Strategies and Examples of Designing Gender Aware REDD Projects

By Liane Schalatek

Some Gender Considerations of REDD Financing

REDD, or reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is based on the simple concept of making payment to forest owners in the South to discourage them from cutting these forests down and thus preventing the release of the carbon emissions stored by forests. It is estimated that as much as a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions stems from deforestation. The Bali Action Plan calls for the development of “policy approaches and positive incentives” leading to a possible agreement on REDD at COP‐15 in Copenhagen in December 2009. How REDD is to be funded is as much an area of controversy as the utility and fairness of the concept itself and its role in slowing down climate change. The proposed mechanisms for financing REDD are carbon trading or designated funds or a hybrid of the two. Carbon trading is seen critically by many observers concerned with equity and social justice out of fear for the traditional rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, which for example the UNFCCC does not recognize. It is also criticized because carbon trading only offsets emissions without leading to a net reduction on both ends of the market transaction while in REDD the danger of carbon “leakage” is high.37

Various voluntary standards, such as the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance Standards (CCBA), seek to address these concerns to varying degrees, however not completely. Several multilateral agencies as well as governments are involved in REDD activities, as are increasingly private sector actors. The World Bank in Bali in 2007 launched the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), its main mechanism for REDD. The fund, with a volume of US$155 million, became operational in June 2008 with 13 financial and 25 country participants. It also finances a few REDD‐type projects through its BioCarbon Fund (operating since 2004, now in tranche 2, with a total expenditure of US$ 90 million)38. Additionally, as part of its portfolio of Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), the World Bank under its Strategic Climate Fund (SCF) created a Forest Investment Program (FIP) with US$57 million pledged.39 Several UN agencies (UNDP, UNEP, FAO) have set up UN‐REDD which runs pilot programs in 10 countries and has promised US$18 million to five of these countries. Various governments are also active in REDD, foremost Norway, which has committed US$600 million per year in support, as well as Germany, Austria, and Brazil, which created the Amazon Fund.

Forests contribute to the livelihoods of many of the more than one billion people living in abject poverty, more than 70 percent of them women. Forests themselves are home to some 300 million people worldwide. From a gender‐equitable point of view, forest and the management of forest resources are of utmost importance for sustainable development, as men and women (ab)use, protect and access those resources differently based on their socioeconomic differences and gendered roles and rights. Women rarely are afforded legal ownership rights over forest resources; traditional tenure and women’s role in guarding and maintaining communal forests are often not recognized, f.ex. in Africa. These facts on the ground have to be taken into account in a comprehensive gender assessment of possible impacts, policies and compensation structures before various REDD financing schemes are negotiated and agreed upon, in Copenhagen or elsewhere.

At the moment, most proposed REDD market‐based schemes focus on large‐scale deforestation, activities in which women and indigenous communities in general are less involved. As it currently stands, women and community activities stand to benefit more from REDD public funds with an explicit focus on forest conservation and restoration. However, it has been estimated that carbon markets might provide up to 10 times more in funding for REDD initiatives than public donor funds. To compensate for this financing gap, scarce public funding for future REDD projects that target community‐based activities should preferentially invest in women’s associations. There are many examples of the benefits for the whole community in forest conservation projects targeting women (see the examples in boxes 2 and 3). If women as a group were to benefit from market‐based REDD financing schemes, the question of gender and tenure will have to be addressed upfront. For example, REDD participation by national governments could be contingent upon fair land ownership laws and the reform of existing, often gender‐biased land legislation, with some of the initial REDD funds being used for statutory reform efforts. Additionally, mandatory gender‐inclusive sustainability standards should be required for any market‐ready REDD project as fiduciary duty. Such standards need to be worked out under strong participation of women and indigenous groups at every level of standard‐setting and development. While currently the CCBA standards, a principal tool for verifying a REDD project’s socioeconomic impacts, require projects to provide community information (including on gender) and ask for gender‐inclusive consultation, they do not ask for gender‐equity in ownership and access opportunities. It would behoove standards such as the CCBA to include a specific gender criterion in its community section or as a requirement for projects aspiring to a gold level status.40

Probably the best known example linking women’s empowerment to climate change abatement through REDD is the work of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai. Working through Community Forest Associations (CFAs) with the strong involvement of local women’s groups, the Green Belt Movement since the early 1970s has reforested degraded public land and private land with high community access in the Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya watersheds in Kenya, which had been deforested for charcoal production or for conversion to illegal agriculture and cattle grazing.
In November 2006, the Greenbelt Movement signed an Emissions Reductions Purchase Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund. Under the still ongoing project, some 1,876 ha of degraded land in the area were reforested by CFAs in 2007 and 2008. From this project, the BioCarbon Fund expects to purchase 375,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reductions between 2007 and 2017, with a call option to purchase an additional 150,000 tons. Local CFAs were employed to plant and tend the seedlings during the first two years; they are allowed to extract traditional (for example, honey, firewood from deadfall) and medicinal goods from the forest.

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 Gender‐Aware REDD Projects – Example 2: The Equilibrium Fund Maya Nut Program

The Equilibrium Fund, an NGO working with women in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Savador, Mexico and Honduras, through its Maya Nut Program has supported the planting of some 800,000 Maya Nut trees in Central America since 2001 for food, income and ecosystem services (reforestation). It has taught over 10,000 women about the uses, processing, food value and commercialization of the Maya Nut through providing training and capacity building for 11 women's Maya Nut producer groups. By teaching women to harvest Maya Nut from natural forest for food and income, they are motivated to conserve the rainforest and plant more trees for future harvests. By producing and selling Maya Nut, women earn a fair wage, often for the first time in their lives.

The Equilibrium Fund estimates that one acre of Maya Nut forest can sequester approximately 40 tons of carbon over 20 years. It seeks opportunities to participate in carbon trading, currently appealing primarily to individuals who seek to participate in voluntary offsetting of their household emissions. The Equilibrium Fund could benefit from dedicated REDD public funds, which would allow it to expand its successful program significantly in size and reach.

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37 For a general introduction to some of the concepts and problems surrounding REDD, please see http://www.redd‐‐


38World Bank (2009). Carbon Finance for Sustainable Development 2008, Washington, DC, April 2009; available at‐29‐09.pdf

39 For more detailed summary information on the FIP, please see:‐investmentprogram.

40 The CCBA standard scorecard lists the 17 different indicators used for project approval; available at: http://climatestandards.

org/standards/scorecard.html. See also CCBA (2008). Climate, Community & Biodiversity Project Design Standards, Second

Edition, CCBA, Arlington/VA. December 2009. Available at: http://climatestandards.