The state of the world's forests 2022


5.6 Inclusive recovery and the development of local forest-based value chains needs the participation of women and youth

Of the 1.35 billion people who live on less than USD 1.25 per day and depend on natural resources for employment, 829 million (61 percent) are women and girls.542,543 Evidence from several countries shows that the inclusion of women and youth in natural resource governance has significant positive effects on forest conservation and development outcomes. For example, a study in East Africa and Latin America found that the presence of women in community forest governance structures significantly improved responsible behaviour and forest sustainability.544

Women’s inclusion in forest resource governance is not always immediately viable. In contexts where participation is contingent on tenure rights, it is necessary − given that women’s land and tree tenure rights are typically weak or non-existent − to facilitate the process of formally securing those rights and making women’s voices heard (Box 42).

Box 42 Women’s engagement in land rights formalization in Colombia

In Latin America, 33 percent of forests are managed under collective tenure regimes owned by communities, mostly Indigenous Peoples.545 But despite legal provisions, the formalization of rights is slow, complex and costly, and little is known about how the reform processes involve and benefit women.546,547 In Colombia, women’s organizations have become active in formalization processes and policy discussions.548 Cadasta (an organization providing technical services on land and resource rights) has worked with Aso Manos Negra, a women-run organization, to map and document community lands among Afro-Colombians in the Pacific region. Cadasta has developed systems and training to help women members collect data on women’s economic activities and land use and track formalization processes. It also involves indigenous women in livelihood projects, resource-management planning, forest land-use planning and implementation activities.549

Youth have the potential to bring qualities that help make forest enterprises more efficient and productive – such as energy, enthusiasm, social media connectedness and risk-taking attitudes. They may also be more willing than some others to invest in ambitious projects and less likely to be held back by opposition from customary authorities.550 Finally, they tend to have better access to education and information than previous generations, meaning they are well placed to introduce new ideas and organizational innovation, especially in terms of information technologies. Youth who migrate to urban areas can be sources of finance (through remittances), and those who return may directly invest new knowledge and finance (Box 43).551

Box 43 Youth organizations engaging in REDD+ policy dialogues

The Forest Governance Learning Group (FGLG) in Indonesia started as a group of young, concerned foresters. Now a multistakeholder forum, it is building a network to support both FGLG Indonesia and the next generation of foresters. Members remain connected to the group as they progress professionally and act as advocates for community-led forest governance that respects the rights of local communities. Recently, FGLG Indonesia helped promote a multisectoral approach in Indonesia’s national REDD+ strategy, aligning forest governance with policies on agriculture, land, mining and economic growth, with a focus on community forestry and local engagement. FGLG Indonesia supported consultations that led to significant improvements in sandalwood regulation in East Nusa Tenggara, new REDD+ learning tools, and decisive involvement in REDD+ and climate-change consultations on policies affecting Indonesian forestry.

SOURCES: International Institute for Environment and Development. 2014. Forest Governance Learning Group – Indonesia – Supporting governance in REDD+ and community forestry. London. (also available at Siswanto, W. 2015. Arguing forests – The story of FGLG Indonesia. Country report. London, International Institute for Environment and Development. 35 p. (also available at

Community-based organizations empower women and youth

In many countries, forest and farm organizations use youth and women engagement strategies to develop policies for the inclusion of these groups in forest governance and to strengthen their tenure rights. Their business models have advantages in creating job opportunities and access to markets for women, generating positive spillover effects in both household and group businesses, and increasing access to social services such as vocational trainings, childcare and maternity leave – all of which support women to participate in the labour market on a more equal footing with men.580

Forest and farm producer organizations are also pathways for business incubation to improve women’s entrepreneurship. For example, it is possible to design gender-differentiated training programmes that fit with the available study hours of women and focus on the types of business that fit with their household situations. In India, the Self Employed Women’s Association runs a management school for youth and other new managers on entrepreneurship, business development, market access, operations, new technology, product quality and standards certification, legal and financial issues, and business management.552 Training more women extension officers can be particularly important in communities that prohibit male extension officers from interacting with women farmers.

Forest and farm organizations have facilitated the access of youth groups to land, conditional on performance,553,554 and helped in the design of greener, more sustainable agroforestry businesses for youth.555 Young people’s enthusiasm and risk-taking attitudes make them important actors in new and potentially more productive farming systems, such as experimenting with diverse crops or trees, adopting new agroforestry and soil conservation measures and trialling new processing techniques. A recent knowledge-demand study of forest and farm organizations found that 59 percent of the 41 organizations surveyed across six countries had active youth programmes.556 In Guatemala, for example, the rural agroforestry business school run by the umbrella cooperative Las Verapaces Cooperatives Federation emerged as a result of the many services the cooperative provides for its 37 member cooperatives and more than 100 other producer groups.557

Another area of increasing importance with links to women’s empowerment is the provision of financial services, such as those provided by village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) and savings and credit cooperative societies, which are among the fastest-growing cooperatives globally. Members are predominantly women, who are often underserved by formal banking.580,558 Globally, VSLAs have more than 11.5 million members in 73 countries, accumulating more than USD 660 million in savings annually. Collectively, VSLAs provide access to finance for social and business purposes for 2 billion people – of whom a high percentage are rural women (Box 44).559,560

Box 44 A women-led community-based organization in Kenya providing access to finance

Thiongote is a Kenyan women-led community-based organization made up of ten farmer groups engaged in forest and farm enterprise activities. It promotes sustainable agriculture and agroforestry, advances advocacy and lobbying, and creates partnerships and leverage for accessing markets and inputs. Most members reinvest their profits in farm development or in education and loans. A collective fund enables members to bulk-purchase high-quality seeds and seedlings from government agencies at a lower price.

SOURCE: Bolin, A. 2020. Women’s empowerment through collective action – How forest and farm producer organisations can make a difference. FAO and International Institute for Environment and Development.

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