Delegate from Indonesia
A delegate speaks during a session on gender at the FOLUR annual meeting in Sao Paolo. FOLUR/Mauro Nery


By Patti Kristjanson and Julie Mollins

Diverse voices and viewpoints are emerging and crystallizing into new ways of addressing challenges faced by many of the 27 country projects that make up the Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program.

Inclusive approaches to reshaping the dynamics in rural landscapes presented at the FOLUR spring annual meeting in Sao Paolo and at the recent FOLUR Africa Regional Dialogue in Nairobi reflect creative methods of communicating, engaging, capacity strengthening, while supporting women and men, and measuring gender outcomes.

Innovative methods of communication ensuring inclusivity in project actions and benefits are underway in Ghana. The project team – which is focused on improving the cocoa supply chain by developing strategies to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation while restoring degraded landscapes – is building a dialogue with local communities. As they gain tools and knowledge of improved practices to manage their own resources on land formerly owned by the government, communities claiming power need to trust that any landscape improvement actions they undertake and benefits they accrue will not be taken away from them.

In Indonesia, where projects focus on cocoa, coffee and oil palm, FOLUR addresses challenges and opportunities related to coordinating activities on many ecologically diverse sites. Early efforts toward building trust and inclusion during multi-stakeholder consultations were found to be critical for identifying targeted gender-responsive activities, which included making a record of the activities of women, ensuring their actions are supported and represented in all project meetings and activities, and hiring them in key project staff positions.

Many project teams are pursuing inclusive engagement processes, which support the removal of structural barriers, enabling project participants to exercise their power and actively participate. The Liberia FOLUR project team, working on more sustainable and productive cocoa and palm practices, set up a steering committee that must nominate a woman alternate for each male member. They established rotational rules that ensure women are given key leadership roles. In addition, 30 percent of leadership roles are held by women in the project sites. Early in its inception phase, the Papua New Guinea team that is developing integrated landscape management systems in cocoa, coffee, and palm landscapes held a participatory workshop that identified specific gender-responsive activities with gender action plans targeted at the diverse needs of project participants. 

In the rice and forest landscape-focused Tanzania FOLUR project, inclusive training via farmer field schools that take actions to ensure women, men and youth are participating equally, are due in no small measure to the team taking timing and locations of trainings into consideration to suit needs and schedules. A “training of trainers” approach similarly ensures a greater diversity in rural service providers that have traditionally been exclusively men. This effort is supported by shared presentations and videos in many villages across their project area. Training designed to raise awareness and prevent gendered oppression, including gender-based violence is also critical and is a vital component of many FOLUR projects, including Liberia, Ghana, Mexico, and others.

When it comes to empowerment of women, men and youth, we have heard from several project teams how important supportive national-level policies are, particularly those that recognize women as equal owners on land titles or certifications.  In Burundi’s hilly inter-cropped coffee landscapes, the FOLUR project is building on previous World Bank-supported projects that have led to over 130,000 land certificates, 70% of which include women. With greater long-term security over their land assets, these women can take out loans, experience greater food security and improve their landscape management practices. The project management team mandated that at least 30% of leadership roles in decision-making bodies be held by women, and at least 50% of direct beneficiaries of project actions – such as receiving tree seedlings, seeds, and other productive inputs – go to women. Similarly, the Ethiopia FOLUR project team is designed to build on past joint land certification efforts in its work on improved coffee and wheat landscape management practices.

In Ghana, 70% of the work in cocoa landscapes is done by women, and yet only 20% of women have secure tenure of their land. The FOLUR project applies a landscape approach, ensuring women are in leadership and decision-making roles in local community resource management area (CREMA) groups. These groups have developed action plans that target at least 40% of project benefits towards women and youths.

These initiatives demonstrate how project activities that expose and remove structural barriers to women exercising their power lead to enhanced outcomes for everyone.

Overall, these empowerment outcomes can be measured and reported on more widely.

Methods such as the W+ Standard (wplus.org) are available to measure and value the way women claim power in different domains. Increases in income, labor and time savings, enhanced women’s leadership and other outcomes are important to track. As with carbon or payments for environmental services (PES), project outcomes related to women’s empowerment can be valued and rewarded if project teams use internationally recognized certification approaches such as the W+.

For example, the FOLUR Mexico project engages women in regenerative livestock and agroforestry. Based on a gender analysis and action plan, the team has identified the need to include childcare support in its capacity strengthening efforts which will lead to more equal participation of women and men in technical trainings.

Through W+, this project team and others could more readily measure and reward changes resulting from training. For example, starting a tree nursery, home biogas facility, integrating small livestock in their farms, or planting fruit, fodder or nut trees can all lead to greater incomes and nutrition for women and men and their families.

Measuring the value of and adequately compensating women for these results offers a huge opportunity. FOLUR’s Gender Working Group recognizes that strengthening the capacity of project team members to implement such approaches will be a game changer.

~ published November 2, 2023

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