

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist.


This research 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
  • Thinking of tomorrow: Women essential to successful forest and land restoration in Africa

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

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Women prepare okok seedlings in Minwoho, Cameroon. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

African community leaders know that women play essential roles in restoring land and forests, even though it is not always easy for them to contribute.

However, do high-level decision makers grasp the unrealized potential of women’s leadership? Taking cues from grassroots experiences can help regional restoration initiatives improve their chances of success.

Late last year, African community leaders put together a manifesto that underscores how important communities are for successful restoration. It also provides cues on how to accelerate restoration in Africa, with two points explicitly calling out the need to include women on equal footing with men.

Strengthening women’s tree and land tenure rights as well as ensuring equitable distribution of benefits from forests will be crucial, according to the manifesto. Its recommendations build on 12 success stories collected from women and men working to reverse degradation across the continent.

The notion of equality as crucial for progress resonates as International Women’s Day on March 8 draws near, with this year’s theme encouraging us to think equal and build smart. But how can community experiences help build smarter restoration initiatives?

Read also: Communities restoring landscapes: Stories of resilience and success

Women show leadership and commitment

The AFR100, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative that seeks to recover 100 million hectares of currently degraded land in Africa by 2030, is one effort that could benefit from grassroots experiences. Esther Mwangi, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist who collected the 12 success stories, explained:

“Many regional or global policy processes, like AFR100, risk missing the point because they are top-down, often defined by governments. Governments are important, but what matters for restoration is what happens on the ground. The stories document what communities already know about what tends to work.”

Many of the stories portray women who display outstanding leadership in restoration, which is interesting as women lack the tenure rights that would give them access to long-term returns.

One reason for women’s commitment is that impacts from forest or land degradation often hit them the hardest, leaving them no choice but to act. This is the case on Cameroon’s eastern coast where, as one story recounts, mangroves are being exploited for fuelwood and timber, mostly by men. For women, this has meant losing access to fish, fruit and nuts used for food or income.

Aiming to restore these past benefits, women are willing to invest in replanting trees, even though only men can own the land on which the mangroves grow. Without land rights, women can only hope that the restored mangroves are eventually inherited by their sons.

That women are arguably more organized than men and better at collaborating on restoration is another lesson to be learned. A case in point is Kenyan woman Zipporah Matumbi who has a decade-long track record of mobilizing women in her community to protect and restore forests. When she launched her efforts, many women were initially reluctant to plant trees in case it was interpreted as putting a claim on land that customarily belongs only to men.

However, over time, Matumbi managed to normalize the idea that women can plant trees, and today women are able to capitalize on their efforts, for example by selling tree trimmings as fuelwood and spending the income on educating their children. Matumbi said that is why women are planting trees – because they are thinking of tomorrow.

Read also: Local communities a driving force behind recovering Africa’s landscapes

Mixed-use land is seen in Kenya’s South West and West Mau Forest. Photo by Sande Murunga/CIFOR

Empowering women to contribute

While the stories show that there is huge potential for women to lead successful restoration efforts, not many women are able to contribute to or benefit from such initiatives.

“When the community leaders wrote that manifesto, they were right on target,” said Mwangi. “It is like [former US president Barack] Obama once said, about having a whole team, but only letting half of them play. That doesn’t make sense. When you bring in women, you’re bringing in the other half — knowledge, skills, motivation and leadership.”

The problem is that empowering women to contribute is not always simple. Women’s lack of land tenure and rights, as illustrated by some of the success stories, are one challenge. Policies that give women rights equal to those of men are important. Otherwise, hardworking women are easily exploited by contributing to reforestation and restoration efforts without access to the benefits.

That being said, rights are not the only critical factor. Many other entry points exist for improving women’s opportunities.

For example, providing water and sanitation facilities can free up women’s time to plant and look after trees and attend meetings and training. Training women on how to negotiate with men can give them access to benefits and reduce the amount of time spent on household chores (which are often allocated by men), giving women opportunities to demonstrate their leadership skills, which can change how men see them.

Working with men can also help to address crucial gaps in managing restoration initiatives, such as monitoring to keep seedling predators at bay or apprehending the unsanctioned harvesting of grown trees. Additionally, providing viable, long-term livelihood alternatives can enable women and men to ease pressure on forest and land resources.

AFR100 and similar initiatives can greatly benefit from understanding how such actions can start to shake up gender norms, slowly allowing women to play a greater role and thus increasing the chances of long-term restoration success.

Read also: Can research be transformative? Challenging gender norms around trees and land restoration in West Africa

Communities give directions for road ahead

Communities’ experiences can also serve as a starting point for more research on the complex dynamics between gender and restoration.

“For me as a scientist, these stories give me a really good starting point. They provide research questions I can ask and hypotheses I can test – for example on women-targeted incentives or on leveling the playing field. That means I might eventually be able to share more rigorous evidence on what difference women make to restoration, and that can inform future initiatives,” Mwangi said.

The stories reinforce FTA’s priorities to improve gender equality by focusing on structural barriers and drivers of change. When well understood, such barriers can be overcome and changes made, allowing women to meaningfully participate in restoration, access benefits and contribute to decisions about how forests and land are used.

Through the manifesto and stories, communities are showing how to equitably expand opportunities for both men and women to restore and benefit from forested landscapes.

By Marianne Gadeberg, communications specialist.


This research 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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