Making forestry work for women

On 8 March 2014, RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests celebrates International Women’s Day to honor women’s important contributions to community forestry throughout the Asia and the Pacific region.


a Thai woman weaving the organic thread
Credit: Bhawana Upadhyay

At a recent gathering of forestry professionals to discuss gender mainstreaming in forest policy, Dr. Tint L. Thaung, Executive Director of RECOFTC, highlighted the gender divide in the forestry sector, and the urgent need to address it.  “Even today, the forestry sector is perceived by many as a ‘man’s’ profession,” he said.

Statistics from the forestry sector in this region back this up. For example, female staff at one forest ministry make up a mere three percent of employees.  Community forest user groups are not reaching the target of 50 percent female inclusion. In another typical example, one ministry has 12 percent female staff, with the majority hired in administrative positions.

Addressing the various challenges to gender mainstreaming in the forestry sector require multi-dimensional approaches. Fundamental questions need to be explored to inform these approaches: how would gender responsive national forest policy help achieve gender equity in practice?  What are the intervening factors and how do we address them? All forest-related interventions need to be seen through a gender lens to recognize these fundamental issues.

a Nepali woman collecting fodder Credit : Rupa Joshi

a Nepali woman collecting fodder
Credit : Rupa Joshi

Amidst a discussion on gender disparity during the gathering, a participant from the Philippines shared her observation on a paradigm shift in gender inclusivity in the forestry sector in her country. Forestry courses, which were traditionally predominantly male, have shown increases in female enrollment. Currently, women outnumber men in forestry courses three to one. In fact, there are more female staff in the Forest Management Bureau of Philippines, with some occupying the most senior positions.

While female representation is important, however, it is not enough. It is critical to understand that gender mainstreaming is just a process and not a panacea in itself. Unless efforts are made to change mindsets, through awareness raising and developing capacities of stakeholders, achieving gender equality in forestry seems a far cry.

RECOFTC strongly believes that women’s empowerment is a key component of sustainable forest management. Thus in collaboration with its partners, RECOFTC is working to strengthen social and gender equity in all aspects of community forestry.

We would like to wish you a Happy International Women’s day and look forward to working together towards strengthening social and gender equity in community forestry.

Thai Experts Push for Forest and Land Tenure Policy Reforms

Attendees at RECOFTC’s first Policy Dialogue on Forest and Land Tenure Review and Reform agreed on the urgent need for policy reforms to ensure fair and sustainable management of shared natural resources.

Photos and story by Estelle Srivijittakar

Agencies and organizations present social, environmental and economic implications related to current policies

Agencies and organizations present social, environmental and economic implications related to current policies

Thailand is facing pressing challenges related to natural resources and climate change, and balancing national and local benefits of conservation activities along with coordination of local and government efforts are major priorities. These issues, discussed in last year’s National Seminar, were echoed in RECOFTC’s first Policy Dialogue on Forest and Land Tenure Review and Reform held in Bangkok from 20 – 22 March, 2012, which brought together representatives from government agencies, civil society, academia, and forest communities. Coinciding with World Forest Day and RECOFTC’s 25th Anniversary, the platform was an opportunity for a group of specialists in natural resource management and human rights to gather with community forestry networks in a ‘think tank,’ deliberating on cutting-edge issues, projects, and ideas for improved natural resource policies.


Experts Meeting: Unlocking the Wealth of Forests for Community Development

Rome, 28 March, 2012: Community forestry has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits for local communities. However, this requires that it moves beyond providing mainly subsistence goods to becoming a vehicle for the development of forest enterprises that can contribute to a genuine new forest economy. There is urgent need to remove regulatory bottlenecks and strengthen community institutions to negotiate and tap into profitable markets.

FAO and its partners, ITTO and RECOFTC, organized an Experts Meeting to develop a course of action toward an international initiative to promote the potential of community forests in contributing to sustainable development of community forestry. The meeting was attended by 26 Experts from a range of institutions and organizations from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and USA. Participants hailed from international agencies, government forestry agencies, NGOs, academia, research institutions, private sector, Indigenous groups, and community forestry alliances.


Mangrove devastation, the importance of tenure, and victories for indigenous communities in the news this week

Alarm Over Mangrove Devastation in Pakistan
, 9 March 2012
Speakers at a conference in Pakistan on mangrove ecosystems said that an acute lack of awareness among people and policy makers about the critical importance of mangroves was a major hurdle in conservation efforts along the coast.

Indigenous Groups Launch Ground-Breaking Environmental Regime in Brazil
Carbon Portal, 9 March 2012
The Brazilian state of Acre has implemented a comprehensive legal framework to support compensation and payments for ecosystem services, and indigenous groups are among the first to begin implementing it.

Land Ownership Boosts Climate Resilience in India
Reuters AlertNet
, 11 March 2012
Efforts to secure land ownership for tribal people in one of India’s poorest states are bolstering their economic security in the face of climate-induced hardships, and helping conserve farmland and forest.
Related article:
The next crop of landowners (March 8, Landesa)


Money Can Grow on Trees: Teak assets in Northern Laos

Claire Fram, ForInfo Project Associate, writes on teak trees as piggy-banks or insurance policies in Bokeo, Lao PDR, where the ForInfo project is helping increase the monetary value of these assets.

Teak trees in Bokeo, Laos

Villagers use teak trees, like these in Bokeo, Laos, as fungible assets in times of financial stress. (Photo credit: Claire Fram)

Huaythongtai village,  Paktha district, Bokeo Province, Lao PDR: A villager in Huaythongtai can sell one teak tree of a 50+ cm DBH (diameter at breast height, a standard method of expressing the diameter of a standing tree), to a trader in the provincial capital, Huay Xai, for about US $150.  When villagers are in need of quick cash, their teak trees are their most reliable liquid assets.

We visited Mr. Bounton, the village chief, to learn how teak is used by the community. We heard story after story of villagers who needed emergency medical treatment and sold a teak tree to cover the cost.


Proposed Forest Act amendment could derail community forestry in Nepal

Ganga R. Dahal provides a viewpoint on a proposed amendment to Nepal’s Forest Act of 1993 that would threaten the vitality of community forestry in that country. 

A recent proposal to amend the Forest Act of 1993,  put forward by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation of Nepal, has generated concern among people and organizations involved in the promotion of community forestry and the establishment of forest resources rights for  communities and indigenous peoples over the last 30 years.


REDD+, forests and food

At Durban’s Forest Day 5, the resounding message was that REDD+ will not work if people are hungry. How can we expect the poor to conserve forest resources if their food security – their very survival – rests on the use or consumption of those resources?

Part of the problem is a perceived trade-off between cultivating land for agriculture and preserving it as forestland. RECOFTC discusses this, and other opportunity costs of REDD+ for local people, in the latest REDD-Net Bulletin, in which we point out that current market values for forest carbon offsets simply cannot compete with global prices for crops like rubber, oil palm, and coffee.


RECOFTC and Vietnam Administration of Forestry sign MOU

RECOFTC and Vietnam Administration of Forestry to work together to expand community forestry and fight poverty in Vietnam

Prof. Dr. Nguyen Ba Ngai (center left) and Dr. Tint L. Thaung (center right) signing the MOU

Prof. Dr. Nguyen Ba Ngai (center left) and Dr. Tint L. Thaung (center right) signing the MOU

How can governments and international organizations work together to reduce poverty and combat deforestation? Collaborative efforts based on mutually beneficial goals sometimes fail to live up to expectations for a variety of reasons. However, the shared history that develops between long standing partners can offer a good basis for more ambitious collaborations.


Into the Pai Forest of Pakistan

A short video on the Pai Forest of Pakistan. Read more on The article (linked) notes,

“Other than its importance as an ecological unit Pai Forest is a life support system for 21 villages situated on its periphery. Most of the people living around the Forest are poor and marginalized. Their main sources of livelihood are agriculture, forestry and fisheries and thus they are dependent upon the natural products of the forest to meet their daily requirement of food, fuel wood and earnings.”

To learn more about forest-dependent people and RECOFTC’s work to support them, visit the RECOFTC website.

In the news – government efforts to curb illegal logging

A weekly news roundup by Lena Buell, RECOFTC Assistant Communications Officer. RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests does not necessarily endorse the content of the news, nor is it our official position.

This week, we’ve seen a number of encouraging examples of governments working harder to crack down on illegal logging. While much is still to be done, it’s heartening to see officials enforcing stricter regulations.


Regional Approaches to Human Rights: Towards Standards Setting

RECOFTC’s Executive Director, Tint L. Thaung, writes from a workshop “Human Rights and Business: Plural Legal Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Institutional Strengthening and Legal Reform”  held Nov 28 – Dec 1 in Bali, Indonesia, and organized by SawitWatch and Forest Peoples Programme, with Rights and Resources Initiative and partners Samdhana Institute and RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests.

Bali, 28 November, 2011: It is now six decades after the Universal Declaration, and the world still faces major gaps in understanding, promoting and defending human rights. Calls, such as the Bali Declaration on Human Rights and Agribusiness which emerges from this meeting, need to be followed by actions, monitoring and revision.

REDD+ Debates in Full Swing at Durban

Jim Stephenson, RECOFTC Program Officer for People, Forests, and Climate Change, provides some highlights from the first few sessions at COP17 in Durban.

COP17 in Durban is now in full swing – as are the discussions on REDD+, which are set to produce results by Saturday. The Norwegian delegation announced at a packed contact meeting yesterday that they had “already been for a jog this morning and had a double espresso” which is just as well given that the REDD+ negotiators will be up night and day to have text agreed by Saturday.

This should give the REDD+ crowd plenty to chew over by the morning of Forests Day on Sunday, and following on from my last post this means my Sunday morning speak will be more REDD+ finance, reference emission levels, and safeguards, rather than my usual caveman mono-syllables.


Building the capacity of grassroots communities is the foundation for success in REDD+

The past year between COP16 in Cancun and COP17 in Durban has seen a number of initiatives and developments at the global level in taking forward one of the key outcomes of Cancun Agreement – advancing the social and environmental safeguards related to REDD+. Entering into the fifth year of REDD+ negotiations in Durban (seventh if we consider the very first proposals in 2005), a number of fundamental issues have yet to be addressed for developing and implementing an effective REDD+ mechanism.

RECOFTC is currently implementing a REDD+ capacity building program for grassroots stakeholders, project implementers and community based organizations in Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal and Viet Nam. Along the way, we’ve encountered a number of challenges that will need to be addressed under the REDD+ mechanism, or forested countries will continue to struggle to develop a widely accepted and inclusive approach for tackling deforestation.


Two Decades of Community Forestry in Nepal: What have we learned?

Jane Carter and Bharat Pokharel of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation provide insights into the development and findings of their new publication on lessons-learned from community forestry in Nepal over the past two decades.

In July 2011, the Nepal Swiss Community Forestry Project (NSCFP) came to an end after 20 years in originally two and eventually four districts of Nepal’s middle hills. All those concerned with the project felt that it was important to draw out the lessons learned from this long experience. They included members of community forest user groups, the Nepal Forest Department, a variety of service providers, project staff (both past and present at the time), the implementing agency Întercooperation, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Representatives of these various stakeholders participated in a “capitalization” process that began in early 2010, and took shape during a number of sharing events, focusing on self-reflection and the identification of lessons learned.


Small Palm Oil Plantations in Thailand Protect Environment but Need to Increase Productivity

Oil palm plantations in Thailand have been increasing at an average of 9% from 2001 to 2010. The fastest growing sector among vegetable oils, palm oil is in high demand in Asia where it is widely used in the food processing, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry – but most of all, as a bio-fuel. In Thailand, more than 120,000 farmers are involved in oil palm cultivation, mostly on small to medium sized farms. Small farmers owning less than 50 hectares manage approximately 70% of the 580,275 hectares planted with oil palm and account for a similar percentage of oil production.

A result of skyrocketing land prices, ceilings on land allocation, and the redistribution of both private and public land between 1975-2003 (3.7 m ha of public land was distributed to 1.5 million beneficiaries who received either freehold titles of user rights under the law), this small holder pattern has had a positive impact on several fronts. Indeed, a recent study Oil Palm Expansion in South East Asia: trends and implications for local communities and indigenous peoples, edited by Marcus Colchester and Sophie Chao, credits the small holder pattern with avoiding the serious social and environmental fallouts of large scale conversion of forestland in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

Governance of Asia’s forests – Are we on the right track?

RECOFTC’s Manager for Capacity Building and Technical Services, Yurdi Yasmi, reports on yesterday’s plenary session on governance in forestry at Asia-Pacific Forestry Week.

The second day of Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) in Beijing started with a plenary on forest governance featuring five experts from various backgrounds, including myself. The first question posed was “What does governance mean to you?” As expected, most of the experts responded with various perspectives on how decisions are made and implemented, with an emphasis on forest law enforcement.

Where Forestry Gets it Right… Even if Complexities Persist

RECOFTC’s Manager for Strategic Communications, Prabha Chandran, is blogging from Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) in Beijing. 

Sandwiched between the iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium and the post-modern Ice Cube that guards the swimming pool in the Olympic village, is the National Convention Center, where some 1,500 experts from the forestry sector have gathered to deliberate the “New Challenges and New Opportunities” in this International Year of Forests.

The favorite adjective this morning was “complex.” It featured in the opening Plenary session presentations by both Jan McAlpine, head of United Nations Forum on Forests, and Dr Andrew Steer, World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change. How complex? “Of the 6.5 billion dollars in the Climate Investment Fund managed by the World Bank, only US$ 300 million – less than one percent – is invested in forests,” says Andrew Steer. ”You’re competing with  sectors like renewable energy and transport, and even if forests emit more green house gases than every plane, train or car in the world, they are still attracting much less investment.”

Book Review: Forests and People: Property, Governance, and Human Rights

Well-known community forest researcher Don Gilmour reviews a new book edited by Thomas Sikor and Johannes Stahl, Forests and People: Property, Governance, and Human Rights on the rights-based approach in forestry.

Forests and People book cover
Available from: Earthscan, London and New York

Rights-based approaches have become an important aspect of the general development debate during the past decade and are increasingly emphasized at international and national conferences and workshops. Rights are frequently cited as a rationale for demanding action to change national regulatory frameworks as well as for more fundamental societal changes. This book, edited by Thomas Sikor and Johannes Stahl, aims at advancing the rights agenda as it applies to forests, with an underlying premise that such scholarship is critical to the pursuit of socially just forestry. The book consists of a series of chapters written by participants at a workshop on forest rights held at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009. (more…)

Moving Gender Forward: RECOFTC signs Memorandum of Understanding with WOCAN


WOCAN Executive Director Dr. Jeannette Gurung (left) and RECOFTC Executive Director Dr. Tint L. Thaung (right) sign the MoU with Program Coordination, Monitoring, and Evaluation Manager James Bampton (far left) and Strategic Communications Manager Prabha Chandran (far right)

On Friday, September 23, 2011, RECOFTC hosted a formal ceremony for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (WOCAN).

This MoU represents an important step in taking a direct approach to mainstreaming gender in our program with WOCAN’s Executive Director, Dr Jeannette Gurung, appointed as RECOFTC’s new Gender Advisor based in our headquarters in Bangkok.

The partnership will help integrate gender mainstreaming in RECOFTC’s strategic program and promote the voice of rural women through WOCAN’s participation in regional community forestry networks. Among the first joint activities is “Innovations for Gender in REDD+: A Strategic Planning workshop” in Bangkok to identify innovative approaches for gender in REDD+ from October 31 – November 1, 2011.

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