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Promoting nature-based solutions for gender equality

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Bamboo charcoal can be a lucrative source of income. Photo by INBAR

As a clean-burning source of energy in the home, and a lucrative means of income, bamboo is helping to bring income and social standing to women across the world.

For Gloria Adu, bamboo has brought big changes to her family. “Bamboo has done so much in my life. It has changed me completely. I’m so happy we now have women in the industry in my country.”

Gloria is from Ghana, a country where demand for fuelwood and charcoal accounts for around 70% of annual forest loss. During a training course facilitated by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) in 2001, which she described as an “eye opener”, Gloria learned about several diverse types and uses of bamboo, and was taken on tours to see bamboo plantations, arts and crafts in different parts of China. The training course inspired Gloria to set up her own company. Global Bamboo Products Ltd. makes custom items on demand, and is now beginning to focus on the production of bamboo briquettes and charcoal.

In recent years, the company has gone from strength to strength. It now boasts a 300-hectare bamboo plantation and has won several local and international awards. Gloria has used Global Bamboo Products to teach other people: she estimates the company has trained some 400 people in alternative livelihood activities, and over 10,000 farmers in the cultivation, management, and primary processing of bamboo and bamboo charcoal. Gloria’s company is an example of what women can do with bamboo.

According to Gloria, “Bamboo charcoal is crucial for women.” The grass plant grows locally to many rural communities across the tropics and subtropics, and is often excluded from local forest protection laws. This means it can be harvested legally, within close proximity to a community. Converting bamboo to charcoal requires few set-up costs – some technologies even use converted oil barrels as kilns – and the resulting charcoal burns with little smoke, and has a similar calorific density to other commonly used forms of biomass.

These are not bamboo’s only benefits. Fast-growing, light and easy to process, cultures around the world have used bamboo for millennia as a source of housing, fodder, furniture and tools. Integrating bamboo into farming systems has been shown to improve yields and restore soil health. And products made from bamboo can fetch quite a price: rural households in parts of Africa can earn over US$1,000 a year from cultivating and converting bamboo into charcoal and other products.

Mira and her employees are now the primary breadwinners in their households, thanks to working in the lucrative bamboo incense stick sector. Photo by INBAR

Gloria is one of the many women who know that bamboo changes lives. Mira Das, a bamboo incense stick maker from West Tripura, India, describes a complete transformation in her family’s lifestyle: “Before training in the bamboo sticks business, our family income was meagre, and I had no rest or leave from my domestic support job.”

Following a training course in bamboo incense stick production by INBAR and the Centre for Indian Bamboo Resource and Technology (CIBART), Mira’s family has experienced “a huge increase in household income”, which has given them a sense of financial security. “Now, I have some savings in my account, and we use the additional amount to buy household assets: good clothes, a mobile phone, a gas stove.”

Earning an income from bamboo – often, for the first time – has other, less tangible benefits. According to Mira, running a small enterprise has developed her qualities as a leader – “it’s definitely helped me gain both a sustainable livelihood and more self-confidence.” In 2017, she gave a speech at a Kolkata summit on ‘Transforming Women’s Lives’.

And for Giraben, a bamboo furniture maker in Gujarat, India, the success of her bamboo company has given her “not just income, and but also respect. Now, members from our community and other communities have approached me for my advice on social matters, and my husband and I get invitations to social functions, festivals, cultural events and marriages.”

Encouraging women to use bamboo can go a long way to realising the UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal: achieving gender equality. Using bamboo gives women access to a potentially lucrative economic resource, and can help secure women a place in decision-making in political, economic and public life. Involving women in decisions about land use, forests and tree resources can also help create more sustainable development solutions, which makes it a key part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), in which INBAR is a partner.

At its most successful, the bamboo industry has produced some inspiring international women leaders. Cynthia Villar, another beneficiary of INBAR training, is now a senator in the Philippines and vocal supporter of bamboo’s potential; meanwhile Bernice Dapaah, executive director of Ghana Bamboo Bikes, has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader; and in China, the founder and CEO of bamboo tissue manufacturer Vanov, Shen Genlian, has shown how successful a women-led bamboo enterprise can become.

There are considerable obstacles to upscaling INBAR’s work to empower women to use bamboo. Aside from technology transfer and training, there are often systemic problems and socially entrenched marginalization which make it harder to sustain women-run enterprises. But this has not stopped many of the thousands of women who INBAR has trained.

A woman in a bamboo grove in Madagascar. Photo by Lou Yiping/INBAR

Approaches seeded by INBAR and a range of development partners include a collective of women’s self-help groups in India, which produce higher value-added incense stick products and have created 150,000 jobs, and an initiative in Tanzania that has created 100 bamboo nurseries, the creation of micro-enterprises, and training opportunities for some 1000 people in a specially-created Bamboo Training Center.

INBAR’s training programs also prioritize approaches that play to women’s strengths and skills in the production process – emphasizing design, for instance, which in many traditional societies is the responsibility of female producers, and focusing on technologies and techniques which can be used in the home. And INBAR has conducted research which focuses on structural barriers and drivers of gender change in tree-based and forested landscapes, as part of its partnership with FTA.

With more training, greater awareness, and the development of a vibrant bamboo and rattan economy, INBAR believes these plants can continue to create jobs, and independence, for women across our 44 Member states.


Originally published by INBAR. This article is based on a seminar on ‘Women, bamboo and rattan’ held at the Global Bamboo and Rattan Congress in June 2018, as well as interviews conducted by The Centre for Indian Bamboo Resource and Technology (CIBART) in India.

INBAR is a strategic partner of FTA, the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. FTA’s gender research contributes to the development of tools, approaches, and measures that can support young men and women’s capacities, interests, and opportunities in natural resource management. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

Standing tall: Bamboo from restoration to economic development

A woman stands beside an allanblackia tree, which can provide an edible oil and increase the incomes of farmers. Photo by C. Pye-Smith/ICRAF
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Can grass be used to make tissues, furniture, pipes and even housing? Can it help to improve livelihoods and to mitigate climate change? Think beyond garden lawns and savannah landscapes, to bamboo.

“Bamboos, although they look like trees,” said the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation’s (INBAR) Director General Hans Friederich in opening a recent side event at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Bonn, Germany, “are actually all grass species.”

Bamboo provides a durable building material and strong fiber for paper and textiles without the need to fell trees. Additionally, Friederich explained that as a grass, bamboo grows back quickly after being harvested – making it a highly sustainable product to work with.

Titled Bamboo for restoration and economic development, the discussion addressed how bamboo fits into conversations about land management, land restoration, erosion control and nature-based solutions for development challenges.

“[We need to] make that connection between bamboo as a plant, as a means to hold soil together, to think about climate change mitigation […] and then link that to the market,” he said. “What actually can we do with this bamboo once we plant it?”

“To have a value chain that actually identifies the market opportunities is important,” he added.

Eduardo Mansur, director of land and water at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN) underlined the importance of nature-based solutions, and combining green and grey infrastructure – that is, natural ecosystems with human-engineered solutions.

He described the huge amount of degraded land on the planet, saying: “If we restore this degraded land that exists on the planet […] we will be able to produce the products, the food and the ecosystem services that we need for sustainable livelihoods and sustainable life on the planet.”

“We have seen examples of species-specific conservation,” he said, “when it links with sustainable livelihoods.” Giving the example of the Brazilian Amazon, Mansur described a species of palm that produces an inedible coconut known as “vegetable ivory” for its color and texture. Used to make buttons and handicrafts, it has helped to improve the ecosystems where the palm occurs, he said, because there is a market link.

Such a species can be used to promote sustainable livelihoods and sustainable use, he added, drawing a comparison with the over 1,600 species of bamboo. If a bamboo species is well chosen and well managed, it can have ongoing positive effects, especially for soil restoration.

Read also: Bamboo and rattan: Surprising tools for forest protection

Ye Ling, president and chief engineer at Zhejiang Xinzhou Bamboo-based Composites Technology Co., Ltd, discussed how his company develops products from bamboo on a large scale – such as pressure pipes and modular housing from a bamboo composite – which offer better performance and lower costs and can replace a huge quantity of traditional materials such as cement and steel, thus helping to tackle climate change and contributing to the SDGs.

A woman whittles a piece of bamboo in India. Photo by International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)

He emphasized innovation as the most important factor in product development, saying that without it, other factors such as policy or investment would have nowhere to go.

Trinh Thang Long, coordinator of the Global Assessment of Bamboo and Rattan for green development (GABAR) at INBAR said the organization’s 44 member states had begun to learn specifically from China’s use of bamboo for economic development.

GABAR aims to maximize bamboo and rattan’s contribution to national economic development and environmental protection, to help inform policies, development strategies and opportunities for investment.

Many countries are not yet fully aware of the advantages of bamboo compared to trees, Long explained. He emphasized that the grasses are fast growing, easy to manage, and can be harvested annually after the first four to five years.

INBAR’s member states are contributing to the Bonn Challenge by restoring 5 million hectares of degraded land using bamboo. On a small scale, the work has been successful, but upscaling remains a challenge.

This challenge affects many countries, but a case study in China illustrates the success of scaled-up bamboo. Jiang Jingyan, President of Yong’an Institute of Bamboo Industry, discussed Yong’an, China, and its reputation as a “bamboo city”. Concurring with previous speakers, he also addressed the importance of design and innovation.

Read also: Realizing bamboo and rattan’s full potential: An interview with INBAR Director General Hans Friederich

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Director Vincent Gitz then spoke about land restoration and the key constraints to upscaling, including policies and governance. He gave special attention to the economic aspects of land restoration – costs and benefits, investments and value chains.

“There won’t be any sustainable land restoration if we don’t give the means to increase, over time, the livelihoods of people that live on those lands,” he said.

There is often a time lag between a smallholder making an investment and seeing a return. However, as bamboo grows quickly and is extremely versatile, it is a strong option for restoration in different contexts. “Lots of innovation can come out of this plant,” he added.

Speakers participate in Side Event 4 at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF

An additional step is using bamboo to restore degraded lands while simultaneously creating clean energy, Gitz said, referring to an initiative from Clean Power Indonesia, which FTA is part of, and which is building small-scale bamboo-based energy generation plants in West Sumatra.

Touching further on industrial development, Cai Liang, the chief branding officer of Vanov Bamboo Tissue Enterprise in Sichuan, China, discussed the use of bamboo pulp for paper manufacturing, specifically for tissues. From concept to commitment, the company moved to develop a tissue paper using bamboo, without cutting down a single tree.

After years of experimentation, the company came up with soft, unbleached, antibacterial tissues made from bamboo fiber. Once again highlighting bamboo’s short growth period, constant regeneration and sustainability, Liang described how bamboo could provide the fibers typically taken from multiple types of trees to make paper.

Read also: Study examines bamboo value chains to support industry growth

As well as using the fiber to make the tissues themselves, the company uses waste from the process for energy generation and for fertilizer. The low-emission, closed-loop model uses over 1 million tons of bamboo annually, and offers over 1 million job opportunities for local farmers.

In closing, Friederich underscored this link between restoration and socioeconomics, harking back to Gitz’s presentation.

“If we want to succeed in restoration, we cannot only look at the landscapes – of course we need to look at the landscapes – but we need to look at the people in the landscapes and to connect them with the value chains that can come out of the productive aspects of restoration,” Gitz said.

“We can’t just stay where we are, and I think there are still some great opportunities for making new products from bamboo and looking at new ways of using bamboo within the landscape,” Friederich added.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 


Read more about INBAR’s participation in GLF Bonn 2018, or check out the summary of discussions from the forum.

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  • Workshop on social and gender dynamics aims to improve resilience and livelihoods in Ghana

Workshop on social and gender dynamics aims to improve resilience and livelihoods in Ghana

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Restoration of landscapes in Ghana requires men and women to work together. Photo by Joan Baxter/ICRAF

Raising awareness of gender equity and equality is critical for Africa’s future, with workshops like one held recently in Ghana an important contribution.

Almost two dozen representatives from Ghanaian development agencies working in partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in northern Ghana gathered in the city of Bolgatanga on Nov. 13, 2018 for a training workshop titled Social and Gender Dynamics and their Importance for Improving Resilience and Livelihoods.

The participants expressed a strong interest in learning more about gender equity and equality so that they could integrate the concepts into agricultural and natural resource management. Given the often-sensitive nature of the issues and that male participants outnumbered females at 15 to 11, discussions were at times lively.

A few of the men said they were uneasy with the notions of gender equity and equality, if that meant women would have the ‘same status as men’ or expect their husbands to take on household tasks such as bathing children or cooking, or abruptly challenge traditional and cultural values.

ICRAF gender specialist Ana Maria Paez, who facilitated the workshop, explained that ‘gender equity’ was a ‘process of being fair to women and men’ through strategies and measures that ‘compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field’.

“Gender equity leads to equality,” she told participants, distinguishing it from gender equality, which is a ‘state, an ideal outcome’. “Gender equality refers to equal enjoyment by women, girls, boys and men of opportunities, resources and rewards. A critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances.”

The workshop was hosted by Emilie Smith Dumont, coordinator of the West Africa Forest–Farm Interface (WAFFI) project in Burkina Faso and Ghana. She is also the Ghana focal point for the ambitious, five-year Regreening Africa project funded by the European Union.

The WAFFI project is led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with ICRAF and Tree Aid with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development. 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.

Workshop participant work on a drawing of an ‘ideal man’. Photo by Emilie Smith Dumont/ICRAF

Regreening Africa 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.

“Our purpose was to bring people together to find ways to fully integrate and promote gender issues and transformation into projects,” said Smith Dumont. “The context is land restoration at the forest–farm interface because there is a very strong gendered role around trees in landscapes.

“This kind of collaboration is extremely important for improving livelihoods: we know that trees contribute greatly to livelihoods. We have found from our work that family cohesion increases resilience of households and that all goes back to more balanced gender relations.”

Among other themes, participants engaged in extensive, and often intensive, discussions about the difference between gender, which is a social construct, and sex, which pertains to physical characteristics, as well as on processes of gender transformation and, thus, societal change.

One of the more colorful sessions involved male participants drawing and describing what they would consider the ‘ideal woman’ and female participants doing the same for an ‘ideal man’. This led to animated discussions, closely analyzing some of the stereotypes of men and women revealed by the drawings.

But the over-arching theme of the workshop and the key messages that emerged had most to do with analyses of gender in agriculture, including divisions of labour, access to, and control of, resources and their benefits, based on findings from WAFFI.

The discussion revealed how gender influences many aspects of the management of farms, households, trees and forests in communities.

Participants also looked at specific issues that were particularly relevant for their project work in northern Ghana, including tree management and landscape restoration, soil and water conservation, and ways to ensure equitable representation of men and women in project planning, implementation and monitoring.

They also examined how gender awareness is, or is not, already integrated into their activities in community forestry, value chains and market access, local governance, and agricultural productivity.

A woman views a gulley on her farm in Mwingi, Kenya. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

From the discussions, they distilled some tangible ways to be more responsive to gender issues in their activities.

For community forestry, participants proposed several actions. First, bush fires are an annual and serious problem in northern Ghana. More sensitization and training should be undertaken with women to empower them to prevent, control and manage burning. Second, policies are needed to grant access to land and natural resources to women, starting at the community level.

For local governance, instead of inviting chiefs, heads of departments or their representatives to public meetings and paying no attention to how many of these were male or female, women’s groups should be expressly invited.

For agricultural productivity, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture needs to train more female agricultural extension officers to ensure that there are enough appropriate staff to provide female farmers with the advice they need, noting that when new technologies are passed on to farmers, women tend to follow protocols more diligently than their male counterparts. Second, the ministry should ensure that when demonstration plots are set up in a district at least one should be managed by a woman; and ensure women had access to farm inputs, such as high-quality germplasm and, indeed, also become leaders in the field.

For access to market and value chains, the workshop proposed that women’s production and processing groups need help to build their sustainability through village savings and loans groups, which would allow them to mobilize funds to invest in labour-saving technologies, such as threshers. Second, women should be encouraged to take up leadership roles in community-based organizations.

By Joan Baxter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


Partners supporting the gender workshop included CIFOR, Catholic Relief Services, Economics of Land Degradation, the European Union, Tree Aid 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.

Produced by World Agroforestry Centre as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Workshop on social and gender dynamics aims to improve resilience and livelihoods in Ghana

Workshop on social and gender dynamics aims to improve resilience and livelihoods in Ghana

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Restoration of landscapes in Ghana requires men and women to work together. Photo by Joan Baxter/ICRAF

Raising awareness of gender equity and equality is critical for Africa’s future, with workshops like one held recently in Ghana an important contribution.

Almost two dozen representatives from Ghanaian development agencies working in partnership with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in northern Ghana gathered in the city of Bolgatanga on Nov. 13, 2018 for a training workshop titled Social and Gender Dynamics and their Importance for Improving Resilience and Livelihoods.

The participants expressed a strong interest in learning more about gender equity and equality so that they could integrate the concepts into agricultural and natural resource management. Given the often-sensitive nature of the issues and that male participants outnumbered females at 15 to 11, discussions were at times lively.

A few of the men said they were uneasy with the notions of gender equity and equality, if that meant women would have the ‘same status as men’ or expect their husbands to take on household tasks such as bathing children or cooking, or abruptly challenge traditional and cultural values.

ICRAF gender specialist Ana Maria Paez, who facilitated the workshop, explained that ‘gender equity’ was a ‘process of being fair to women and men’ through strategies and measures that ‘compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field’.

“Gender equity leads to equality,” she told participants, distinguishing it from gender equality, which is a ‘state, an ideal outcome’. “Gender equality refers to equal enjoyment by women, girls, boys and men of opportunities, resources and rewards. A critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances.”

The workshop was hosted by Emilie Smith Dumont, coordinator of the West Africa Forest–Farm Interface (WAFFI) project in Burkina Faso and Ghana. She is also the Ghana focal point for the ambitious, five-year Regreening Africa project funded by the European Union.

The WAFFI project is led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with ICRAF and Tree Aid with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development. 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.

Workshop participant work on a drawing of an ‘ideal man’. Photo by Emilie Smith Dumont/ICRAF

Regreening Africa 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.

“Our purpose was to bring people together to find ways to fully integrate and promote gender issues and transformation into projects,” said Smith Dumont. “The context is land restoration at the forest–farm interface because there is a very strong gendered role around trees in landscapes.

“This kind of collaboration is extremely important for improving livelihoods: we know that trees contribute greatly to livelihoods. We have found from our work that family cohesion increases resilience of households and that all goes back to more balanced gender relations.”

Among other themes, participants engaged in extensive, and often intensive, discussions about the difference between gender, which is a social construct, and sex, which pertains to physical characteristics, as well as on processes of gender transformation and, thus, societal change.

One of the more colorful sessions involved male participants drawing and describing what they would consider the ‘ideal woman’ and female participants doing the same for an ‘ideal man’. This led to animated discussions, closely analyzing some of the stereotypes of men and women revealed by the drawings.

But the over-arching theme of the workshop and the key messages that emerged had most to do with analyses of gender in agriculture, including divisions of labour, access to, and control of, resources and their benefits, based on findings from WAFFI.

The discussion revealed how gender influences many aspects of the management of farms, households, trees and forests in communities.

Participants also looked at specific issues that were particularly relevant for their project work in northern Ghana, including tree management and landscape restoration, soil and water conservation, and ways to ensure equitable representation of men and women in project planning, implementation and monitoring.

They also examined how gender awareness is, or is not, already integrated into their activities in community forestry, value chains and market access, local governance, and agricultural productivity.

A woman views a gulley on her farm in Mwingi, Kenya. Photo by Ake Mamo/ICRAF

From the discussions, they distilled some tangible ways to be more responsive to gender issues in their activities.

For community forestry, participants proposed several actions. First, bush fires are an annual and serious problem in northern Ghana. More sensitization and training should be undertaken with women to empower them to prevent, control and manage burning. Second, policies are needed to grant access to land and natural resources to women, starting at the community level.

For local governance, instead of inviting chiefs, heads of departments or their representatives to public meetings and paying no attention to how many of these were male or female, women’s groups should be expressly invited.

For agricultural productivity, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture needs to train more female agricultural extension officers to ensure that there are enough appropriate staff to provide female farmers with the advice they need, noting that when new technologies are passed on to farmers, women tend to follow protocols more diligently than their male counterparts. Second, the ministry should ensure that when demonstration plots are set up in a district at least one should be managed by a woman; and ensure women had access to farm inputs, such as high-quality germplasm and, indeed, also become leaders in the field.

For access to market and value chains, the workshop proposed that women’s production and processing groups need help to build their sustainability through village savings and loans groups, which would allow them to mobilize funds to invest in labour-saving technologies, such as threshers. Second, women should be encouraged to take up leadership roles in community-based organizations.

By Joan Baxter, originally published at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World


Partners supporting the gender workshop included CIFOR, Catholic Relief Services, Economics of Land Degradation, the European Union, Tree Aid 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.

Produced by World Agroforestry Centre as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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  • Honey industry enhances sustainable peatland management in Indonesia

Honey industry enhances sustainable peatland management in Indonesia

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Bees are transforming the livelihoods of residents in the Indonesian province of Riau where honey production is on the rise.

Indonesia is intensifying efforts to ban the use of fire to clear land as part of broader efforts to conserve peatland areas through its Ministry of Environment and Forestry in collaboration with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), which is the lead center of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

A project known as “Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods” aims to empower local communities in nine villages across three districts in Riau province through retraining.

Researchers are exploring the potential for new livelihood options in the villages, providing capacity building to support local people. Information gathered will be funneled into the Sustainable Management of Peatland Ecosystem in Indonesia project, led by the ministry.

Read also: Peatlands: From marginal lands to essential ecosystem

Honey production already plays a significant role in the local economy, according to a study conducted between 2016 and 2018 in the districts of Pelalawan, Indragiri Hulu and Indragiri Hilir in Riau, where many people regularly gather wild honey from sialang trees (Koompassia excels).

“We can get 1.2 tons of honey from a hundred nests on one tree that we can sell at IDR 75,000 [$5] per kilogram,” said Fahrudin, head of Teluk Kabung village in Indragiri Hilir district.

A man creates smoke in order to harvest organic honey in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Lucy McHugh/CIFOR

Honey gatherers, who export most of their product to Malaysia, earn approximately IDR 90 million from each harvest.  However, potential is limited because only some people are willing and able to climb the 50-meter trees.

Experts from the Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods project provide training on how to harvest safely and effectively. Those who are keen are also trained to develop honey-bee farms, using a stingless bee species, Trigona, which is native to the peatlands in Riau.

“A lot more people can benefit from it since they can develop honey bee farms in the backyard,” said Dede Rohadi, project leader and a scientist affiliated with Indonesia’s Forestry and Environmental Research Development and Innovation Agency (FOERDIA) and CIFOR.

Read also: Hanging in the balance: Preservation, restoration and sustainable management in Indonesian peatlands

The Haze Free Sustainable Livelihoods project is also training community members to generate income from several other local industries. In Teluk Meranti in Pelalawan district, fisheries and tourism industries are being developed.

The tidal bore in the Kampar River, as an attraction for the international surfing community, is helping to expand tourism jobs. Fish swept in on the tidal bore flood into the waterways in local villages, offering the potential to improve livelihoods through fish processing and sales.

In addition to the Haze-Free Sustainable Livelihoods project, CIFOR is leading a Community-based Fire Prevention and Peatland Restoration project with Riau University, which involves local governments, communities and the private sector.

“The residents are willing to switch gears if there are better options to support their livelihood,” said Herry Purnomo, the CIFOR scientist who is leading the project.

By Anggrita Cahyaningtyas, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


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

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  • Multiple actors need to perform together on governing sustainable palm oil in Indonesia

Multiple actors need to perform together on governing sustainable palm oil in Indonesia

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Key players are seeing a moratorium on new oil palm concession permits in Indonesia as a significant step forward in improving governance in the sector.

During the three-year freeze, following Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s recent signing of the moratorium, the government will undertake a comprehensive nationwide review of oil palm licenses and develop efforts to enhance productivity – particularly for smallholders.

However, it remains to be seen whether the existing palm oil supply can be sustainable, and whether negative impacts on the environment can be reduced while the performance of smallholders linked to palm oil supply chains – who depend on the commodity for their livelihoods – is also improved.

Oil palms edge the forest in Sentabai, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR

Research conducted at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) led by senior associate Pablo Pacheco is examining how public regulations and private standards can address major performance gaps affecting the palm oil sector. The study was focused on the world’s largest palm oil producer, Indonesia.

“We looked at how the current policy regime complex can address three major gaps, specifically land conflicts and yield differences between companies and smallholders and carbon emissions arising from deforestation and peatland conversion,” Pacheco said.

“We identified opportunities for more effective governance of the palm oil value chain and supply landscapes by analyzing disconnects, complementarities and antagonisms between public regulations and private standards across global, national and subnational levels,” he added.

The scientists concluded that greater complementarities have emerged among transnational mechanisms, but found also that disconnects persist and antagonisms prevail between national state regulations and transnational private standards.

To improve the sector’s governance and address performance gaps, there is a need to overcome these disconnects and take steps to reconcile the antagonisms.

“The solutions for addressing the performance gaps need to be looked at in an integrated way and through adopting a multi-level approach,” Pacheco said. “In addition, the solutions have to involve both public regulations and private initiatives and efforts.”

Read also: Implementing sustainability commitments for palm oil in Indonesia: Governance arrangements of sustainability initiatives involving public and private actors

Oil palm fruit is numbered after harvesting. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

GROWING SECTOR, GROWING ISSUES

Palm oil is used in thousands of products from food to cosmetics, cleaning products and biodiesel. This has created a growing global demand for the golden liquid.

“There is not a single sector that has grown as rapidly as palm oil,” Pacheco said. “However, these unresolved performance issues continue to follow this expansion.”

One of the key issues is the land used to grow oil palm. Land conflicts are difficult to solve and despite efforts to formalize tenure rights, encroachment on public lands continues to grow. Smallholders often rely on informal transactions to access land.

Smallholders produce around 40 percent of Indonesia’s oil palm, but yields are still less than they could be due to limited access to finance and services.

“Smallholders are unable to adopt best management practices and the use of substandard planting material remains widespread,” said Pacheco.

Reducing carbon emissions in the oil palm sector has been hampered by current regulations that allow the use of forested or high carbon stock areas for plantations, combined with poor use of degraded and less productive areas.

“Many companies prefer to establish their plantations in peatlands and forestland because of the reduced likelihood of land conflicts and the potential to cover the cost of establishing a plantation by selling timber cleared for these plantations,” Pacheco said.

“The result has been a significant carbon debt,” he added.

Read also: The long and winding road to sustainable palm oil

MIND THE GAPS

In an effort to overcome the palm oil sector’s performance gaps, a very complex governance architecture has emerged that brings together governments and the private sector, as well as multistakeholder platforms.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is perhaps the best-known sustainability standard, and has been embraced by European Union-related sustainability initiatives. This is the most relevant complementarity which has helped to reach some agreed sustainability criteria.

Yet Indonesia and Malaysia have also devised their own sustainability standards – known as ISPO and MSPO – to counteract the influence of external players. Despite efforts to strengthen these mandatory standards, the scientists say it remains to be seen whether they are going to support zero-deforestation commitments embraced by main corporate groups.

Additionally, they say that greater impact could likely be achieved by building a process to harmonize the RSPO with these national standards.

Read also: Governing sustainable palm oil supply: Disconnects, complementarities, and antagonisms between state regulations and private standards

A woman fertilizes soil in an oil palm plantation. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

FOLLOW THE DISCONNECTS

Pacheco says for the palm oil sector to improve its performance, it is crucial to look at the implications and opportunities associated with the national fiscal incentives system, including those related to the use of the crude CPO Fund.

“For example, these funds should more actively link incentives for companies engaging in biodiesel supply with purchases from smallholders on condition they adhere to sustainability criteria,” he said, adding that this approach would help improve the environmental performance of smallholders while supporting the sustainable supply of palm oil for the domestic biodiesel market.

Another major disconnect is related to the fact that land regularization initiatives do not necessarily go hand-by-hand with those aiming at support sustainable palm oil supply, and improve the wellbeing of smallholders. This is a major bottleneck to overcome.

“Government efforts to implement agrarian reform along with social forestry to benefit local communities have not been fully effective in resolving these issues,” said Heru Komarudin, a researcher with CIFOR.

Another disconnect is linked to land use regulations. More and more buyers are looking for No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) – suppliers, but critics say that although companies may have the policy in place, they do not always put those policies into action.

In some cases, laws and regulations do not support companies that opt to conserve areas with high carbon stock or high conservation value, Komarudin said.

“These areas are often seen as unused lands and are at risk of being taken over by the government, and used for new plantations, instead of being protected from local people who may try to encroach on these areas,” he added.

More and more local governments are also adopting policies to protect high conservation value forests, and governments have started to adopt essential ecosystem area principles although no legally-binding rules are in place yet.

MOVING FORWARD

The researchers note that different “experimentalist approaches” are emerging that address disconnects and antagonisms, while further exploiting existing complementarities.

These approaches are increasingly orchestrated by provincial level governors and facilitated by non-governmental organizations, which often tend to operate as intermediaries.

“There’s no silver bullet, no single solution. It’s clear we need an integrated approach to effectively govern the palm oil sector, one where all actors play key roles,” Pacheco said.

 

By Suzanna Dayne, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.

For more information on this topic, please contact Pablo Pacheco at [email protected] or Heru Komarudin at [email protected].


This research is supported by the United States Agency for International Development and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

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

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  • Improving livelihoods, equity and forests through sustainable management of NTFPs

Improving livelihoods, equity and forests through sustainable management of NTFPs

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Drying the rinds of Garcinia indica, an NTFP prized in the pharmaceutical industry for its weight loss properties. Photo by E. Hermanowicz/Bioversity International

An estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide live in and around forests, and depend on them for their livelihoods. However, forest degradation and deforestation are accelerating, and endangering local livelihoods.

The careful management and conservation of biodiversity are fundamental for sustaining ecosystems and livelihoods but are increasingly difficult to achieve in contexts of persistent poverty, a growing international demand for timber and non-timber forest products (NTFP), and climate change.

Moreover, at the local level, decision-making power on management of forests and forest products, and the sharing of related costs and benefits are often inequitably distributed across groups, marginalizing people based on gender, caste, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other factors of social differentiation.

A new publication, Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management, offers field-tested strategies and good practices on how to pursue the multiple goals of gender equality and social inclusion, environmental integrity, and livelihoods improvement through the sustainable use and management of non-timber forest products.

To address some of these challenges, many countries have adopted community-based or joint forest management approaches. It is increasingly recognized that gender equity and social inclusion are key components of effective and efficient forest management approaches, as well as a goal. Yet, they are also a complex challenge with deep-seated causes and effects, including poor governance, corruption, and lack of tangible and equally distributed benefits, all of which hinder sound forest management.

In their new publication, Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management, Bioversity International scientists Riina Jalonen, Hugo Lamers, and Marlène Elias draw from their experience in two Indian districts – Mandla, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and Uttara Kannada, in the state of Karnataka – to provide guidance on how to pursue the triple goals of gender equality and social inclusion, environmental integrity, and improved livelihoods through the sustainable use and management of NTFPs.

NTFPs are of foremost importance for rural communities living in or near forests. For example, the flower of the mahua tree (Madhuca longifolia), which is used to make a local alcohol or as an alternative to coffee in the Mandla district, or the rind of the kokum fruit (Garcinia gummi-guta) found in Uttara Kannada district, which is valued for its weight loss properties in the international pharmaceutical industry, bring important income to local households. Other NTFPs, like mangoes in the Uttara Kannada district, also play an integral role for home consumption and are important for the local food culture.

Read more: Bioversity International’s research on the sustainable use of forest diversity

A woman uses a stick to harvest an NTFP in Karnataka, India. Photo by E. Hermanowicz/Bioversity International

The set of six good practice guidelines address some of these issues through a focus on:

  1. Promoting collective sales of NTFPs
  2. Fostering gender equity and inclusion in joint forest management
  3. Achieving income generation and forest regeneration through the collection of ripe fruit
  4. Avoiding tree damage as a result of the collection of NTFPs
  5. Effective monitoring of forests to improve management
  6. Restoring degraded forest landscapes through planting of valuable trees.

For example, the guideline on gender equity and social inclusion in joint forest management (JFM) details how women’s participation can improve the efficiency of JFM and lead to more gender-equal outcomes. Yet, women face time, mobility, and information constraints, as well as norms that discriminate against them in public decision-making spaces. These have to be addressed to allow them to participate meaningfully in JFM, and to make their voices heard in decision-making.

Additional constraints can be found at the intersection of gender, age, and ethnicity or caste. In the study districts, participating in JFM meetings is considered a “man’s role”, and women often feel out of place there. They are not encouraged to express their opinions, despite the fact that they have a rich knowledge of the forest. This is especially the case for women from marginalized castes or tribes, who are most dependent on, and knowledgeable about, the forest, but also most discriminated against.

The guidelines propose strategies to promote women’s participation in JFM, such as scheduling meetings at times and in places convenient for women, creating women-only spaces where women can speak their minds freely to then have their opinions brought to the JFM table, improving the flows of information towards local women.

The practical strategies proposed in the guidelines can be used by facilitators working with communities to improve their livelihoods through the sustainable and equitable use and management of NTFPs. Practitioners can use the guidelines to design and conduct community meetings that can help participants identify practices that are fitting for their context. Questions are presented in the guidelines as the basis for group discussions, which can foster participants to find and implement collective solutions to improve the state of their forests and their livelihoods.

Read also: Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-timber Forest Product Management

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

For more information, contact [email protected]


The Guidelines for Equitable and Sustainable Non-Timber Forest Product Management were developed as part of the project ‘Innovations in Ecosystem Management and Conservation (IEMaC)’, supported by USAID India Mission, and are part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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

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

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An estimated 1.6 billion people depend in part or in full on forests and trees outside forests for their livelihoods. Yet, there are important inequities in the distribution of the benefits forests, trees, and agroforests yield to local people. Gender relations and norms, as fundamental organizing structures across cultures and societies, contribute to shaping the opportunities and constraints of women and men in these (agro)forests, and their ability to benefit from, and contribute to, positive development and environmental change processes. Drawing on data from Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan, this report focuses on how gender norms and agency shape innovation processes in forest, tree, and agroforestry landscapes. The capacity to creatively adapt and innovate to build resilience through natural resource-based livelihood practices is unevenly distributed amongst men, women and young people within communities, and may be constrained by shrinking opportunities in the context of wider structural economic and environmental changes. This aim of this report is to provide a better understanding of how men and women might be supported in exercising their agency in pursuing livelihood goals, independently or with others, in the context of rapidly transforming forest and tree-based landscapes.

The case studies reported here form part of ‘GENNOVATE: Enabling gender equality through agricultural and environmental innovation’; a qualitative comparative research initiative engaging 11 of the Phase I CGIAR Research Programs to examine the gender dimensions of innovations – new agricultural and natural resource management technologies, institutions, and practices. Despite significant historical, socio-political and environmental differences, the five case studies in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, and the case from southwest Kyrgyzstan exhibit pronounced and rapid changes in the relationship between people and forests. Both country contexts are marked by shifts in the relationship between rural and urban livelihood opportunities, forest livelihoods increasingly linked to migration and remittances, and commodification processes intensifying people’s integration into tree-based value chains. In the Indonesia cases, recent transformation is being driven by large scale commercial oil palm investment, which is bringing new wage work opportunities, whilst displacing other forms of livelihoods and resource access. In Kyrgyzstan, integration into the market economy and changing forest tenure regimes are resulting in new opportunities and challenges for different groups of forest dwellers.

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  • Applied Mycology Can Contribute to Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: Building upon China's Matsutake Management Initiatives

Applied Mycology Can Contribute to Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: Building upon China’s Matsutake Management Initiatives

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Matsutake mushrooms are an important part of rural livelihoods and forest ecosystems across large parts of China, as well as elsewhere in East Asia, Northern Europe and North America. Mushroom harvesters have developed sophisticated understandings of matsutake ecology and production, and are applying this knowledge in various innovative management strategies. At the same time, Chinese government agencies and scientists are promoting matsutake-based livelihoods to support development and conservation goals. We collanorated with matsutake harvesters in one Yunnan community to carry out a systematic experiment on a popular shiro-level management technique: covering matsutake shiros with either plastic or leaf litter. Our experimental results suggest that although leaf litter coverings are superior to plastic coverings, shiros that are left uncovered may produce the highest yields. Complementing our experimental work is a multi-sited household survey of existing matsutake management practices across Yunnan, which shows that a high proportion of harvesters are already engaged in a broad range of potentially beneficial management strategies. Though both findings highlight limitations of previous initiatives led by government and research actors in China, this existing body of work is an important foundation and opportunity for developing applied mycology in the region. In and beyond China, working with communities to develop site-specific management strategies through rigorous and participanory scientific inquiry can provide salient benefits for both scientists and resource users.

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  • Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters

Secrets of the Mutis Honey Hunters

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In the Mount Mutis valley in West Timor, Indonesia, there lives a people with a tradition of hunting. They do not hunt deer or wild boar, but honey. As a non-timber forest product, Mount Mutis honey provides supplementary income for its harvesters’ livelihoods. And because honey production relies on a healthy forest environment, there is an extra economic incentive to ensure protection of the ecosystem it depends on.

Originally published by CIFOR.


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