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Rural women building resilience (Vol. 3, Issue 7)

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Closely followed by World Food Day (16 October) and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October), the International Day of Rural Women (15 of October) (IDRW) is a key moment to reflect on the importance of gender equality and inclusion across all agricultural and natural resource management sectors.
This year’s theme for IDRW is Rural Women and Girls Building Climate Resilience. The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) maintains as a priority cross-cutting theme the advancement of gender equality and social inclusion. First and foremost, these are universal human rights. Moreover, our research shows that equitably addressing the needs and releasing the potential of both women and men is fundamental if we are to find measures to adapt to and mitigate current climatic challenges.
Gender research in FTA is at the forefront of efforts to enhance the recognition, voice and influence of rural women, as well as their access to and control over resources, and to ensure that they receive significant and equal benefits to men from forests, trees and agroforestry systems. For this reason, we recently released the Gender Equality in Research Scale (GEIRS) tool, designed to monitor the level of gender integration across FTA’s project portfolio. The tool can guide the design, implementation, and monitoring of projects from a gender perspective to ensure that projects are gender-responsive, at a minimum, and can enhance gender equality, at best.
We are deeply saddened to share news of the recent loss of Dr Esther Mwangi, environmentalist, public policy expert, scholar and mentor whose research explored gender and inequities in relation to land rights and natural resources. Esther was a fierce advocate of rural women’s rights. She was also the first Gender Research Coordinator and a key driver of FTA’s gender research in the first phase of FTA Research Program, and she crafted FTA’s first Gender Strategy. She will be deeply missed. FTA will continue to build on the foundations of Esther’s work on gender with dedication and commitment, honouring her name.
Vincent Gitz, FTA Director, and Marlène Elias, FTA Gender Research Coordinator

Special feature

Esther Mwangi, researcher on gender and forest property rights, dies at 53

imagethumb.jpgEsther Mwangi, principal scientist in CIFOR and globally renowned researcher of gender and land tenure rights, died on Oct. 5 in Nairobi at age 53 due to complications from cancer. At the time of her death, she was team leader for the Nairobi Hub and principal scientist with Forests and Governance, roles she had held since 2014. During her 10 years at CIFOR, Esther laid the foundations for CIFOR and FTA’s research on gender, which she led from FTA Phase 1 in 2010, and for which the FTA CGIAR Research Program was singularly praised by the Independent Science and Partnership Council,” said Andrew Wardell, who is now principal scientist with the CIFOR Value Chains, Finance and Investment team and continues his involvement with the FTA research program. At CIFOR, Esther established gender integration throughout all research divisions and teams. Early in her career, she had attracted international attention for a 2006 study of the division of common lands held by the Maasai people in Kenya, a process which she said exposed how less powerful, more vulnerable groups were subjected to inequitable treatment. The research revealed how property rights and traditional livelihoods can come into conflict, creating disparity and often producing a negative impact on ecosystems.
“She profoundly touched many individuals, but it’s also a story about how she shaped and empowered an entire organization to take gender seriously,” said Bimbika Sijapati Basnett, who worked as a post-doctoral student on the program with Esther.
Esther singlehandedly designed and wrote an organizational gender integration strategy for CIFOR, in such a way as to bring everybody together – she sought support from all of the teams, encouraging them to identify areas where they could contribute gender integration, said Sijapati Basnett, who took over the position after Esther moved to the CIFOR Forests and Governance role.
“Now, when I look back at where CIFOR stands, there’s a lot of work that’s underway – there’s a reputation that she built – both within the larger CGIAR community but also in the larger forestry and development space – and she will be missed a lot by everybody, but I think she’s equipped everyone to keep her legacy forward,” she said.
Learn more about Esther, and connect to her memorial website to leave condolences here.
In memory of Esther Mwangi and in recognition of the role rural women play in strengthening forest management and sustainable livelihoods, CIFOR has developed a video to celebrate this years' International Day of Rural Women. Share and be inspired.



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

imagethumb.jpgOur planet is in the midst of an ecological emergency, according to several recent reports. Deteriorating biodiversity is putting food security, economies as well as human health and well-being at risk. Reversing this ecological decline requires restoration initiatives to incorporate the needs, interests and knowledge of both men and women.
FTA has long-standing experience with research on incorporating gender dimensions into forest landscape restoration. The program’s research has shown that reaching desired social and environmental outcomes from ecosystem restoration hinges on the contribution and cooperation of the women and men who depend on these ecosystems for their livelihoods. After more than 15 years of implementation, the REDD+ initiative in particular can provide important clues, according to scientists.
Although REDD+ is primarily a mechanism for reducing carbon emissions from forests, it does offer lessons on what implications such a long-term, on-the-ground effort has for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Read the full story here.

Can the resuscitation of a fading way of life help close the gender income gap?

imagethumb.jpgTargeting rural villages in Honghe County, Yunnan Province, an ICRAF-led project, assessed efforts to alleviate poverty and their gender-differentiated impacts, promoted the holistic development of the surrounding mountainous region and demonstrated the potential of cultivating woad (Isatis tinctoria) for supplementing rural incomes and strengthening rural industries. Read the full story here.

Moving forward on gender equality in forestry

imagethumb.jpgIn the lead-up to the 25th IUFRO World Congress being held in Curitiba, Brazil from 29 Sept. to 6 Oct., a group of scientists from around the world conducted an assessment of the potential impact that addressing the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would have on people and forests.
As part of the assessment, CIFOR researchers Anne Larson (CIFOR) and Carol J. Pierce Colfer (CIFOR/Cornell University) contributed to a chapter on the upcoming publication about the impact of SDGs to forests and people, led by Seema Arora-Jonsson (Swedish University of Life Sciences). The chapter specifically focuses on the relationship between forestry and SDG5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Read the interview with Carol, who reflects on some of the key insights and messages coming out of the assessment.

Gender equality in agricultural development starts with understanding complexity

imagethumb.jpgWhen Professor Katherine Gibson opened the Seeds of Change conference in Canberra in April, she asked the more than 200 participants to consider whether we are sowing the right seeds of change for achieving gender equality in agricultural development.
“Can the world’s rural areas be places where we can generate dignified agricultural livelihoods, where there is material well-being, where there is gender equity and sustainable environmental interactions?” she inquired.
Her questions were prompted by a series of graphs, known as ‘the great acceleration’, that show the world’s economic overdevelopment and its detrimental impacts on the environment. However, Gibson was quick to point out that the great acceleration has also brought about benefits, with some of the most prominent being increased education for women and slowed population growth. “We really need to see the complexity here,” Gibson explained in a subsequent interview, referencing these contradictory results of recent development. Development and its gendered impacts are complex matters – a realization that permeated discussions during the three-day conference. Read the full story here.

Why gender matters in forest restoration

imagethumb.jpgWhile international and national campaigns to restore degraded landscapes are gaining steam, a serious shortcoming persists at the heart of the restoration agenda: the lack of attention to the socio-political dimensions of ecological interventions and interpretations of sustainability that focus narrowly on the biophysical. When this happens, rather than generating new opportunities for local people, restoration initiatives can accentuate inequalities or create exclusions for the people who most depend on the lands being restored.
A session on ‘Restoration for whom, by whom?’ was co-organized to confront this issue at the latest 8th World Congress on Ecological Restoration. The session, co-organized by the CGIAR Research Programs on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), and Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), discussed overlooked social and political issues in land and landscape restoration, to draw attention to the need to enhance equity and social inclusion in and through restoration.
The session laid the foundation for a special issue on the topic, to be developed during 2020 integrating gender considerations into the work on landscape restoration undertaken by the three co-convening CGIAR research programs (FTA, PIM and WLE).
Read about the event here.

Laying the groundwork for a gender-responsive post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

imagethumb.jpgIn April this year, the Convention on Biological Diversity and UN Women co-organized an expert workshop to strengthen gender elements in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, in relation to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. A global team of experts discussed why safeguarding biodiversity cannot be truly effective without proper attention to gender equity, and what measures are needed to enhance the gender-responsiveness of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
Iliana Monterroso, co-coordinator of CIFOR’s Gender and Social Inclusion Research, delivered a presentation on behalf of FTA, analysing the current status and challenges regarding forestry and gender. Drawing on lessons from on-the-ground REDD+ implementation, she stressed the importance of gender-responsive forest landscape restoration work.
This engagement has resulted in joint submissions with other participating organizations to inform the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, including a submission during the Regional Consultation meeting of GRULAC in Montevideo (14-17 May).
A report of the discussion is now available here.

Banner photo by O. Girard/CIFOR. Special feature and news photos, from top, by: CIFOR; M. Edliadi/CIFOR; Yunnan Nationalities Museum/Xiang Gao; Axel Fassio/CIFOR; O. Girard/CIFOR; Bioversity International/E.Hermanowicz; Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR.

Contact us

Recent publications


At the intersection of gender and generation: Engaging with 'youth' in the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry


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


The Gender Equality in Research Scale (GEIRS)


Gender Perspectives on Cocoa Production in Ecuador and Peru: Insights for Inclusive and Sustainable Intensification


Perspectivas de género sobre la producción de cacao en Ecuador y Perú: Ideas para una intensificación inclusiva y sostenible


Socio-economic differentiation and shea globalization in western Burkina Faso: integrating gender politics and agrarian change


Approaching rural young people


Connecting the dots in the forest-migration nexus: A case study from Malinau, Indonesia


Women's time use and implications for participation in cacao value chains: evidence from VRAEM, Peru



Gender, land shortage and lack of tree access across an international border

Rukaya’s Bamboo Story: Developing Skills in Bamboo Product Development, Ghana

Digital Summit: Beyond Land – Gender equality in restoration



CFS 46 – Side Event 13 – Agroforestry, an agro-ecological pathway for SDG2
October 17, 2019
FAO, Rome, Italy

SE136 Gender Equality & Malnutrition Transformation: approaches to addressing causes & improved nutrition: Three new perspectives: relationship between gender equality and food; gender-transformative approaches to nutrition; and scaling up
October 18, 2019
FAO, Rome, Italy

GLF Accra
FTA & the GLF Gender Constituency with AsaseFest will host an interactive session on gender and landscape restoration
October 30, 2019
Accra, Ghana

CIFOR, ICRAF & RECOFTC side-event: “What is the role of finance and technology in catalyzing sustainable and gender-equitable change?
December 9, 2019
Santiago, Chile

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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