In Colombia, working together for equitable land and resource access

Uncovering the potential of gender transformative approaches
A woman in the private conservation area she manages in El Capricho, Colombia. Photo by José Luis Osorio/World Bank-ASL/CIFOR-ICRAF

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There is increasing recognition that women’s land rights are a crucial factor in overcoming global social and environmental challenges. But development interventions in rural and forested landscapes that support this idea have not always succeeded in effectively addressing the root causes of inequality – and thus in ensuring women’s meaningful inclusion in land and resource management.

The Global Initiative for Gender Transformative Approaches for Securing Women’s Resource Rights (WRR) seeks to generate evidence to enhance the recognition and protection of women’s land rights in six countries, informing policies towards the creation of conditions that enable secure women’s land rights over time. 

The initiative focuses on the potential contribution of gender transformative approaches (GTAs) and the identification of best practices for their application in different contexts. To this end, the Securing Women’s Resource Rights through gender transformative approaches (WLR) project works with selected International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) rural development projects in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uganda to learn from these experiences. 

At a workshop on 15th September in Bogota, Colombia, convened by the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) in partnership with the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, representatives of government agencies, academia, and development NGOs gathered to exchange knowledge on the potential of GTAs for equitable rights to land resources in the country. 

The WLR case study in Colombia focuses on the El Campo Emprende (“Building rural entrepreneurial capacities, confidence and opportunities) project, an initiative of the Colombian government to enhance employment, income, and the living conditions of rural families in extreme poverty. 

   Leaders learning about entrepreneurship. Photo by Yoly Gutiérrez/CIFOR-ICRAF

Advancing transformative approaches

While the conception of GTAs is relatively new and definitions vary as they are developed and applied, all GTAs differ from other approaches in their design, application, and intended outcomes because they seek lasting change under the premise of addressing inequality not only by ‘fixing women’, but by ‘fixing the system’ that allows conditions of inequality to persist. Rather than addressing symptoms such as income disparities, these approaches challenge the underlying barriers that sustain gender inequality, such as norms and institutional structures.   

“An important characteristic of GTAs is that they enable the recipients of initiatives to collaborate in the definition of the changes sought and in the co-design of accompanying strategies to facilitate change,” said Peter Cronkleton, a scientist in CIFOR-ICRAF’s governance, equity, and well-being team and coordinator of the research in Colombia. 

“In this case, while the El Campo Emprende interventions were not originally conceived with GTAs in mind, the global research initiative promoted by IFAD seeks to identify experiences that are compatible with the GTAs in what has already been done and to draw lessons learned to strengthen or improve the outcomes of future projects,” he said. 

Exchange and learning 

The study in Colombia includes interviews with El Campo Emprende project staff, local experts, and focus group discussions with beneficiaries of the programme in the departments of Bolivar and Cauca, seeking to understand the social context and impact of the intervention in the groups. 

While El Campo Emprende focuses on improving economic productivity, not specifically access to land, preliminary analysis shows that improving economic well-being among participants and enhancing knowledge can have positive effects on securing land tenure for women in the future. It also shows that addressing gender-related perceptions and social norms is key to ensuring that women have equal opportunities to access and own land.  

“By addressing these structural challenges, it is possible to promote equitable access to secure land tenure and to address the idea of vulnerability associated with land ownership, which in Colombia is linked to the impact of the internal armed conflict the country faced between 1964 and 2016,” said Pablo Ramos, a researcher at the Universidad Javeriana and coordinator of the study’s field activities in Colombia. 

The workshop also facilitated an exchange of experiences and knowledge related to the implementation of GTAs and gender approaches in Colombia. For example, through the local work of Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular (Cinep), social norms and behaviours have been identified and are currently being addressed through a pilot programme. 

Its strategies involve the inclusion of men in dialogue spaces (on the understanding that the processes cannot continue to be the sole responsibility of women) and the training of technicians who implement projects so that they recognize gender-related barriers. 

Members of the Family Farming Initiative of the International Land Coalition (ILC) in Latin America and the Caribbean highlighted the work by women’s organizations in the National Network of Family Farming that promoted a gender approach in public policy guidelines for family farming and agricultural production by ethnic communities. They concluded that the pursuit of decent living conditions and redistribution of power relations should sit at the centre of policies. 

The meeting emphasized the importance of continuing to build inclusive policies that protect people’s rights, whilst implementing tools such as exchange meetings between women from different regions to help them identify common experiences and learn from each other. 

For more information, please contact Peter Cronkleton: 


This research is part of work on Securing Women’s Resource Rights through Gender-Transformative approaches. In 2020, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) invited a consortium of the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry Centre (CIFOR-ICRAF), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to work with selected IFAD projects to promote and strengthen women’s land rights through the integration of gender transformative approaches (GTAs) in rural development interventions by improving policies, tools and practices.

This is the first of a blog series covering the activities of the study Securing Women’s Resource Rights through gender transformative approaches (WLR) in Colombia.

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