LIMA, Peru: REDD+ – with its emphasis on the sustainable management of forests, is so often pitched to communities and what they can do to help ensure their futures.
And even while civil society emphasizes helping the poor and indigenous forest communities, a new study from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) says that one group is very often overlooked: women.
“The goal of REDD+ is to reduce emissions by changing the way people use forest resources,” said CIFOR principal scientist, Anne Larson, lead author of the study. “But unless we understand how forests are managed and how women use forests, there’s a risk that decisions will be made about forest use that could have a negative impact on women’s livelihoods and resilience.”
Although REDD+ projects include safeguards aimed at ensuring that they do not harm women, they often focus only on women’s participation in meetings, without considering whether women feel included and whether their participation actually influences community decisions, said Larson.
Past research has suggested that women tend to use resources that are more for household use, while men tend to control those that are for sale
Even when women say they have influence, Larson indicates the evidence suggests that they are not being informed about issues surrounding REDD+.
“This is a structural problem related to gender relations,” she said. “Promoting participation without addressing underlying gender issues will not solve the problem, although obviously, genuine participation is a start.”
FOCUS GROUPS SHED LIGHT
Past studies have also shown that women in forest communities tend to have less voice than men and participate less in decisions, especially about forest management.
There could be various reasons for that, Larson said, ranging from the time women devote to household chores to conflicts with a spouse if a woman spends too much time outside the home.
For the study – part of CIFOR’s multiyear Global Comparative Study of REDD+ -Larson and her colleagues did focus group interviews in 77 villages participating in 20 subnational REDD+ initiatives across six countries: Brazil, Cameroon, Indonesia, Peru, Tanzania, and Vietnam.
The focus groups were divided into women only, and also mixed-gender but with a majority of men.
The researchers examined how much the people in each type of group knew about REDD+; how much influence women have in village decision-making and in decisions about forest management; how women use forests compared to men; and specific commitments about women in REDD+ initiatives.
Women generally felt they had less voice in forest-related decisions, although they had more say in household decisions about the use of forest resources than in community decisions.
In general the women’s only focus groups knew less about REDD+ and/or the local REDD+ initiative than the mixed village focus groups—41 percent for the women’s groups, compared to 67 percent for the village groups.
HUNTING AND HOUSEHOLD
Vital to these differences is the different ways men and women use the forest.
In the villages studied, men engaged more in hunting and collecting timber and poles, while women spent more time gathering firewood, fruits and vegetables.
“Past research has suggested that women tend to use resources that are more for household use, while men tend to control those that are for sale,” Larson says.
The study concludes that it would be wrong to assume that in the absence of women attending meetings, the men would know how to represent them in any negotiations or discussions, because “they may not even understand how women’s specific criteria or priorities regarding forest goods and services may vary from their own”.
“These gender differences must be recognized and taken into account in REDD+”
The study also states, “Policies and actions that are assumed to be ‘gender neutral’ could have detrimental effects on women and on women’s contribution to household income and wellbeing.”
Just including women in meetings does not solve the problem
Anne Larson warned, “even though women said they were represented and could influence decisions, they were still less informed about the REDD+ projects in their communities than the groups dominated by men. That means women may be more left out than they say they are.”
“The study points to some lessons for making REDD+ projects and policies more equitable for women and men.”
Women’s participation must also go beyond simple attendance at meetings and training sessions, according to Larson.
“Women should be involved in all aspects of REDD+ design, decisions, capacity building, and benefits.”
“The most important thing is that there needs to be a gender analysis at the village level,” Larson said.
“Just including women in meetings does not solve the problem.”
For more information about CIFOR’s work in gender and REDD+ please contact Anne Larson –A.Larson@cgiar.org
CIFOR’s work in REDD+ and gender issues is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry