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REDD+ findings from Tanzania, Indonesia and Peru show gender divide

A woman picks tea leaves in Tanzania. Photo by Nkumi Mtimgwa/CIFOR
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A woman picks tea leaves in Tanzania. Photo by Nkumi Mtimgwa/CIFOR

Men and women differ in their preferences when it comes to REDD+ benefits. Men prefer cash incentives while women lean toward non-cash benefits, according to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Esther Mwangi, a Principal Scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Mwangi and an international team of researchers conducted in-depth intra-household interviews in Tanzania, Indonesia and Peru as part of a work package comprising a larger project on REDD+ and tenure.

Across all three countries, in addition to the benefit preference of men and women, researchers found a correlation between increased women’s participation and more equitable distribution of benefits. But they also found male dominance in different decision-making stages, and that people (mostly men) involved in decisions regarding REDD+ were more likely to be satisfied with the distribution of benefits.

More than benefit preferences, there was a bigger gender difference when it came to having REDD+ information and being involved in the decision-making process on which benefits would be distributed and how, with men much more active. Mwangi presented some of her findings late last year at the IUFRO 125th World Congress. Here she talks about her work and findings in detail.

Read more: Are there differences between men and women in REDD+ benefit sharing schemes?

When you talk about non-cash benefits, what does that include?

Non-cash benefits are material awards other than direct monetary payments. These include construction of classrooms for primary school children, provisions of farming implements, provision of potable water, or even capacity-building in conservation farming.

In Peru, it was interesting to find that even these non-monetary benefits were differentiated by gender. Men preferred construction materials, technical assistance and training, legal assistance and seedlings of non-timber species. Women, on the other hand, preferred objects or utensils for the home, organic gardens, animals to raise, timber tree saplings, textiles and handicrafts. Therefore, even the preferred types of non-cash benefits are differentiated according to gender.

During a community feedback workshop in Tanzania, we asked men and women to tell us what they would want to see done differently if the REDD+ project were to resume in their village. While women wanted non-cash benefits prioritized, they also indicated that these non-cash benefits “touch women’s problems”.

What are some factors keeping women out of REDD+ decision-making?

Children play in the indigenous community of Callería in Peru. Photo by Juan Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

We found that twice as many men as women were involved in REDD+ decision-making in Tanzania, four times as many men as women in Peru, and about equal proportions of men and women were involved in Indonesia.

Our definition of REDD+ decision-making covered issues such as whether they were involved in the initial decision on whether or not REDD+ should be implemented in their village, and whether they were involved in the design and implementation of REDD+ activities. Most women indicated that they did not know about these matters. For those who did know, they said they were not invited to meetings when those decisions were made.

The asymmetry between men’s and women’s participation in forestry decision-making is often rooted in two inter-related issues. First, forestry institutions and forest resources are generally male-dominated and second, village-level decision-making takes place in the public sphere. Women are traditionally associated with the private sphere of home and family life.

Was it surprising to find that when there was increased women’s participation, there was a more equitable distribution of benefits?

I personally wasn’t surprised, but still I thought it was an interesting result that probably jibes well with other results.

Work in India and Nepal shows that an increased number of women in decision-making roles has good outcomes for forest conditions. Even in the corporate world, research is starting to show that increasing the presence of women in boardrooms is correlated with greater corporate social responsibility and concern for equitable outcomes of investments.

Read more: ACM levels the playing field for women and men in forest-adjacent communities

Regardless of gender, there were pretty low rates of knowledge of REDD+ and involvement in related decisions. Can you tell us more about that?

Women prepare for a local culinary course in Kapuas Hulu, Indonesia. Photo by Icaro Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

This is an interesting observation and speaks to the entry point chosen by NGOs, which, in most of the cases, happened to be village leaders. Village leaders are crucial and should always be approached when setting up projects and interventions in rural areas. However, more effort should be made to ensure greater inclusion, especially if women and others (including men) are frequently marginalized in decision-making. This extra effort should be made even if village leadership is widely respected and legitimate.

When asked what should happen differently if the REDD+ pilots were to be repeated, both men and women in Tanzania made clear that REDD+ education should be provided on a door-to-door basis. This would help raise awareness and widely disseminate information.

This is a reasonable demand and probably good for interventions, because if people don’t know what exactly REDD+ is and why it’s being implemented, (that is, make the connection between REDD+ benefits and forest conservation) it’s unlikely that these schemes will achieve their goals. Moreover, lack of involvement in decision-making weakens the legitimacy and sustainability of the schemes.

What are the next steps for work on this topic? 

Benefit-sharing arrangements should be designed with gendered differences in mind. This cannot be overemphasized, because these benefits constitute an important incentive for sustainable management and even conservation.

In previous work, we demonstrated that greater gender equity is possible in the forestry sector both in participation in decision-making and in the distribution of forestry benefits. Lessons from this work would be invaluable in informing the design and implementation of benefit-sharing arrangements.

Read more: Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making

By Christi Hang, 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 CGIAR Fund Donors.

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Are there differences between men and women in REDD+ benefit sharing schemes?

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  • ACM levels the playing field for women and men in forest-adjacent communities

ACM levels the playing field for women and men in forest-adjacent communities

A woman collects firewood in her forest plantation in Mpigi district, Uganda. Photo by John Baptist Wandera/CIFOR
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A woman collects firewood in her forest plantation in Mpigi district, Uganda. Photo by John Baptist Wandera/CIFOR

Aimed at enhancing women’s participation as well as identifying how negotiation and facilitation can strengthen women’s tenure, a gender-equity approach is showing better outcomes not only for women but also for forest resources.

The approach, dubbed Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM), was outlined in a recent webinar by Esther Mwangi, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) principal scientist and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) former gender lead.

In opening the discussion, Ewen Le Borgne of the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research, which organized the webinar, foreshadowed how ACM can be used to foster increased gender equity in the management and use of community forests.

“Strengthening women’s rights is possible even when norms of patriarchy are strong,” he said. “[Mwangi] shows that strengthening women’s rights and decision-making has positive implications for the reforestation of degraded forests as well as for increasing on-farm tree planting.”

Mwangi, whose research focuses on forest governance issues, including gender, tenure, property rights, community participation and linking knowledge with action, presented the findings of work carried out in Uganda over a six-year period that ended in 2016.

Read more: Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making

Gender biases generated through cultural norms and practices are considered to be among the most common impediments to women’s rights to, and participation in the benefits of, forests and trees.

Customary norms regulate land and resource rights in many parts of Africa, with studies showing that such norms permeate into formal decision-making arenas where they can constrain the implementation of gender-equitable statutory provisions.

During the discussion, Mwangi questioned what tends to eventuate from policies, which are generally well-intended, particularly those aimed at promoting gender equity in the forestry sector. In Uganda, she explained, forest policy was very explicit about increasing the security of tenure over forest resources for women, as well as encouraging women and youth to actively participate in decision-making, resource management and benefit-sharing.

A ficus tree is pictured in Uganda. Photo by John Baptist Wandera/CIFOR

Interested by this policy, Mwangi examined the extent to which the good intentions were fulfilled in practice. She first presented the results of a situation analysis conducted in 18 communities in three districts in Central Uganda, which aimed to establish how men and women used and managed forest resources.

Mwangi discussed the nature of the relationship between men and women and their decision-making in relation to forest resources. She found that gender inequalities still exist in the sector, often due to cultural norms and practices at the community level, among many other reasons.

These norms can dictate who owns trees and forests, as well as who makes decisions about trees within community forestry groups and on farms.

“There was a clear bias against women,” she explained. “Women cannot plant trees. In particular, certain trees are considered taboo species, such as ficus.”

Ficus natalensis, also known as the natal fig, can be used for fodder and firewood, or as timber for furniture and boats. Ficus bark is also processed into barkcloth, used for traditional functions and burial ceremonies in Uganda, which can provide a source of income for processors.

Prior to the development of ACM, because of the existing cultural taboos surrounding the planting of ficus, women in Uganda were prevented from cultivating and deriving an income from the trees. However, the collaborative approach encouraged more women to negotiate with their husbands to allow them to plant ficus.

Read more: Forbidden no more: women negotiate changes in tree planting traditions

ACM enhances women’s participation and identifies how negotiation and facilitation can strengthen women’s tenure rights amid customary norms with a male bias, Mwangi explained.

“It involves voluntary groups that are facilitated in order to enhance communication, improve collaboration, resolve conflict and […] seek out ways of collectively learning about the impacts of their actions.”

It is ultimately about “enabling communities to deal with their own issues and their situation,” she said, which can improve equity, and “empower women and other marginalized groups to have a say in how forests are used and managed.”

Forest degradation and a decline in forest resources were key issues in the forest-adjacent communities, who found they could reduce pressure on forest resources with on-farm techniques such as tree planting, keeping bees and pigs, and water harvesting.

Within the process of implementing these priorities, women were facilitated to take on leadership positions, and participate and engage in more meaningful ways. Through ACM, women can contribute to discussion without fear of ridicule or retribution, Mwangi stated.

A farmers’ group works with seedlings in Mbazzi, Uganda. Photo by John Baptist Wandera/CIFOR

Mwangi looked closely at the application of the ACM approach among six randomly selected forest-adjacent communities in three districts in Central Uganda.

According to her, women in the communities expressed concern over exclusion from decisions despite their use and management of forests and trees; absence in leadership positions; poor attendance at meetings; a lack of confidence to speak up during meetings; and cultural norms that prevented them from planting, owning and economically benefiting from trees.

Before the approach, there were no women planting Ficus natalensis, due not only to the issues identified by the women, but also the taboos highlighted by the researchers surrounding the trees as land ownership symbols. Following the efforts, around one-third of the women involved began to plant the trees, while two women also began to sell barkcloth made from ficus.

Women also planted and owned more trees, were able to contribute equally to discussions, and took on more leadership positions.

Read more: Strengthening women’s tenure rights and participation in community forestry

Within these efforts, linkages to external actors were key, as they provided buffers, resources and legitimacy, and helped to identify new opportunities. Men in the communities were also important players in improving women’s rights.

“Men can be allies in processes of strengthening women’s rights and empowerment, and in fact mixed groups can be a viable pathway, in addition to women-only groups,” said Mwangi.

Statutory rights are not always automatically exercised or implemented, she explained, especially when cultural norms create roadblocks, which is why collaborative approaches are needed on the path to gender equity.

“Negotiation and facilitation by intermediaries can strengthen women’s rights and participation,” she said. “We can actually move from one set of norms to another, which allows women greater freedoms, allows them to take leadership, and be seen as legitimate leads in decision-making, resource allocation and resource access.”

This results not only in better outcomes for women, but also for forest resources and reforestation, she added.

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

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

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