Gender equality key for sustainable landscapes and fair food systems

Interview with Patti Kristjanson on Women's Day
Harvesting rice paddies in Indonesia. CIFOR/Aulia Erlangga

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Support for gender equity should be central to policies supporting sustainable management of forest landscapes and agroforestry systems to help rural households move out of poverty.

Applying current knowledge about the ways women interact with forests and benefit from the land can help deliver “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” a theme of International Women’s Day this year.

Not only policies, but projects and practices must integrate gender equity, said Patti Kristjanson, senior gender specialist with the Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration impact program (FOLUR).

Led by the World Bank and funded by the Global Environment Facility, the program seeks to transform the global food system by promoting environmentally sustainable, integrated landscapes and efficient commodity value chains for beef, cocoa, coffee, maize, palm oil, rice, soy and wheat.

By threading a range of gender-responsive activities through 27 country projects, Kristjanson aims to identify how women can best benefit from food systems transformation to support change.

Among five key partners, FOLUR includes the Global Landscapes Forum — jointly coordinated by the World Bank, the U.N. Environment Programme, the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry.

Kristjanson cites a recent review exploring poverty dynamics published in the journal Forest Policy and Economics that identifies the need for more research into persistent gender gaps.

“How, why and where men and women access, use and manage forests and trees is often different,” Kristjanson said. “Closing gender gaps can help women better access services, markets, hire labor and strengthen their land and tree tenure rights.”

Women in rural communities face disproportionate challenges related to climate change, including less bargaining power, and fewer assets and resources than men, the review led by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) revealed.

They often rely on the sale of fruit, nuts, berries and medicinal plants, which contribute to food security, well-being, and can mitigate risks from climate change. In contrast, men tend to dominate more lucrative hunting, wood harvesting and mineral extraction sectors.

Weak women’s land tenure rights and economic migration can exacerbate gender-related challenges, when men leave to find work elsewhere and women face limitations to their agency to manage agricultural and forested areas.

“While collecting and selling forest products can provide women with additional income, reduce their labor burden and improve dietary diversity, it can also conversely increase their burden if the sole responsibility falls on them in addition to childcare and household duties,” Kristjanson said.

“They may also face challenges retaining control over profits, accessing capital and technology, receiving fewer benefits than men from their labor, who may exclude them from profits derived from higher income commodities such as coffee and cocoa.”

These are not new revelations, but they have significant implications for a program such as FOLUR, she added.

In all FOLUR projects, both women and men will make key contributions to commodity value chains, agricultural landscapes and forest sectors as farmers, workers, processors and entrepreneurs.

Training and technical assistance for women on leadership, forest management, forest restoration and agroforestry practices will focus on identifying appropriate tree species for men and women. Performance-based contracts for planting and protecting trees on farms, as well as near and inside forests will equal the playing field for producers.

Developing participatory community forest management plans that include women in leadership positions in committees will encourage equal representation and address disparities in access to resources.

Communication and knowledge-sharing efforts will target diverse rural audiences, such as “edutainment” shows highlighting female farmers or foresters.

Other initiatives will include making it easier for women to register for forest-related programs in easily accessible spaces they frequent; and training and hiring female technical advisors.

FOLUR is also working with commodity coalitions to encourage the adoption of proactive measures aimed at closing gender gaps and empowering women with sustainability standards and certifications.

“By testing gender-transformative approaches with rural women dependent on forest and agricultural landscapes, we will see improved livelihoods for women – progressing towards climate and development goals,” Kristjanson said.

The potential of certification schemes and mechanisms such as the W+ Women’s Empowerment Standard to channel funds directly to women and measure the impacts of gender-responsive forest landscape efforts in some countries will be explored.

Among other initiatives, FOLUR is also working with commodity coalitions to encourage the adoption of proactive measures aimed at closing gender gaps and empowering women with sustainability standards and certifications.

A global comparative study found that male and female roles differ according to region, demonstrating that across Africa, Asia and Latin America on average men earned 61 percent and women earned 25 percent of their income from processed goods from forests.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released last week, identifies the threats women and other marginalized groups face from global warming.

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Topic(s) :   Climate change