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  • FTA Highlight No.11 – REDD+: Combating Climate Change with Forest Science

FTA Highlight No.11 – REDD+: Combating Climate Change with Forest Science

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FTA communications

The climate change battle has many fronts — protecting the world’s remaining forests is a major one. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) can promote both climate and sustainable development benefits.

Can science contribute to make REDD+ more efficient, more effective and more equitable? Scientists with CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS REDD+) have analyzed dozens of national and subnational REDD+ initiatives as well as several hundred local projects.

As part of “FTA’s highlights of a decade,” a new series focusing on its main results since being established in 2011, the FTA program is now publishing the volume on REDD+.

Enshrined in the Paris Agreement, REDD+ consists of results-based payments to countries for protecting forests and avoiding carbon emissions. GCS REDD+ recognizes that there are powerful interests in maintaining the status quo, and has studied how to address these underlying power relations to allow more — and new — voices to be heard.

The GCS REDD+ project has analyzed the conditions involved in implementing REDD+ — from policy to land rights to forest monitoring capacity — and produced a bedrock of evidence and analysis.

Even though CIFOR’s GCS REDD+ initiative started a couple of years earlier than FTA, it was subsequently integrated in FTA and quickly became one of its major components. And for the whole 10-year duration of FTA, REDD+ has been a key focus: it is the largest global research project of its kind.

Scientists of the GCS REDD+ project have been collecting data, conducting analysis and sharing experiences to determine what has worked and what hasn’t with REDD+. The project has contributed to successful REDD+ initiatives across 22 countries, including Guyana, Indonesia and Peru.

They ask important questions. What works to reduce deforestation? Where have the roadblocks been, and how can they be overcome? Does REDD+ have unintended negative consequences? What opportunities have emerged through this global mechanism that were not thought of when it began?

GCS REDD+ research provides policymakers and practitioners with access to the information they need to support the design and implementation of REDD+, and ultimately to achieve climate goals. This work also ensures that there is robust evidence to help REDD+ achieve effective, cost-efficient and equitable outcomes in policy design and implementation.

Figure 1: Countries where GCS REDD+ has worked or is working. Phase 1-3 are explained in the FTA Highlight publication.


GCS REDD+ achievements are closely tied to successful in-country partnerships.

The GCS REDD+ project has produced extensive peer-reviewed knowledge garnered from participatory surveys, field work, policy analysis and other efforts. This knowledge can help countries make more informed decisions about REDD+ policy and practice.

GCS REDD+ has produced 1,057 scientific publications, 207 briefs and 464 blogs, many translated into Bahasa Indonesia, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Vietnamese. This reflects its goal of making its scientific knowledge available to the widest and most diverse audience possible. GCS REDD+ also provided training to more than 6,800 people.

By contributing to shifting behaviour towards strong engagement with local partners and knowledge that results in effective, efficient and equitable outcomes, the GCS REDD+ project expects to have a long-term impact on the ability of target countries to protect and restore their forests.

Download the publication to find out how future initiatives can build on FTA results and work in a way that ensures social inclusiveness, respect for traditional knowledge, cross-sector approaches, and capacity building.

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  • FTA at GLF Nairobi: Faith in trees restored  

FTA at GLF Nairobi: Faith in trees restored  

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A plenary takes place at the Global Landscapes Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by GLF

The most recent Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) conference, focusing on restoration in Africa, was attended by 800 people from the worlds of research, natural resource management and the private sector, and watched by thousands more online. 

The CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) played key roles in the event, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on Aug. 29-30, including as a funding partner. With restoration a major priority of FTA’s work, the program hosted or cohosted two Discussion Forums and a side event, while its partner institutions hosted two Launchpads.

Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Director General Robert Nasi gave a keynote speech during the Opening Plenary in which he queried why the massive cost to society of landscape degradation is not recognized when restoration brings impressive returns. The cost of inaction is at least three times the cost of active ecosystem restoration, and on average the benefits of restoration are 10 times higher, leading to increased employment, increased business spending, improved gender equity, increased local investment in education and improved livelihoods.

Ecosystem restoration can generate tangible benefits, which will increase food and water security, contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and contribute to addressing associated risks such as conflict and migration. Short-term gains from unsustainable land management often turn into long-term losses, making the initial avoidance of land degradation an optimal and cost-effective strategy.

We need a paradigm change: from seeing landscape restoration as a high-cost activity with no financial returns to land owners and only environmental benefits, to one which provides increased incomes to landowners, creates jobs, and results in ecosystem goods and services for society as a whole, Nasi said.

Watch: Robert Nasi’s opening remarks at GLF Nairobi 2018

Following the opening remarks, the afternoon of the event’s first day saw Social inclusion, equity and rights in the context of restoration – lessons from the ground, a discussion addressing restoration initiatives in different environmental and sociopolitical landscapes. Safeguarding the rights of local communities and promoting the voice and influence of their members in an equitable manner must be central in restoration to avoid perpetuating inequalities, to incentivize women and men to contribute to restoration efforts, and to provide greater opportunities and enhanced wellbeing for women and men alike, the session found.

The discussion aimed to extract, share and discuss concrete actions and conditions that have hindered or facilitated success in terms of rights, equality and wellbeing of local and indigenous women and men. It featured three different restoration initiatives from East Africa, as well as providing guidance on how to integrate robust socioeconomic targets and indicators in national and global restoration efforts.

Read also: Gender matters in Forest Landscape Restoration: A framework for design and evaluation

Watch: Discussion Forum 5: Social inclusion, equity and rights in the context of restoration

The session was hosted by CIFOR with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Bioversity International, FTA, the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), World Resources Institute (WRI), UN Environment, Program on Forests (PROFOR), Komaza and Vi Agroforestry.

Among the panel of notable speakers were FTA gender coordinator Marlène Elias of Bioversity International, and Cecile Ndjebet, president of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF).

Read also: Woman on a mission: Pushing for rights and a seat at the decision-making table

During the same timeslot, a Launchpad session presented the key products and outcomes of a prototype of the Eastern Africa Forest Observatory (OFESA) to policymakers, practitioners and the general public.

Hosted by CIFOR, Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) and the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), speakers presented products including the observatory’s website and capabilities, a State of Forests report for the region covering Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique, as well as recommendations for the longer term sustainability of the observatory.

OFESA was developed in response to the significant loss of forests experienced in the region with negative impacts on forest goods and services and local livelihoods. Many factors driving forest cover loss are transboundary in nature, resulting in the need to monitor at a regional scale to ensure sustainable forest management and conservation.

However, the existing forest monitoring systems and initiatives are divergent, varying in scale, frequency and the type of data gathered, thus challenging forest monitoring at a regional scale. The regional forest observatory therefore provides member countries with a platform for sharing, exchanging and accessing data and information related to forests and REDD+ in support of decision-making processes by governments and other actors.

The observatory has data and information on forest cover trends and drivers that countries can use to track progress towards achieving restoration targets under the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and other initiatives such as Forests 2020.

Read more: The Current State of Eastern Africa’s Forests

A figure overlooks an agricultural landscape in Eastern Uganda. Photo by M. Lohbeck/ICRAF

Directly afterwards, in the early evening, was Rights, access and values: Trees in shifting economic and political contexts – new insights from sub-Saharan Africa, hosted by FTA and the CGIAR Research Program on People, Institutions and Markets (PIM).

This session, with four cases from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Uganda, initiated a discussion on the dynamics of securing rights to trees by harnessing the values of trees through changing access to technologies, markets and finance in Sub-Saharan Africa, aiming to improve knowledge of tree tenure dynamics and increase recognition of the value of trees on farms to different users.

Improved recognition of the values of, and rights to, trees in land use decision-making and related policies and programs may provide an innovative pathway to sustain forested landscapes without recourse to costly restoration activities, but suboptimal tenure rules may jeopardize this, the session concluded.

Read more: GLF session acknowledges difference between tree and land tenure, aims to enhance landscapes

Held simultaneously was Sustainable woodfuel value chains in sub-Saharan Africa – policies, practices and solutions contributing to the continent’s restoration agenda, a side event organized by CIFOR with ICRAF, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit – GIZ, UN Environment, Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), FTA and the European Union.

Woodfuel is the main cooking fuel for over 60 percent of households in Africa, which is expected to increase in coming decades, due to a lack of alternative household energy and growing charcoal demand in urban centers. The commercialization of woodfuel provides income to millions of people but is increasingly associated with detrimental impacts on the environment as supply basins in many countries are becoming severely degraded.

The side event explored how woodfuel value chains can be made sustainable and ultimately contribute to landscape restoration, livelihoods improvement and broader national climate change commitments, while balancing short-term socioeconomic and long-term ecological benefits.

The discussions focused on good practices and innovations for sustainable woodfuel value chains that can help to mitigate against deforestation and landscape degradation whilst enhancing livelihoods of producers and traders, with a specific emphasis on the important role of women in the value chain and how to increase gender equity.

The lineup of speakers included CIFOR’s Director General Robert Nasi on woodfuel as a sustainable energy source or driver of degradation, and ICRAF’s Phosiso Sola on the realities of woodfuel governance in sub-Saharan Africa.

Read more: Small flame but no fire: Wood fuel in the (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

FTA was represented a final time on the second day of the event with a second Launchpad, Trees for Seeds, a foundation for resilient restoration, hosted by Bioversity International. With around 12 percent, or 2 billion hectares, of the earth’s land surface currently degraded, the annual cost of degraded lands reaches 10 percent of global gross domestic product. The potential societal benefits of restoring degraded land are in the order of US$84 billion per year, a comparison that the session drew upon.

Watch: Launchpad: Trees for Seeds, a foundation for resilient restoration

Restoration of degraded tropical forest landscapes offer some of the greatest returns on investment, to address climate change, reduce poverty and food insecurity and support biodiversity. To deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), optimal restoration approaches are vital and the link between knowledge of native tree diversity and appropriate use to address SDGs in currently lacking. This represents a significant gap in capacity to enable scaling up forest landscape restoration (FLR) pledges from the Bonn Challenges to deliver multiple SDGs through restoration of degraded lands.

The Launchpad presented Bioversity International’s Trees for Seeds initiative, with Marius Ekue examining the current gaps in capacity and knowledge on delivery of native tree species relevant to AFR100 and introducing how Trees for Seeds can support resilient restoration in the region, Barbara Vinceti covering nutrition-sensitive restoration in Burkina Faso and Marlène Elias with gender-responsive FLR and novel approaches to ensure equality in FLR decision-making, before a panel discussion.

Rounding out the event, ICRAF Director General Tony Simons spoke during the Policy Plenary, before CIFOR’s Nasi spoke during the Closing Plenary. Highlighting its success, Nasi emphasized the number of people in attendance in person at the event, as well as a significant reach online.

“We have discussed about restoration, […] social innovation, rights, tenure, gender, monitoring, what is success, how to finance success, what we need to do in terms of policy. We had a very inspirational contribution by young people, the youth. We have done a lot of networking,” he said, adding that there was a “dynamism” evident throughout the event.

Over its two days of talks, GLF Nairobi helped to build and align international, national and private sector support for forest and landscape restoration, paving the way for turning support into action. Bringing together actors from all backgrounds and sectors, the conference has sparked a global conversation around Africa’s landscapes.

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  • Social inclusion, equity and rights in the context of restoration – lessons from the ground

Social inclusion, equity and rights in the context of restoration – lessons from the ground

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Restoration initiatives come in many sizes and shapes and take place in different environmental and socio-political landscapes. Evidence and experiences have shown that safeguarding the rights of local communities and promoting the voice and influence of their members in an equitable manner must be central in restoration to avoid perpetuating inequalities, to incentivize women and men to contribute to restoration efforts and to provide greater opportunities and enhanced wellbeing for women and men alike.

The objective of this interactive discussion forum is to extract, share and discuss concrete actions and conditions that have hindered or facilitated success in terms of rights, equality and wellbeing of local and indigenous women and men. The forum will feature three different restoration initiatives from East Africa, each presented by a restoration expert with practical experience from the field, followed by interaction with participants. The discussion will also sow the seeds for building an empirically grounded framework for understanding progress – or regression – in terms of equality and inclusion in the context of forest and landscape restoration, and provide guidance on how to integrate robust socioeconomic targets and indicators in national and global restoration efforts.

This video was originally published by the Global Landscapes Forum.

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  • GLF session acknowledges difference between tree and land tenure, aims to enhance landscapes

GLF session acknowledges difference between tree and land tenure, aims to enhance landscapes

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A woman roasts shea nuts, before grinding them into a fine paste, in Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

Tenure rights to trees are entangled with, but different from, those to land, meaning both must be acknowledged to incentivize stewardship of the landscape by local communities, said delegates at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Nairobi on Aug. 29-30.

Thus, land tenure rights, which are widely recognized as being central to advancing sustainable development goals, are only one part of the picture.

This was one of the main takeaways from the panel Rights, access, and values: trees in shifting economic and political contexts – new insights from sub-Saharan Africa, cohosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the CGIAR Research Program on People, Institutions and Markets (PIM) at the forum. The panel was chaired by Frank Place, PIM Director.

“We need to do more work to differentiate tree tenure from land tenure,” said Andrew Wardell, senior research associate at the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR) and coauthor of a study exploring shifts in shea tenure in Burkina Faso.


Claiming tenure over the trees one has planted is a widespread convention across Africa, but shea trees grow wild, so farmers have historically selected and protected them on their lands.

Researchers questioned whether a shea tree belongs to the family that first selected and saved the tree, the family that protected and managed it afterwards. Considerations also included determining whether shea belongs to the wild tree category, in which case, access to the tree is closely linked to access to land.

How these concerns are addressed determines who stands to gain access to, and reap benefits from, a natural resource. Particularly, since customary institutions that formerly regulated access to land and trees are being weakened by new, and rapidly-changing social and economic contexts.

Shea nuts dry after being freed from their pulp and washed in Burkina Faso. Photo by O. Girard/CIFOR

“Internal migration driven by climate change, and a boom in the shea trade are two of the key issues playing out in Burkina Faso as a key shea producer country,” explained Wardell. Traditionally, the kernels were seen as an abundant communal resource, which women collected to derive a reliable year-round source of income.

Yet, customary rules are now failing to keep pace with the new, highly competitive context, noted Wardell. In southwestern Burkina Faso, men increasingly claim ownership of the trees growing in their fields; there are fewer communal areas where access to shea is open to all; and access to an increasingly scarce and marketable resource is pitting first-settlers against new-comers, internal migrants that flee desertification in northern regions of the country.

Researchers observed that “first-comers” try to link access to shea with access to land, which they control. In response, “late-comers” claim access to the trees they protect and manage, or argue shea’s wild nature makes it a communal resource as part of their strategies to re-negotiate their rights of access.


Women’s access to trees is also changing in Uganda. “Youth are cutting shea to obtain timber and fuelwood regardless of customary rules and a government ban,” said Concepta Mukasa, representative of the Association of Uganda Professional Women in Agriculture and the Environment.

“The more marketable shea becomes, the bigger the threat to the trees and to women’s livelihoods, so we are helping them come together to advocate for their access rights,” Mukasa explained.

On the bright side, women from the Baganda community in central Uganda are now starting to gain access to Natal fig or “Mutuba” (Ficus natalensis). “The tree used to signal chief-tenancy, so they were not allowed from to plant it or even harvest its fruits; women in that area are not supposed to climb trees,” she pointed out.

Panelists from Ghana (Alberg Katako representing Civic Response) and Kenya (Ben Chikamai representing the Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa) echoed similar challenges at the intersection of tenure rights to land and to trees – a tension which increases with the commoditization of natural resources and population pressure. Additional welcome comments on the panel discussion were provided by Ruth Meinzen-Dick from PIM who has a long history of working on land tenure rights and collective action.

Over 70 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa depend on forests and woodlands for their livelihoods, but two thirds of the continental land-mass are degraded. In this context, a more nuanced approach to tenure rights will have to be part of the equation to build resilient landscapes and livelihoods, agreed the panelists.

By Gloria Palleres, originally published at GLF’s Landscape News

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  • Migration, property rights and livelihoods on Peruvian forest frontiers

Migration, property rights and livelihoods on Peruvian forest frontiers

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  • Woman on a mission: Pushing for rights and a seat at the decision-making table

Woman on a mission: Pushing for rights and a seat at the decision-making table

A woman plants gnetum in Lekié, Cameroon. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
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A woman plants gnetum in Lekié, Cameroon. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Rural women face a range of challenges across the environmental sector, including in forestry and agriculture. This has motivated the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF) to improve the situation by securing women’s tenure rights to land and forests.

Ahead of International Women’s Day, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s (FTA) Gender Research Coordinator Marlène Elias sat down with REFACOF President Cécile Ndjebet to discuss the network’s successes and challenges, as well as her views on the role of FTA research in supporting transformative change for REFACOF members, their communities, and their environments.

Elias and Ndjebet spoke on the sidelines of the recent ‘Working across Sectors to Halt Deforestation and Increase Forest Area – from Aspiration to Action’ conference, organized by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests on Feb. 20-22, 2018. FTA supported the coordination of 10 of the total 16 thematic sessions at the conference, including leading the organization of a session on stakeholders, for which Ndjebet was a panelist, and co-organizing a session on science and research.

Cameroon-based Ndjebet is an agronomist and social forester who has been involved for many years in gender mainstreaming and advocating for women’s rights. She coordinates REFACOF – which was created in 2009 with 10 countries, and now covers 17 across Central Africa, West Africa and Madagascar – in the push for greater consideration of women’s activities and in aiming to influence policies and practices for greater gender equality.

Read more: FTA at CPF international conference

Watch: Cecile Ndjebet mobilizes mangrove restoration project on Cameroon coast

What does your network aim to achieve for the environment and for women’s lives?

Women’s lives and humanity depend on the quality of our environment. In our network, we aim to improve the environment as a whole, but we also think we should contribute to climate change mitigation, so we address climate change issues and try to improve the livelihoods of communities.

We want to improve the quality of the environment through activities in the field, on the ground, through the enabling environment, policies and legal arrangements, and with the development of livelihood activities. If we aim at improving the environment so we can address climate change, we need to contribute to decreasing deforestation and forest degradation but we also need to improve our agricultural practices and techniques. Of course, we also need to work with other actors to combine our efforts and tools.

A rural landscape is pictured on the outskirts of Yaounde, Cameroon. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

For example, women in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana or the Gambia are very much engaged in tree planting. They are working to improve the forest area, the forest surface, mangroves; they are involved in sustainable agricultural practices; they are also involved in education, information sharing and training among themselves.

Those who have more expertise in particular areas or issues train others. They also mobilize communities in general (men, women and youth) to increase consideration and awareness of the issues of climate change.

Read more: Women left on sidelines of decisions about forest management

What challenges have you confronted and what have been your successes?

Let me start with successes. The first one is having women on board – making sure women participate physically where decision-making occurs. We have started in a few countries, especially in REDD+ processes, to understand that if women are absent, things will fall on them. So we organize women at the very local level, subnational and national level to take part in REDD+ processes in some countries. We have realized that when women are part of decision-making processes they can really have a voice. They can voice their issues, and advocate and lobby to have their issues taken into account.

We have succeeded in influencing the way things are done. Now in the countries where we are, even the government knows that REFACOF said: “we need at least 30 percent women – please make sure women are on board”. You can see it in REDD+ documents like Readiness Preparation Proposals, national strategy documents, emission reduction documents. This is something we are really proud of and have to encourage: having women on board during decisions, planning, and implementation.

A market gardener is pictured near Lake Bam in Burkina Faso. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

I would also like to share what we are doing with traditional chiefs and parliamentarians. To contribute to reforms in some countries, we needed to build strategic alliances. We understood that the challenges women are facing are not always because of a lack of policies or bad policies. Sometimes policies are neutral: they do not themselves exclude women. We do need more specific women-oriented policies, but the problem also lies in the practices, and these are linked to our cultural behavior.

So we understood this and realized that it was very important for us to work with traditional chiefs. We have started showing them where problems lie with customary law and where it is important for them to bring changes, because if women have secure access to land and to forests and forest resources, this will bring more value to all they are doing, and it is families and society that will benefit from that.

Then, we participated in forest and land reform processes. Of course, nothing is completely done, but at least we have succeeded in working with parliamentarians. When we submitted our advocacy document, we asked them to support it because the parliament is a key body in our country – drafting laws and making sure the law has a meaning for us. We have succeeded in doing that. Building on strategic alliances is key for women to achieve the change we are aiming at.

But we have challenges. The first one is insecure tenure, and the second one is funding. Women are doing a lot with so little and even that little is difficult to have and to mobilize. Women need resources to get more engaged, to improve our environment, to address climate change – and that is really lacking.

Also, when policies are neutral, most of the time women are left out at the time of implementation. So we have to work for gender-responsive policies and legal regulations to have ‘men and women’ clearly stated in the policy. If we only say ‘all Cameroonians, all citizens’, with our traditional way of doing things the women will be left behind. But if the policy says men and women, we only have to sensitize our male partners to this – and ask where the women are. It makes it less complex.

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

What role can FTA research play in supporting REFACOF and efforts to improve women’s lives and the environment?

Children collect bananas in Cameroon. Photo by Terry Sunderland/CIFOR

I have a lot of expectations from researchers. Research should work to document what women are doing and share it worldwide. Our actions are local, but the impact is very high. If we put all the actions together, the impact is huge. If I have 200 women’s associations and each one restores 1 hectare of forest, we are at 200 hectares.

We need research to look at the social aspects of reforestation and the role of rural women: How can we document and value that role and what are the rewards? I would be very happy to see rural women recognized very openly at this type of conference, and that their role in addressing climate change in a specific area is recognized.

I went to Guatemala and met members of women’s associations and networks there. When I was talking with those rural women, I realized that whether African, Asian or Latin American, women are the same. They are facing the same challenges, the same problems. So how can we make it possible for them to share what they are experiencing across countries, across regions? Research can document, value and promote these experiences — and share worldwide. We need research to understand the why and the how of women’s involvement in environmental protection activities.

We also need research to help women technically, to succeed with what they are doing. When they plant trees, sometimes the survival rate is very low because of the techniques and tree species they are using. Research could look at how to improve the techniques and materials to ease women’s work.

Something very important is linking women at local, national, regional and global levels. Women’s situations are improving because we have networks like REFACOF and others in our regions. REFACOF is aiming at having a rural women’s platform that can take the lead on activities or concerns or issues at this type of forum. Not only talking on their behalf, but REFACOF can build women’s capacities in leadership, negotiation and advocacy so they can bring their issues to the highest level possible, at global level debates.

We are looking forward to the implementation of the newly adopted UN Strategic Plan for Forests (2017-2030), and hoping that rural women will have a place and a share in the implementation of the work program that will be developed.

Read more: Gender equality and social inclusion

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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  • 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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  • Strengthening women's tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making

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

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Presented by Dr. Esther Mwangi on Feb. 8, 2018, during the More than a seat at the table: Strengthening women’s tenure and rights to forests and trees and their participation in decision making webinar, organized by the CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research with the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

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  • Mapping traditional forests in Maluku, Indonesia

Mapping traditional forests in Maluku, Indonesia

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As tenure laws change in Maluku, Indonesia, work is underway to recognize customary rights to forests. Researchers are using a participatory mapping technique to work with communities and their customary leaders to facilitate tenure reform that benefits forests and people.

This video was originally published by CIFOR.

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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  • How are China, Nepal and Ethiopia restoring forest landscapes?

How are China, Nepal and Ethiopia restoring forest landscapes?

A researcher explains the use of ground penetrating radar to measure peat depth to professors and students. Photo by D. Ramsay/CIFOR
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Comparative study launched on sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum finds success in devolving property rights.

Forest landscape restoration has gained a high political profile internationally, but still faces the challenge of how best to involve local communities to ensure the success of programs on the ground. This is an issue that is all the more challenging given the diversity of environmental and sociopolitical contexts around the globe.

Property rights, for instance, are widely accepted as a crucial starting point for restoration — but policymakers struggle to clarify and secure rights over forests. In view of this, researchers at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), turned to successful FLR programs in China, Nepal and Ethiopia to identify lessons that could be applied elsewhere.

A woman prepares rice for cooking in Nepal. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Specifically, they examined how the devolution of access and management rights to local communities provided incentives for them to invest in restoration activities. The study, included in a Special Issue of International Forestry Review on forest landscape restoration, focuses on people managing forests in mountainous and hilly areas.

The special issue was launched on the sidelines of the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, where FTA also participated in discussion forums and panels.

By drawing examples from dramatically different national contexts, the comparative study illustrates “the diversity of paths that the devolution of rights took, but how it had similar results,” says CIFOR senior scientist and lead author Peter Cronkleton.

All three cases of forest tenure reform led to the decentralization of forestry institutions and the partial devolution of management rights to local forest-dependent people, Cronkleton says. This resulted in different comanagement systems that reflect national and local contexts.

However, the general outcome was the same: local households that gained clear and secure benefits from restoration efforts not only invested in management activities, but also helped to protect the resources from overuse and excluded outsiders. Ultimately, this led to an increase in forest cover and improvements in livelihoods.

Read more: FTA at GLF Bonn 2017


In Nepal, devolution passed rights to community-level user groups controlling nearby remnant forests, while in China’s Changting county, reforms resulted in a varied array of individuals and local groups controlling different types of forest for different purposes, the study notes.

In Ethiopia, a national forest was subdivided to grant control to local organizations representing subgroups from surrounding communities.

“All or most forests in question started as public or collective property within systems that placed strict restrictions on forest access and use for local stakeholders. However, in each case, national agencies or other authorities lacked the capacity or political will to control and enforce restrictions,” the research points out.

This led to forest degradation and deforestation, as various stakeholders “extracted what they could, and there was little incentive to forgo immediate benefits or invest in the resources’ future.” This scenario, common to the various case studies, started changing following tenure reform.

Now, “Nepal is known as a global leader in community-based forest management,” says CIFOR senior scientist Himlal Baral. More than 20,000 Community Forestry User Groups, making up 40 percent of the population, now manage 33 percent of Nepal’s forests.

“Before, locals had a tendency to overutilize resources,” says Baral. “Today, they have incentives to protect the landscape, and they see restoration as being closely connected to their livelihoods.” From his perspective, this illustrates how the multiple benefits of FLR are key to advancing environmental targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In Changting, China, policy reform took a different path. In the study area, collective property rights over forests offered low incentives for restoration. In this case, the key was devolving rights to individual households. Individual forest rights combined with credits and subsidies provided incentives for households, cooperatives and enterprises to invest in FLR.

In Ethiopia, some of the poorest forest-dependent residents organized into user groups under participatory forest management programs (PFM). They were encouraged to develop management plans for lands that were not classified as production or protected forests, and were allowed to extract non-timber products in return.

An estimated 1.5 million hectares of forest are currently under PFM institutions, and an additional two million could be rehabilitated with this mechanism as part of the commitments under the Bonn Challenge.

Read more: Forest Landscape Restoration in Hilly and Mountainous Regions: Special Issue


Indicators of forest devolution success range from an increase in tree cover to reduction in conflicts between local communities and the state, as was the case with the Chilimo PFM program in Ethiopia. Though there were many successes in FLR, the study also points out emerging challenges.

One is whether local communities have ownership over the environmental services produced by their restoration efforts, often by forgoing other benefits, and whether they should be compensated by other stakeholders. “This will be an ongoing question: how to create equitable and efficient systems for having payments for those services,” says Cronkleton.

In comanagement systems, communities are required to demonstrate their compliance with forestry regulations. According to Cronkleton, “the tendency to impose more and more elaborate management and reporting requirements can create a disincentive.”

From his perspective, devolving property rights to local actors is as important as including them in determining how the restoration should take place. “Comanagement should involve an ongoing negotiation and adaptation to new learnings. It is a process rather than a one-off decision.”

Further research could explore how different ways of devolving rights affect restoration efforts. For now, scientists hope this study will raise awareness among policymakers and practitioners of the need to involve locals when designing rights systems and compliance mechanisms. After all, says Cronkleton, “it is key to the success of the initiative.”

Read more: Forest and landscape restoration severely constrained by a lack of attention to the quantity and quality of tree seed: Insights from a global survey

By Gloria Pallares, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Peter Cronkleton at p.cronkleton@cgiar.org or Himlal Baral at h.baral@cgiar.org.

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 UK aid from the UK government.

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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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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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  • Securing tenure rights to communal forests in Masindi district, Uganda: Lessons from Participatory Prospective Analysis (PPA)

Securing tenure rights to communal forests in Masindi district, Uganda: Lessons from Participatory Prospective Analysis (PPA)

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  • The Participatory Prospective Analysis process in Masindi district, Uganda, brought together government, private sector, NGO and local communities stakeholders to collectively reflect on factors affecting local tenure rights, forecast future scenarios and propose actionable plans for securing forest tenure rights.
  • Participants identified several factors threatening local forest tenure rights: lack of land ownership documentation; inadequate implementation and enforcement of forest policies, laws and programs; land use changes; gender bias against women; political interference; lack of community awareness of forest tenure rights; and inadequate financial and human resources to effectively protect local people’s rights to forests and land.
  • To identify potential barriers and drivers, three workshops were organized. With both forestry and agricultural sectors being male-dominated, a women-only workshop was organized to capture women’s perspectives and compare findings with those of the mixed gender group.
  • Four ‘key driving forces’ impacting forest tenure security were identified by both groups: (1) community participation in forest tenure reform implementation, particularly that of women; (2) access to financial resources to implement forest tenure reform activities; (3) the importance of outside organizations having an awareness of community, cultural and institutional norms and beliefs regarding forest tenure rights; (4) the role played by local and national government agencies and politicians in coordinating and promoting progress towards forest tenure reforms.
  • Women stakeholders emphasized the importance of access to land for forestry activities as critical to securing their rights; they also identified that supportive men and domestic relationships can impact on women’s rights to forest land. Mixed group stakeholders identified the role of oil, gas and other industrial activities as a key threat to local forest tenure security.
  • Participants developed four scenarios to anticipate potential future situations impacting on local forest tenure rights. Desirable scenarios depicted a well-governed, well-financed forestry sector characterized by gender equality and participative forest management. Undesirable scenarios were characterized by a dominant oil and gas sector undermining forest sustainability and forest rights; a weak, underfunded and poorly-managed forest sector; forest conversion to other uses; government failure to recognize community rights and integrate communities in forest management; and disappointed, disempowered communities collectively destroying forests for survival instead of managing them sustainably.
  • Several actions were identified to secure local forest tenure rights: (a) making district-level government more responsive to local needs and aspirations around community forest tenure reforms; (b) increasing the number of well-trained district government officers and providing adequate financial resources; (c) facilitating a faster, affordable process for community forest registration, including community incentives; (d) equipping communities with knowledge, skills and resources to enhance their participation in forest tenure reform implementation; (e) promoting environmentally and socially responsible investments to mobilize resources for protecting local people’s forest tenure rights.
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  • Rights abuse allegations in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation: A preliminary review and proposal for moving forward

Rights abuse allegations in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation: A preliminary review and proposal for moving forward

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  • This review reveals multiple allegations of abuses of the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the context of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) readiness and implementation.
  • Findings from the review should be transformed into opportunities for REDD+ to promote and strengthen the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • A rights-based approach to REDD+ requires engagement with indigenous men and women as rights-holders, rather than as project beneficiaries.
  • Parties should be pressed to investigate abuse allegations, enable access to justice, and develop grievance mechanisms within REDD+ processes.
  • REDD+ risks exacerbating issues of unsecured rights and pre-existing conflicts over land in the contexts in which it is being readied and implemented, unless it is re-oriented to enhance the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Evidence suggests Indigenous Peoples’ undefined tenure rights will negatively impact REDD+ targets.
  • Ensuring the consistent participation of indigenous men and women throughout REDD+ processes is imperative, following clear guidelines for Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), and with capacity-building efforts for their effective participation.
  • Rather than being seen as a tool to discourage negative impacts, REDD+ safeguards must be reframed to recognise, inter alia, the key role of Indigenous Peoples in climate change initiatives and protecting forests.
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  • Wild meat, between legitimacy and illegality

Wild meat, between legitimacy and illegality

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Despite being illegal, bushmeat trade is a reality that contributes to many people’s livelihoods. Bushmeat trade in Colombia only occurs at a relatively local scale, with the surplus being sold in the village or sent to the nearest town. Urban indigenous people consume bushmeat and consider this as their ancestral right that cannot be removed from them just because they have adopted a urban lifestyle.

Originally published at CIFOR.org.

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  • Candido, forestopia and how (not) to title indigenous community lands

Candido, forestopia and how (not) to title indigenous community lands

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Anne Larson, a CIFOR principal scientist working under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, talks about the pitfalls of titling indigenous land.

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