Activists Call for Women in Forests Agreement

Posted on 01 December 2010 by admin

Indigenous coffee grower in Perú. Milagros Salazar/IPS

By Rosebell Kagumire

CANCÚN, Mexico, Dec 2, 2010 – (IPS/TerraViva) Conservation activists are calling for the recognition of women in any agreement on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Representatives of nearly 200 governments currently gathered in the Mexican resort of Cancún to address climate change could reach a final deal on the forest protection mechanism, known as REDD+ in an expanded form which covers conservation and sustainable management of forests to enhance forests’ capacity to store carbon.

Under REDD+, developed countries could offset their greenhouse gas emissions by funding conservation projects in developing countries.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has led calls to bring about full recognition of women as an integral part of negotiations on the scheme.

“Incorporation of gender into REDD+ will bring about increased efficiency and sustainability as well contribute to women’s involvement in local forest management,” said Lorena Aguilar, the Global Senior Advisor on Gender at IUCN.

“Political will for REDD exists, but donors sponsoring REDD initiatives still do not mainstream gender in the projects on the ground.”

Women provide up to 90 percent of the food in forest dependent communities. They are also primarily responsible for wood collection and medicine gathering – all of which need to be considered in both global and national REDD+ frameworks.

Although the current initiatives and REDD+ safeguards recognise the need to involve indigenous communities, they are silent on the specific role and involvement of women.

Andrea Quesada, Project Coordinator for the New York-based Women’s Environment and Development Organization, said the connection between gender and REDD+ should considered in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreement and other agreements if the initiative is to benefit women on the ground.

“What we would like to come out of this negotiation is that women are included and recognised not only as those that have less assets whom REDD could impact greatly, but also as true agents of change as forest managers, bearers of a unique knowledge needed in order for these conservation interventions to succeed,” she said to TerraViva.

Reduction of forest degradation is crucial in curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Tropical forests are disappearing at the rate of about 14 million hectares per year and deforestation contributes 17.3 percent to global greenhouse emissions.

The United Nations Collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (UN-REDD) estimates that financial flows from REDD+ could reach up to $30 billion per year, and pilot REDD projects are already under way in about 40 developing countries.

This level of funding could significantly contribute to the empowerment of women, but if poorly structured could further deepen existing gender inequality in forest communities.

“From past experience we know that when these initiatives come to the ground and they are engaging stakeholders, women usually have very little access or no access to the process,” Quesada said.

“We are not supporting REDD, we are only saying there is a need to be cautious; these interventions need to take into account social and gender dimensions,” she said.

Activists here want assurance that the final agreement will include equitable access to resources for women.

One clear obstacle to women’s access to REDD benefits is the issue of land tenure. Many women lack rights over land in many of the REDD+ implementing countries. It is difficult to see how they can gain from direct carbon funding if they don’t have a recognised legal claim to the lands where forests are protected.

Many countries are in the early stages of drawing up REDD readiness plans, a key moment to incorporate gender aspects, say activists.

Women should be able to engage in a forestry sector that is usually male-dominated, Quesada said.

IUCN has also called for women’s participation as a defined interest group in national working groups on REDD+.

(END/2010)

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