Unlocking the potential of women in landscape restoration
Landscape restoration is receiving unprecedented levels of investment and attention, affecting millions of people. To succeed, we need to understand how different people are affected by restoration initiatives. It’s especially important to understand gender differences.
Research shows that when women have a greater say in natural resource management decisions, the outcomes are better for all. So making sure gender equality is part of landscape restoration in practice, is crucial to achieving ambitious goals. The question for this article is how! How to ensure gender equality and equal rights to resources are designed into these large scale restoration programmes?
Ambitious restoration and gender equality goals
Landscape restoration has received unprecedented global attention in recent years. In 2011, the international community launched the Bonn Challenge to restore 350 million ha of deforested and degraded lands by 2030. In Kenya, where I manage ITF’s Watu wa Miti programme, the government has committed to restore 5.1 million hectares of land by 2030. These are ambitious goals that will affect millions of people.
Teresa Gitonga is ITF’s Kenya Programme Manager.
At the same time, Kenya has committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment – in its Constitution, national laws, and via international conventions such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). In SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment you’ll find targets for equal participation in decision-making, and equal rights to resources. Landscape restoration and SDG 5 are indivisible.
Why is gender equality crucial?
Studies show that restoration initiatives impact women and men’s rights and wellbeing in different ways. There is also a strong body of research which shows that when women are involved in restoration initiatives and are equipped with skills, they tend to make better natural resource management decisions. The problem is that low recognition of the value of gender equality amongst policy makers and professionals in the forestry sector, and inadequate investment, mean that landscape restoration is not benefiting from gender equality. This is a problem for us all.
We need to see more staff training in gender mainstreaming, more investment in awareness raising, and more women in leadership positions. Women in Kenya contribute up to 80% of the labor required for food production, yet women are not empowered as decision makers regarding the optimal use of these lands. Given that approximately 75% of Kenya’s rural population derive their livelihood from agriculture, this is a major problem. It’s also an opportunity: for accelerating progress towards ambitious restoration and gender equality goals.
“women need to be included on an equal footing with men, at all decision-making stages.”
How to make progress?
All landscape restoration initiatives should:
- Involve both women and men at all stages of a restoration initiative to ensure alignment with community members’ development priorities and to enhance wellbeing for all.
- Seek the consent of both women and men when implementing activities on their lands.
- Conduct a context-specific gender analysis – gender disaggregated and at the household level – to inform every restoration initiative.
Ensuring restoration activities generate and fairly distribute financial benefits to community members is critical for incentivizing continued participation. The financial benefits from some routes to restoration can take a long time to materialize, so sometimes there’s a need to provide alternative income sources for community members. This way, the upfront costs can be absorbed by community members and long-term participation secured. Women need to be involved in restoration initiative design stages, to ensure financial benefits reach women fairly.
Achieving restoration outcomes for people and planet
The scientific, legal, political and increasingly economic cases for landscape restoration are growing stronger every day. As crucial as these are, they constitute one side of a coin. One the other side are a range of sociological, gender, cultural and ethical matters. For the Bonn Challenge and other ambitious restoration initiatives to succeed, women need to be included on an equal footing with men at all decision-making stages and levels. This way, landscape restoration initiatives will deliver sustainable changes for the benefit of people and planet.