Planning landscape restoration often means evaluating forest health, water flows, or the availability of choice seedlings. It should also mean talking to women.
- By Lorena Aguilar, IUCN Gender Programme
Healthy and self-sustaining landscapes are like tapestries, composed of many threads in many colors. In my 25 plus years working in sustainable development I’ve seen many a well-meaning project fail to achieve long-term change because one thread was left out, one strand discarded on the workshop floor. If we were talking about restoration of degraded lands you may imagine that I mean a particular economic driver was not adequately considered, or a crucial landowner group was not consulted. And you would be right.
Women are the land users of the world. In most countries they play a large role in managing natural resources for their families’ and communities’ wellbeing. In Tanzania, where men increasingly migrate for work, women herd livestock and manage family pasturelands. In Nepal, they the select the crops for family farms. In Mauritius, they replant lost mangroves. Yet when large-scale, landscape-level decisions about land use are made, women’s needs and expertise are often not considered, their essential perspectives left out of final plans.
Because of this I am delighted to introduce a new blog series hosted by IUCN on gender and restoration. Forest landscape restoration is an important and innovative approach to bringing natural function back to degraded land in a way that benefits nature and people. But key questions need to be answered: can women's existing roles and knowledge be leveraged to advance the restoration process? Will a lack of rights to land or title mean women will be left out of this second natural revolution? Can the large and growing global restoration movement benefit women and men alike?
This blog series invites practitioners, academics, officials and land users to contribute new stories, ideas, and perspectives on this important issue. We’ll consider how we can:
- Advance restoration by incorporating women, together with men, into the process; and
- Ensure that women and men benefit equally from the restoration of degraded land.
This is not merely an academic exercise. Women often have their own methods of agroforestry and erosion control, for example, which they have employed successfully, and silently, for generations. Could their methods be integrated into restoration plans and scaled-up to benefit the larger restoration movement? Now's the time to figure out how. Despite some national policies that protect women's rights to land management, women around the world often lack title to or control over the land they depend on and could help restore. Can restoration address gender disparities and social justice alongside its more primary goals?
This blog hopes to present real examples from around the world. For now, here are a few of the values we can see from bringing gender into restoration, as well as some of the risks we face by not doing so. If you have examples to share, please write to us at [email protected], and subscribe to our restoration newsletter for more analysis and stories. We will post a new blog right here each month this autumn.
Some benefits from bringing gender considerations to bear on restoration planning and assessment processes may include:
- Capturing specific and relevant knowledge, skills and experiences of women as primary forestry users and food producers;
- Understanding the different roles, rights and responsibilities of men and women, as well as their particular access to and use patterns in forests and agricultural lands;
- Guaranteeing accuracy of information on forest degradation;
- Ensuring efficient measures for the sustainable management of forests, forest conservation and restoration;
- Improving the equitable sharing of benefits from restoration; and
- Complying with a human rights-based approach to development.
Risks related to ignoring gender issues in restoration may include:
- Imprecise identification of the primary stakeholders of forests, forest management and agricultural practices;
- Establishment of inequitable systems for sharing of benefits;
- Maintenance of existing inequality in land and resource use rights;
- Expanded marginalization of women in decision-making; and
- Limiting the sustainability and long-term effectiveness of restoration outcomes.