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Building back better: the fundamental need to prioritize rural women (Vol. 4, Issue 4)

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FTA communications

Originally dubbed as the “biodiversity super-year”, 2020 will unfortunately be remembered for something quite different: the outbreak of COVID-19. In addition to the tragic loss of human life and the unleashing of an economic recession, one of the pandemic’s immediate and distressing effects has been to exacerbate inequalities. Women, and especially rural women, who lack the resources and safety nets needed to buffer shocks, have been comparatively extremely hard hit by the pandemic and its response.

In many world regions, rural men and women, compared to urban populations, live far away from quality healthcare structures as well as basic infrastructure, including water and sanitation and essential medicines. But then, compared to rural men, gender norms and institutions further hinder rural women’s mobility and access to public health resources, information and services. Studies have shown that rural women are taking on an even greater share of care work as a consequence of the pandemic, that they are experiencing an increase in domestic violence, and that they are more likely than men to lose their jobs or source of employment. Simply put, despite the fact that COVID-19 seems to be more fatal for men than women, rural women are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the consequences of the sometimes very harsh outbreak management responses.

It is long known and proven that women and girls play a crucial role in the agricultural work force. Moreover, they carry out most domestic work, and are at the heart of their communities’ organization, maintaining social cohesion and shaping intrahousehold dynamics. Importantly, they are also the custodians of their household’s food security and nutrition, and critical to its resilience. Yet, these contributions -together with the challenges women face to deliver on those- are consistently underrecognized and undervalued.

These realities reinforce the urgency and motivation of FTA’s work. As a research program with a key focus on policies, governance and institutions, FTA places gender equality concerns at the heart of its research to “build back better” and more resilient landscapes and livelihoods for all.

As you, FTA newsletter readers, know well, FTA recognizes gender equality as an inherent human right, and a fundamental part of achieving all of its objectives. Rather than merely addressing the symptoms of gender inequality (e.g. unequal participation, income), we need to devise transformative approaches that tackle the underlying causes, such as formal rules (e.g. policies and regulations) and informal rules (e.g. social norms, power relations), of inequality.

In that regard, FTA, as a partnership working globally but in very different contexts, has adopted one constant, not negotiable, objective across all geographies: to support women and girls’ involvement in decision making, control of resources, and control over their own labor and destiny. Only by solving pervasive inequalities in these and other areas will we be able to venture on a solid path towards equitable development and resilient landscapes.

As Reverend Martin Luther King once wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” These words resound with wisdom and truth as global, national, and local communities struggle to cope with COVID-19.

Research and action to document and address inequalities linked to gender, rurality, socio-economic status, and other factors of marginalization was a prominent theme in FTA’s Scientific Conference, which ran from 14-25 September 2020. Interventions across six technical workstreams highlighted how social equality can be an engine for sustainability, and canvassed transformational ways to move forward. The conference was an occasion to showcase the significant body of FTA work in this area.

The current pandemic will not deter us. FTA scientists are renewing efforts to generate data and technical, social and institutional innovations that can support change towards a more gender-equal world; and to honor and support the resilience of rural women in the wake of COVID-19.

Vincent Gitz, FTA Director and Marlène Elias, FTA Gender coordinator

Special feature

Building just societies and resilient landscapes alongside rural women

imagethumb.jpgWhen women are able to participate in decision-making and equitably share resources and benefits, policies and projects in the forest sector often see increased buy-in and improved outcomes; while initiatives that ignore gender difference or exclude women tend to reinforce or even exacerbate existing inequalities.
Read the interview with our Gender and Social Inclusion scientist Markus Ihalainen here.

Natural rubber and climate change

imagethumb.jpgNatural rubber has a key role to play for both adaptation and mitigation of climate change as an important land user (≈14 Million ha), a producer of renewable materials (i.e. latex and rubberwood), and as a major economic activity.

The International Rubber Study Group ( IRSG ) in collaboration with CIFOR/FTA, CIRAD and the International Rubber Research and Development Board (IRRDB) has organised a workshop on “Climate Change and Natural Rubber Systems” to review scientific knowledge about impacts of climate change on natural rubber, potential means for its adaptation and what can be its contribution to mitigation of climate change.

All presentations and videos can be accessed here.

Read more in this article.

Virtual launch of the Global Assessment Report on 15 October 2020!

imagethumb.jpgA new and most comprehensive scientific assessment presented by the Global Forest Experts Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Poverty reveals critical links between forests, trees and poverty alleviation. The report makes a valuable contribution to achieving the first and foremost of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals aimed at ending poverty. This is even more important in light of the current pandemic under which efforts to fight poverty have suffered a severe setback. The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), on behalf of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), established the Panel in the framework of the GFEP Initiative.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 4-5:30 pm CEST

Register here



Men in forests: New book shatters stereotypes

imagethumb.jpgIn a candid new memoir, Colfer, now a senior associate at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and a visiting scholar in the Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, shares her personal perspective to better elaborate reflections on 50 years of research into gender and forests.

She overturns some of the generally accepted parameters which have largely defined gender studies, suggesting that the habits and practices of men warrant greater consideration than they have received to date. Read more here.

Sentinels of social transformation in Borneo

imagethumb.jpgThe recently published BSSL report focuses on two study blocks in the Kapuas Hulu Regency of West Kalimantan on Borneo. Straddling the equator, Borneo is the third largest island in the world, more than three times larger than Great Britain and seven times the size of Cuba. With 73 percent forest cover and two national parks, the report describes Kapuas Hulu as part of the “last forest frontier”. Read our long-form and download the report here.

Burkina Faso: Rural women’s perspectives on COVID-19

imagethumb.jpgAssociation Tiipaalga, working with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, spent time listening to rural Mossé women living in two communes (Zitenga and Dapelogo) of the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso discuss their lives and experiences in this period of COVID-19. Find out what they said.

FTA, PIM and WLE working together on forest and landscape restoration

imagethumb.jpgDespite the high level of political engagement and the wide range of organizations involved in restoration projects from local to global levels, beyond some success stories, restoration is not happening at scale. Research is urgently needed to design, develop and upscale successful restoration approaches. As part of this effort, FTA, PIM and WLE publish a synthesis of a survey of CGIAR’s projects on restoration.

‘Learning how to learn’ is crucial for researchers in the field

imagethumb.jpgWhen a team of scientists set out to study women’s participation in community forest management in communities in Nicaragua, they faced a quandary. Men tended to dominate the workshops and meetings. How could they encourage more equitable participation if the women didn’t attend or speak up? Find out!

FTA at GLF Bonn 2020

imagethumb.jpgDid you miss our session on the Contribution of Forests, Trees and Agroforestry to Sustainable Food Security and Nutrition in a time of crisis at GLF Bonn 2020? Full video and all presentations available here.

Sharing a vision: youth, women and the future of fine flavor cacao

imagethumb.jpgOn July 24th, the FFC project hosted the first dialogue of its kind as part of the virtual 163rd anniversary celebration of La Convencion province, home to cacao Chuncho. Over 300 participants (average age 25 years) listened in as each of the presenters provided a unique perspective from their successful careers in fine flavor cacao. Find out more here.

FTA proposes a typology of interventions and situations for guiding land restoration

imagethumb.jpgThe objective of the paper is to uncover the diverse understanding and perspectives about “restoration” and to construct a typology that can help to clarify contrasts, similarities and possible synergies. It aims to facilitate upscaling of restoration by allowing better alignment between restoration goals and means ith the priorities of the people who live in, and gain their long-term livelihoods from, the landscapes to be restored. Find out more here.

Under fire: Five myths about wood fuel in sub-Saharan Africa

imagethumb.jpgDespite the environmental cost of using firewood and charcoal for meal preparation and to meet other energy needs, more than 60 percent of families in sub-Saharan Africa have no alternative to wood, making it a significant contributor to forest degradation throughout the region. The solution is not simply to ban the use of wood fuel without offering alternatives, say scientists at CIFOR. Read what they propose.

Banner photo by O. Girard/CIFOR.

Contact us

Recent publications


Intersecting and dynamic gender rights to néré, a food tree species in Burkina Faso


Gender and forest tenure reform in Indonesia


Learning to learn in tropical forests: Training Field Teams in Adaptive Collaborative Management, Monitoring and Gender


SDG Book – Sustainable Development Goals: Their Impacts on Forests and People

Chapter 5 – Gender Equality – A Precondition for Sustainable Forestry


Chapter 10 – Reduced Inequalities – An Environmental Justice Perspective on Implications for Forests and People


Chapter 19 – The Impacts of the Sustainable Development Goals on Forests and People – Conclusions and the Way Forward


Masculinities in Forests: Representations of Diversity


ETFRN news 60 – Enhancing women’s rights and lives through gender-equitable restoration in Burkina Faso


Making room for manoeuvre: addressing gender norms to strengthen the enabling environment for agricultural innovation


Addressing Potential Conflict Using Participatory Mapping: Collection of Forest Foods From Timber Trees Around Industrial Concessions in Cameroon


The Wicked Problem of Forest Policy


Gender Challenges: A Three-Volume Compendium of Selected Papers

Other FTA publications

People-Centric Nature-Based Land Restoration through Agroforestry

Land use change in four landscapes in the Peruvian Amazon

Establishment of Rattan Plantations

Impact of on-farm Land Restoration Practices on the Time and Agency of Women in the Drylands of Eastern Kenya

Sustainable business models for inclusive growth

Capacity Development Plan of Action 2020-2021

Capacity Needs Assessment of CIFOR, ICRAF and their partners for the implementation of the CGIAR Research Program on Forestry, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA)

Report on implementation of the Landscape Assessment of Financial Flows (LAFF) in Gunung Tarak Landscape, Indonesia

The importance of indigenous peoples’ lands for the conservation of terrestrial mammals

Sentinel Landscapes initiative

Power asymmetries in social networks of ecosystem services governance

Oil palm plantations are large sources of nitrous oxide, but where are the data to quantify the impact on global warming?

Associations between socio‐environmental factors and landscape‐scale biodiversity recovery in naturally regenerating tropical and subtropical forests


NDCP-TWG webinar on Gender, 14 May

Full webinar (includes above presentation)

Presentation for the Swaminathan Research Foundation– Virtual consultation on “Science for Resilient Food, Nutrition and Livelihoods: Contemporary Challenges” – 7 August


Why the energy and food nexus is critical in refugee context

Building Back Better: Investing In Farming Under COVID-19 – Episode 12

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

FTA thanks all donors who supported this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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