Material galore: FTA scientists working on a second book on Gender and Forests

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By Carol J. Pierce Colfer, Senior Associate, Center for International Forestry Research

Photo: Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR
Photo: Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR

In a recent blog for the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry my colleague Patti Petesch wrote about the adverse impacts of oil palm on Dayak women in Kalimantan, Indonesia, based on results from a multi-national, quantitative study. In the our book, Gender and Forests: Climate Change, Tenure, Value Chains, and Emerging Issues, this same issue is addressed, with scientists looking at conditions within one of these communities in the past, and in the present, using a holistic and qualitative approach. I am bringing this up because the work on “Gender and Forests” motivated us to stick with this field and give credit to important “classics” in gender and forest research in a second book. But before I come to that I want to talk some more about “Gender and Forests”.

Gender and Forests evolved out of several panels that scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) put together in late 2014, designed to broaden our understanding of gender in forest contexts. About half of the articles deal with gender and climate change, though there are multiple cross-linkages among the four sections, reflected in the book’s title.

The Gender Box

Our approach has recognized the value of interdisciplinarity in looking at an issue like gender, one that is so affected by varying value systems – of community members and of scientists. The authors come from various disciplines, including social sciences (i.e. anthropology, geography, economics, government/policy analysis), natural resources (i.e. forestry, ecology, animal sciences), animal and human nutrition, English, and American Indian and Women’s Studies. The 40 authors represent 15 nationalities, three from Africa, two from Asia, five from Europe, three from Latin America, and two from North America.

We also have chosen a variety of approaches, from quantitative and cross-national in Gender Gaps in REDD+: Women’s Participation is not Enough, to a combination in Gender and Vulnerability to Multiple Stressors, Including Climate Change in Rural South Africa, to the purely qualitative Living Conservation Values: Women and Conservation Easement Protection in Central New York. There are studies of policy in the chapter Women and Tenure in Liberia and Cameroon, a conceptual framework in Forest Conservation in Central and West Africa: Opportunities and Risks for Gender Equity, literature reviews such as Gender and Forest, Tree and Agroforestry Value Chains: Evidence from Literature, in depth ethnographic studies such as Tenure vs. Territory: Black Women’s Struggles in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia, a historical account in Gender and the Roots of Community Forestry and more.

9781138955042-1My co-editors Bimbika Sijapati Basnett and Marlène Elias and I use the Gender Box, a conceptual framework developed in 2013 to analyze the issues addressed in this compilation, in search of strengths, weaknesses and gaps.

We found five new issues that need to be added to the 11 issues already highlighted in the Gender Box. These new topics include informal knowledge, involvement in management processes, leadership, networks/groups, and violence against women. As has become increasingly clear in a lot of CIFOR’s work, the interactions among scales (local to meso to macro levels) are crucial in enhancing gender equity.

Similarly, the time dimension, as shown in the Gender Box, is important to keep in mind, as we look at the lives of women and men, and the trajectory of change. One of our concluding paragraphs provides an encouraging assessment of the progress that’s been made and the opportunities for the future:

We stand at an exciting juncture; despite the many global challenges we face, there is hope for improving both the world’s forests and the well-being of the women and men who use and manage them. The formal schooling of boys and girls creates an opportunity to engage with youth in novel ways and to interest them in the benefits modern science can offer, all the while celebrating and building on the traditional knowledge that has guided forest management processes for millennia and enhancing its inter-generational transmission. The spread of new information technologies and communications media can support these processes, facilitate collective action and activism, and serve as a vehicle to scale out innovations. New public and private trade policies (e.g. corporate social responsibility) are creating opportunities to engage women and men, young and old, in more remunerative, eco-friendly forestry value chains. The proliferation of participatory tools and their application throughout the cycle of research for development enhances the ability of local voices and perspectives to shape the design of locally-relevant and equitable forestry programmes, projects, policies and institutions. And initiatives to improve dialogue across interest groups—local women and men, traditional and state authorities, the private and public sectors, and civil society—and across scales can help reconcile conflicts of interest, build synergies and drive progressive socio-ecological transformation. (Elias et al. p. 319)

We continue to work on these issues, expanding our scope backwards in time.

As we developed Gender and Forests: Climate Change, Tenure, Value Chains, and Emerging Issues, we were reminded of the many excellent classics in this field that are simply not available to researchers and practitioners in the developing world.

New book in the works

We are now working on a second book to be called The Earthscan Reader on Gender and Forests, which will—hopefully by this time next year—bring these excellent studies to a broader audience.

For this new endeavor we have added a fourth co-editor: Susan Hummel from the US Forest Service. We want to encourage people from the developing world – who in fact seem to have more experience – and from industrialized countries to share their experience on gender and forests. But the sharing is not one-way.

Our perusal of materials from the global North suggests that we may need to add three more issues to the Gender Box: risk, trust, and health—as relevant in the South as in the North.

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