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  • A guide to investing in collectively held resources

A guide to investing in collectively held resources

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Impact investors typically finance businesses that seek to challenge the status quo, valuing environmental and social outcomes to deliver more sustainable returns on investment. Microfinance institutions such as Grameen and FINCA lead the way in financing poor and marginalized groups. Now, however, increasing attention is being given to help investors respect land rights and form equitable partnerships with communities living in rural areas. Communities are increasingly being given rights to manage the world¹s remaining common pool resources (CPR) – such as forests, pastures and fisheries – as common property. As such, investors interested in accessing and developing these resources have the opportunity to work with a new investment partner, the community user group (CUG). This guide is designed to help investors better understand the challenges and opportunities of investing in resources managed collectively by a community – where the community is the principal investment partner! In this guide we draw on examples and lessons learned from four case-study countries considered to have the most successful arrangements for collectively managing natural resources. The case countries are Guatemala, Mexico and Nepal, which have devolved forest rights to communities, and Namibia, which has devolved wildlife rights.

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  • Gendered aspirations and occupations among rural youth, in agriculture and beyond: A cross-regional perspective

Gendered aspirations and occupations among rural youth, in agriculture and beyond: A cross-regional perspective

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Based on 25 case studies from the global comparative study ‘GENNOVATE: Enabling gender equality in agricultural and environmental innovation’, this paper explores rural young women’s and men’s occupational aspirations and trajectories in India, Mali, Malawi, Morocco, Mexico, Nigeria, and the Philippines. We draw upon qualitative data from 50 sex-segregated focus groups with the youth to show that across the study’s regional contexts, young rural women and men predominantly aspire for formal blue and white-collar jobs. Yet, they experience an aspiration- achievement gap, as the promise of their education for securing the formal employment they seek is unfulfilled, and they continue to farm in their family’s production. Whereas some young men aspired to engage in knowledge-intensive or ‘modern’ agriculture, young women did not express any such interest. Framing our analysis within a relational approach, we contend that various gender norms that discriminate against women in agriculture dissuade young women from aspiring for agriculture-related occupation. We discuss the gendered opportunity spaces of the study sites, the meanings these hold for allowing young women and men to achieve their aspirations and catalyze agricultural innovation, and implications for agricultural policies and research for development. Our findings show that youth and gender issues are inextricably intertwined and cannot be understood in isolation one from the other.

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The government supports gum collection from acacia trees as a source of income for Ethiopians. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

The Ethiopian government has a big dream: restoring 22 million hectares of degraded lands and forests by 2030. 

By doing so, the country aims not only to increase tree cover and restore degraded forests, but also to significantly enhance the forestry sector’s contribution to agricultural production systems, water and energy; to improve food and nutritional security; and to create more opportunities for employment and household income.

It is a bold and laudable pledge, made as part of the 2011 Bonn Challenge and the 2014 New York Climate Summit’s goal of restoring 350 million hectares worldwide by 2030. But what’s the best way to make it a reality?

With some 80% of Ethiopians living in rural areas, one approach is to pour resources into forest protection, rehabilitation and conservation by enlisting smallholder farmer labor for the cause mainly through food or cash for work programs. Until now, that has been the predominant method of action of projects supported by development partners. Meanwhile, the government’s approach has been to increase awareness of smallholders on the need to responsibly manage land and other natural resources and systematically mobilize these rural communities to provide free labor for landscape restoration tasks through annual soil and water conservation work and tree planting campaigns.

But either way, restoration must also create socioeconomic incentives for this massive population that depends on these landscapes for their livelihoods. There is a growing recognition that communities should be able to reap more economic benefits and have better control over the land they are restoring – both within restoration processes, and in general after the land has been restored.

To this end, a new forest law was enacted in January this year that is a significant step in the right direction, says Habtemariam Kassa, Team Leader of Forests and Human Well-being Research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who supported efforts of the ministry in the process of revising the national forest law. The 2018 National Forest Law – a revised version of the 2007 forest law – now clearly recognizes the rights of communities and acknowledges their role in managing natural forests and establishing plantations, without unduly compromising ecological services or biodiversity.

Ato Kebede Yimam, State Minister of the Forestry Sector, says the new law contains the following three key changes:

  • Recognizing participatory forest management as a vehicle to enhance the role of communities in sharing responsibilities and benefits of managing natural forests in accordance with agreed-upon management plans;
  • Providing incentives for private forest developers through mechanisms such as lease-free land, better access to land use and forest ownership certificates, and tax holiday until and including the first harvest (for private investors and associations) and the second harvest (for communities); and
  • Putting severe penalties on those who expand farming into forests; tamper with forest boundaries; or set fires, harm endangered species, settle, or hunt or graze animals in state, communal, association or private forests.
Depending on the definition of ‘forest’ used, forests cover between 5% and 15% of Ethiopia’s area. Photo my M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Yimam says his ministry has been working to socialize the new law since it was enacted in January 2018. The revisions were based on inputs from policy- and decision-makers at a range of levels, as well as CIFOR scientists – which, Yimam says, make the law an impressive example of science and politics coming together for the betterment of a landscape.

“The law, recognizing the need to strengthen the role of the state in protecting biodiversity rich forests with global and national significance, has identified reserved forests where access is strictly limited,” says Yimam. “On the other hand, the law intends to promote the socioeconomic contribution of forests to the surrounding communities and to local and national economies.

“It is designed to significantly enhance the involvement and ownership of communities and associations in the establishment of plantation forests, in the restoration of degraded forests, and in responsible management and sustainable use of natural forests.”

CHANGE OF SCENERY

According to Kassa, a key shift in the new law is its recognition of the need to maximize socioeconomic benefits of all forest types to the surrounding communities. In the past, when communities managed natural forests under participatory forest management paradigms, “the only thing that they could use were non-timber forest products [NTFP], because most experts considered that cutting [down] indigenous trees was a forbidden act,” Kassa describes. So, the economic returns for managing forests were not really worth communities’ efforts. As such, “we recommended that the law allow a certain level of timber harvesting in natural forests based on forest management plan to be developed,” he says.

To some senior foresters invited to discuss the law in draft phases, this sounded undesirable and even dangerous: “There was a certain group who were really against some of these changes, because they thought that it would open up all natural forests for individuals and communities,” says Kassa. So a new article was created, whereby forests of significant biodiversity are demarcated, and treated as ‘no-go zones.’ “This also places responsibility on the state for protecting biodiversity-rich forests, which wasn’t so obvious before,” he says. 

The 2007 law only made mention of state and private forests. This meant that all restored forest land was treated as state property, so even after decades of restoration effort by a given community, the state could reallocate the land to other users. This tenure uncertainty demotivated communities to invest in forest landscape restoration. Since they didn’t clearly stand to benefit from landscape restoration and tree-planting, there was little incentive for them to take care of state-owned lands.

The new law, in contrast, grants rights of communities to manage and benefit from forests “very explicitly,” says Yimam. It does so by recognizing four categories of forest – state, private, community and association – thereby opening up new avenues for involvement and ownership. “So where you have degraded forest, the community can organize themselves, and with the approval of the relevant authority, can have all the responsibility of managing that forest as a community forest,” he explains.

“When you have groups of women or unemployed people, you can organize them to establish plantations on degraded hillsides, or even reforest and manage degraded forest, and this can be recognized as an association forest. Communities can then also stand to benefit financially from the carbon credits available for reforestation and forest preservation.”

REVISION TO REALITY

These new developments were hard-won. Kassa and his colleagues at CIFOR attempted to contribute similar content to the law’s predecessor in 2007, but then, forestry issues fell under the Ministry of Agriculture’s jurisdiction, and the sector was not getting the political attention it deserved. “We felt we were not really being listened to,” recounts Kassa.

When the Ministry of Environment and Forests (now the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) was established in 2013, CIFOR staff and other national researchers pushed hard for it to confront and address the limitations of the 2007 law, advocating that forest sector development could bring a host of economic benefits as well as help the country attain its national and international restoration commitments. The ministry listened, set up a committee to work with the scientists, and revised the law according to their technical feedback.

However, putting a law to work is always a challenge. Kassa says the ministry and relevant regional authorities will need significant support to translate the law into concrete actions on the ground. One issue is expertise. The focus of forestry training has thus far been on enhancing the protection function of forests rather than the livelihoods of forest dependent communities, says Kassa, and now leaders and experts in forestry will need new knowledge and skills.

What’s more, “Ethiopia is a federal state, and the various regional governments have been forming different institutional arrangements to manage the forestry sector”, says Yimam. “We need to develop the understanding that the regions can produce their own guidelines to clarify and specify certain articles, but all these cannot go beyond or against the national forest law.”

Both Yimam and Kassa are hopeful that rural communities and forests throughout the country will soon experience the benefits of the new law’s possibilities. “Ethiopia’s 2018 National Forest Law is a really progressive law, and if it is implemented properly it is going to make a big difference” says Yimam.

“The next step is to support the efforts of the Ethiopian government as it attempts to put in place appropriate structures at different levels, redefine the roles of experts and build their capacity to actualize the rights of communities and other forest managers provided by the law,” concludes Kassa.

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.  

For more information on this topic, please contact Habtemariam Kassa at [email protected].


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

This research was supported by the Strategic Climate Institutions Program (SCIP). SCIP is financed by the Governments of UK, Norway and Denmark.

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  • New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

New legislation advances community rights in forest management in Ethiopia

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The government supports gum collection from acacia trees as a source of income for Ethiopians. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

The Ethiopian government has a big dream: restoring 22 million hectares of degraded lands and forests by 2030. 

By doing so, the country aims not only to increase tree cover and restore degraded forests, but also to significantly enhance the forestry sector’s contribution to agricultural production systems, water and energy; to improve food and nutritional security; and to create more opportunities for employment and household income.

It is a bold and laudable pledge, made as part of the 2011 Bonn Challenge and the 2014 New York Climate Summit’s goal of restoring 350 million hectares worldwide by 2030. But what’s the best way to make it a reality?

With some 80% of Ethiopians living in rural areas, one approach is to pour resources into forest protection, rehabilitation and conservation by enlisting smallholder farmer labor for the cause mainly through food or cash for work programs. Until now, that has been the predominant method of action of projects supported by development partners. Meanwhile, the government’s approach has been to increase awareness of smallholders on the need to responsibly manage land and other natural resources and systematically mobilize these rural communities to provide free labor for landscape restoration tasks through annual soil and water conservation work and tree planting campaigns.

But either way, restoration must also create socioeconomic incentives for this massive population that depends on these landscapes for their livelihoods. There is a growing recognition that communities should be able to reap more economic benefits and have better control over the land they are restoring – both within restoration processes, and in general after the land has been restored.

To this end, a new forest law was enacted in January this year that is a significant step in the right direction, says Habtemariam Kassa, Team Leader of Forests and Human Well-being Research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) who supported efforts of the ministry in the process of revising the national forest law. The 2018 National Forest Law – a revised version of the 2007 forest law – now clearly recognizes the rights of communities and acknowledges their role in managing natural forests and establishing plantations, without unduly compromising ecological services or biodiversity.

Ato Kebede Yimam, State Minister of the Forestry Sector, says the new law contains the following three key changes:

  • Recognizing participatory forest management as a vehicle to enhance the role of communities in sharing responsibilities and benefits of managing natural forests in accordance with agreed-upon management plans;
  • Providing incentives for private forest developers through mechanisms such as lease-free land, better access to land use and forest ownership certificates, and tax holiday until and including the first harvest (for private investors and associations) and the second harvest (for communities); and
  • Putting severe penalties on those who expand farming into forests; tamper with forest boundaries; or set fires, harm endangered species, settle, or hunt or graze animals in state, communal, association or private forests.
Depending on the definition of ‘forest’ used, forests cover between 5% and 15% of Ethiopia’s area. Photo my M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Yimam says his ministry has been working to socialize the new law since it was enacted in January 2018. The revisions were based on inputs from policy- and decision-makers at a range of levels, as well as CIFOR scientists – which, Yimam says, make the law an impressive example of science and politics coming together for the betterment of a landscape.

“The law, recognizing the need to strengthen the role of the state in protecting biodiversity rich forests with global and national significance, has identified reserved forests where access is strictly limited,” says Yimam. “On the other hand, the law intends to promote the socioeconomic contribution of forests to the surrounding communities and to local and national economies.

“It is designed to significantly enhance the involvement and ownership of communities and associations in the establishment of plantation forests, in the restoration of degraded forests, and in responsible management and sustainable use of natural forests.”

CHANGE OF SCENERY

According to Kassa, a key shift in the new law is its recognition of the need to maximize socioeconomic benefits of all forest types to the surrounding communities. In the past, when communities managed natural forests under participatory forest management paradigms, “the only thing that they could use were non-timber forest products [NTFP], because most experts considered that cutting [down] indigenous trees was a forbidden act,” Kassa describes. So, the economic returns for managing forests were not really worth communities’ efforts. As such, “we recommended that the law allow a certain level of timber harvesting in natural forests based on forest management plan to be developed,” he says.

To some senior foresters invited to discuss the law in draft phases, this sounded undesirable and even dangerous: “There was a certain group who were really against some of these changes, because they thought that it would open up all natural forests for individuals and communities,” says Kassa. So a new article was created, whereby forests of significant biodiversity are demarcated, and treated as ‘no-go zones.’ “This also places responsibility on the state for protecting biodiversity-rich forests, which wasn’t so obvious before,” he says. 

The 2007 law only made mention of state and private forests. This meant that all restored forest land was treated as state property, so even after decades of restoration effort by a given community, the state could reallocate the land to other users. This tenure uncertainty demotivated communities to invest in forest landscape restoration. Since they didn’t clearly stand to benefit from landscape restoration and tree-planting, there was little incentive for them to take care of state-owned lands.

The new law, in contrast, grants rights of communities to manage and benefit from forests “very explicitly,” says Yimam. It does so by recognizing four categories of forest – state, private, community and association – thereby opening up new avenues for involvement and ownership. “So where you have degraded forest, the community can organize themselves, and with the approval of the relevant authority, can have all the responsibility of managing that forest as a community forest,” he explains.

“When you have groups of women or unemployed people, you can organize them to establish plantations on degraded hillsides, or even reforest and manage degraded forest, and this can be recognized as an association forest. Communities can then also stand to benefit financially from the carbon credits available for reforestation and forest preservation.”

REVISION TO REALITY

These new developments were hard-won. Kassa and his colleagues at CIFOR attempted to contribute similar content to the law’s predecessor in 2007, but then, forestry issues fell under the Ministry of Agriculture’s jurisdiction, and the sector was not getting the political attention it deserved. “We felt we were not really being listened to,” recounts Kassa.

When the Ministry of Environment and Forests (now the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) was established in 2013, CIFOR staff and other national researchers pushed hard for it to confront and address the limitations of the 2007 law, advocating that forest sector development could bring a host of economic benefits as well as help the country attain its national and international restoration commitments. The ministry listened, set up a committee to work with the scientists, and revised the law according to their technical feedback.

However, putting a law to work is always a challenge. Kassa says the ministry and relevant regional authorities will need significant support to translate the law into concrete actions on the ground. One issue is expertise. The focus of forestry training has thus far been on enhancing the protection function of forests rather than the livelihoods of forest dependent communities, says Kassa, and now leaders and experts in forestry will need new knowledge and skills.

What’s more, “Ethiopia is a federal state, and the various regional governments have been forming different institutional arrangements to manage the forestry sector”, says Yimam. “We need to develop the understanding that the regions can produce their own guidelines to clarify and specify certain articles, but all these cannot go beyond or against the national forest law.”

Both Yimam and Kassa are hopeful that rural communities and forests throughout the country will soon experience the benefits of the new law’s possibilities. “Ethiopia’s 2018 National Forest Law is a really progressive law, and if it is implemented properly it is going to make a big difference” says Yimam.

“The next step is to support the efforts of the Ethiopian government as it attempts to put in place appropriate structures at different levels, redefine the roles of experts and build their capacity to actualize the rights of communities and other forest managers provided by the law,” concludes Kassa.

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.  

For more information on this topic, please contact Habtemariam Kassa at [email protected].


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

This research was supported by the Strategic Climate Institutions Program (SCIP). SCIP is financed by the Governments of UK, Norway and Denmark.

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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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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

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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  • Analysis of gender research on forest, tree and agroforestry value chains in Latin America

Analysis of gender research on forest, tree and agroforestry value chains in Latin America

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Latin America presents an important opportunity for research in gender and forest, tree and agroforestry (FTA) value chains due in part to the growth of its rural-urban interface, the region’s large expanses of existing forests, and the relatively limited research on gender and forestry themes in Latin America to date.

This paper seeks to analyze the principal themes and findings in the literature related to gender and FTA value chains in Latin America, and to provide recommendations for future areas of research. The analytical review focuses on literature from 2000 to 2017 and includes a total of 50 publications. Studies tend to analyze how the interplay of norms and policies can influence women’s and men’s benefits from participation in FTA value chains.

While a significant portion of the literature seeks to illuminate women’s contributions to FTA value chains, increased research on both women’s and men’s roles is necessary in order to understand gender dynamics along the chains. Additional research on gender equality impacts of women specific value chain interventions will also be important in order to assess opportunities and challenges for enhancing women’s empowerment in Latin America’s dynamic rural context.

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  • Gender equality and social inclusion in forestry and agroforestry

Gender equality and social inclusion in forestry and agroforestry

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Both women and men can depend on forests, agroforestry and trees for their livelihoods, and play a critical role in managing them. However, there are significant inequalities in roles, rights and responsibilities among women and men in rural areas. These inequalities are reflected in the ways in which women and men participate in decision-making, benefit from forest and tree resources, and experience changes in forest and tree-based landscapes. The forestry and agroforestry sector has much to contribute to addressing inequalities between women and men, and empowering disadvantaged women and men in ways that contribute to sustainable rural landscapes. This video explains how FTA is tackling this challenge head on.

Originally published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Produced by CIFOR as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

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  • Diverse and invisible: Understanding rural young people

Diverse and invisible: Understanding rural young people

A young woman displays a product at a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia. Photo by J. Nkadaani/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A young woman displays a product at a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia. Photo by J. Nkadaani/CIFOR

Globally, there are an estimated 1.8 billion young people between 10 to 24 years old. Of these, approximately 90 percent live in the developing world, and mostly in rural areas. Yet often, rural young people are poorly understood in research compared to more ‘visible’ groups, such as urban youth, particularly in Western countries. 

This is of special concern to research partnerships such as CGIAR, because young people play critical roles in rural households and environmental transformations, but their interests are often inadequately addressed in programs and policies. However, as a significant social group now and in the future, their aspirations, dreams, opportunities and the particular challenges they face in rural areas deserve to be studied and understood in their own right.

Click here to listen to the webinar recording or download the presentation.  

That is one of the many reasons the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) recently presented a webinar on rural youth and livelihood change. The webinar, hosted by the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research, invited four researchers and activists to share their thoughts on the challenges and prospects facing rural young women and men across the Global South.

FTA and the CGIAR gender platform hosted the hour-long webinar with key thinkers and practitioners working in youth and development studies in Latin America, Asia and Africa, to address key issues affecting today’s young people, as well as the role of institutions such as CGIAR in supporting the livelihoods of rural youth.

Children play in the La Roya community of the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Rural young people’s challenges and opportunities 

Jim Sumberg, a Research Fellow in the Rural Futures research cluster at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), began by problematizing the idea of “the challenges and opportunities for rural young people.” He stressed the need to recognize the diversity within ‘youth’ based on gender, geography, and other factors of social differentiation, and the necessity of considering the specific social and political contexts where they live.

He highlighted the differences between the challenges that rural people face in general, because of, for example, systemic failures or structural issues; challenges that specifically affect rural young people primarily because they are young, have fewer resources, less life experience, and less developed networks, among other factors; and the challenges that affect young people because they are discriminated against or ‘invisible’ to other social groups and decision-makers.

For example, webinar panelist Daniela Rivas, the Peruvian country representative of Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), explained that in Peru, young people make up 27 percent of the total population, and 22 percent of the population is specifically composed of rural youth. However, government policy focuses on urban youth. This demonstrates how many indigenous and rural young people face challenges in simply having their voices heard, and therefore remain invisible to rural development initiatives.

Though many rural young men and women face challenges, they also have new opportunities. Jessica Clendenning, a PhD Candidate in Human Geography with the National University of Singapore, explained that as urban centers across the Global South continue to expand, the shape and nature of rural areas also change. New opportunities in rural and urban areas pertaining to forests and agricultural production, marketing and value chains are some such opportunities.

Critical, then, is that young people have access to education and training to gain the skills needed to capitalize on those opportunities, and to enable young people to pursue the types of work that interest them besides primary production.

Read more: Webinar: Rural youth and livelihood change

High school students pose pose in Empangao village, Indonesia. Photo by L. McHugh/CIFOR

Role of CGIAR

What roles can CGIAR and FTA play in researching and working with rural youth? Fraser Sugden, a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Birmingham, and outgoing coordinator of the Gender, Youth and Inclusion theme in the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE), suggested that the CGIAR research community could play an important role in engaging with youth on the ground.

This does not necessarily mean encouraging young people to be farmers, but providing them with opportunities in agrobased enterprises and agricultural support services and investments, such as through extension services, research and investment in young agroentrepreneurs.

More broadly, Clendenning explained that CGIAR can use its research and action to address the large knowledge gaps surrounding youth issues in tree and agroforestry environments. For example, little is known about the effects that rural economic diversification, via remittances and migration, has on labor and changing land use dynamics, or about whether, why or when young migrants actually do return to live and work in their natal village areas.

The interests rural young women and men have in the forestry or agroforestry sectors, and the types of related schooling that is offered to them, also require attention. These questions demonstrate that longer term studies are needed to understand rural young men and women, and the ways they are embedded within their families, communities and broader social contexts.

The main takeaway message was the need for CGIAR and partners to see young women and men as a diverse social group that faces different challenges and opportunities. Research methods must recognize their particular experiences, and the intersecting factors of social difference, such as gender, class and ethnicity, all of which influence and shape their choices.

This means integrating young people into program design and development, and researching with young women and men, instead of simply about them.

By Manon Koningstein, FTA Gender Integration Team; Marlène Elias, FTA Gender Research Coordinator; and Jessica Clendenning, PhD candidate. 


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

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  • Diverse and invisible: Understanding rural young people

Diverse and invisible: Understanding rural young people

A young woman displays a product at a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia. Photo by J. Nkadaani/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A young woman displays a product at a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia. Photo by J. Nkadaani/CIFOR

Globally, there are an estimated 1.8 billion young people between 10 to 24 years old. Of these, approximately 90 percent live in the developing world, and mostly in rural areas. Yet often, rural young people are poorly understood in research compared to more ‘visible’ groups, such as urban youth, particularly in Western countries. 

This is of special concern to research partnerships such as CGIAR, because young people play critical roles in rural households and environmental transformations, but their interests are often inadequately addressed in programs and policies. However, as a significant social group now and in the future, their aspirations, dreams, opportunities and the particular challenges they face in rural areas deserve to be studied and understood in their own right.

Click here to listen to the webinar recording or download the presentation.  

That is one of the many reasons the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) recently presented a webinar on rural youth and livelihood change. The webinar, hosted by the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research, invited four researchers and activists to share their thoughts on the challenges and prospects facing rural young women and men across the Global South.

FTA and the CGIAR gender platform hosted the hour-long webinar with key thinkers and practitioners working in youth and development studies in Latin America, Asia and Africa, to address key issues affecting today’s young people, as well as the role of institutions such as CGIAR in supporting the livelihoods of rural youth.

Children play in the La Roya community of the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

Rural young people’s challenges and opportunities 

Jim Sumberg, a Research Fellow in the Rural Futures research cluster at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), began by problematizing the idea of “the challenges and opportunities for rural young people.” He stressed the need to recognize the diversity within ‘youth’ based on gender, geography, and other factors of social differentiation, and the necessity of considering the specific social and political contexts where they live.

He highlighted the differences between the challenges that rural people face in general, because of, for example, systemic failures or structural issues; challenges that specifically affect rural young people primarily because they are young, have fewer resources, less life experience, and less developed networks, among other factors; and the challenges that affect young people because they are discriminated against or ‘invisible’ to other social groups and decision-makers.

For example, webinar panelist Daniela Rivas, the Peruvian country representative of Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), explained that in Peru, young people make up 27 percent of the total population, and 22 percent of the population is specifically composed of rural youth. However, government policy focuses on urban youth. This demonstrates how many indigenous and rural young people face challenges in simply having their voices heard, and therefore remain invisible to rural development initiatives.

Though many rural young men and women face challenges, they also have new opportunities. Jessica Clendenning, a PhD Candidate in Human Geography with the National University of Singapore, explained that as urban centers across the Global South continue to expand, the shape and nature of rural areas also change. New opportunities in rural and urban areas pertaining to forests and agricultural production, marketing and value chains are some such opportunities.

Critical, then, is that young people have access to education and training to gain the skills needed to capitalize on those opportunities, and to enable young people to pursue the types of work that interest them besides primary production.

Read more: Webinar: Rural youth and livelihood change

High school students pose pose in Empangao village, Indonesia. Photo by L. McHugh/CIFOR

Role of CGIAR

What roles can CGIAR and FTA play in researching and working with rural youth? Fraser Sugden, a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Birmingham, and outgoing coordinator of the Gender, Youth and Inclusion theme in the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE), suggested that the CGIAR research community could play an important role in engaging with youth on the ground.

This does not necessarily mean encouraging young people to be farmers, but providing them with opportunities in agrobased enterprises and agricultural support services and investments, such as through extension services, research and investment in young agroentrepreneurs.

More broadly, Clendenning explained that CGIAR can use its research and action to address the large knowledge gaps surrounding youth issues in tree and agroforestry environments. For example, little is known about the effects that rural economic diversification, via remittances and migration, has on labor and changing land use dynamics, or about whether, why or when young migrants actually do return to live and work in their natal village areas.

The interests rural young women and men have in the forestry or agroforestry sectors, and the types of related schooling that is offered to them, also require attention. These questions demonstrate that longer term studies are needed to understand rural young men and women, and the ways they are embedded within their families, communities and broader social contexts.

The main takeaway message was the need for CGIAR and partners to see young women and men as a diverse social group that faces different challenges and opportunities. Research methods must recognize their particular experiences, and the intersecting factors of social difference, such as gender, class and ethnicity, all of which influence and shape their choices.

This means integrating young people into program design and development, and researching with young women and men, instead of simply about them.

By Manon Koningstein, FTA Gender Integration Team; Marlène Elias, FTA Gender Research Coordinator; and Jessica Clendenning, PhD candidate. 


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

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Rural women left behind in Nepal

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

Sita Pariyar, a 27-year-old mother of two living in the village of Nalma, Nepal, has balanced housework, childcare and field work alone for a year now since her husband moved to Qatar as a migrant worker. Nearly three-quarters of Nepal’s young male population now works overseas, sending money back to their families in the form of remittances that contribute almost 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. On the home front, women, children and the elderly are left to keep village life running, reshaping traditional roles, responsibilities and land management practices.

Read more at Forests News. Originally published by CIFOR.


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