By Blerina Gjeka
For as long as people lived on earth their survival has been interrelated with the use and management of natural resources, and most notably biodiversity. Forests, grasslands, farms, landscapes and marine ecosystems are not only home and a source of livelihoods to millions of people, but also vessels of social, cultural and spiritual values. The importance of the stewardship role of men and women in the protection of biodiversity and its values is all the more important nowadays, when tensions between the urge for fast development and the constraints of limited natural resources are high.
Ownership and participation of local community members ensures the sustainability of any initiative. For example, the local community groups of Mabamba Bay, Uganda are the main guardians of their wetland understanding its enormous global and local economic value. A fleet of small boats navigated the group of tourists along the narrow wetland channels to see the famous but vulnerable shoebill stork and many other birds. There was a time when local communities and birds competed for territory and fish. Nowadays trained local tour guide women and men and women-lead ecotourism associations work together to protect and preserve the flora and fauna of the wetland as a vital source of food, income and cultural values.
The important role of women in natural resources conservation and management is well known. From bearers of traditional conservation knowledge, seed selection and plant processing experts to community leaders and market negotiators, women’s role is vital to their families, community and society in general. Nonetheless, evidence shows that women have limited rights, access, benefits and control over resources. The reasons differ from socio-cultural, political and geographical to legal constraints. Women and girls constitute half of the world’s population, therefore ensuring women’s equal participation as key stakeholders and beneficiaries is paramount to ensuring sustainable development, poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation.
BIOFIN recognizes the importance of equal participation, access, benefit-sharing and control over resources of women and men as a catalyst for sustainable development results. In this light, BIOFIN promotes the integration of gender aspects in its work and results at local, national and global levels.
Some considerations to promote consistent results in gender equality and biodiversity conservation include ensuring reviews of institutions, strategies and policy should use a gender lens in planning, budgeting, implementing, monitoring and evaluation. This is important to ensure provision of opportunities for gender equality, women’s empowerment and closure of the gender gap.
For example, Mozambique recognizes that discrimination of women in access and resource management reduces the productive potential of families, increasing their vulnerability and limiting the ability of all individuals, including men, to move out of poverty. To promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, gender aspects are integrated in all its state budgeting processes and across all sectors and institutions.
Many Finance Solutions can directly or indirectly contribute to mutual gender and biodiversity benefits, some examples include:
- Bioprospecting is the search for biochemical and genetic information in nature to develop commercial products (pharmaceutical, cosmetic, etc.) and can bring useful streams of income to local communities, especially indigenous women. An example from the cooperation of Yawanawa Indigenous Tribe in Brazil with Aveda established an urukum plantation. Aveda purchased from the community the processed urukum pigment as a coloring agent for its cosmetics. They also purchased an additional license to use the unique Yawanawa art designs in Aveda’s advertising. (Source: Aveda, PEI, UNDP).
- The carbon offsets market offers possibilities for women and men to generate long-term revenue through biodiversity conservation and preservation of their communal or individual forests. Equal participation and benefit sharing of women and men would greatly contribute to sustainable results. The Rainforest Standard™ is an interesting initiative introducing the first carbon credit standard to fully integrate requirements and protocols for carbon accounting, socio-cultural/socio-economic impacts, and biodiversity outcomes.
- Combining finance solutions is not a rare practice. Budi Setiawan is the Founder of Kelompok Peduli Lingkungan Belitung community group in Indonesia. He shares his experience in using eco-tourism, fees and crowdsourcing tools for revenue generation, delivering better and avoiding future expenses. The initiative invested in the conservation of sea turtles, tarsiers’ population and afforestation of mangroves contributing to biodiversity conservation, climate change and disaster risk reduction at the same time. The initiative contributed to gender equality by providing an open environment for participation of men and women in all decision-making and benefit sharing processes. It generated ecotourism income for 500 women and men members of the community. Innovative methods were applied using a local mobile phone application for the community, fishermen/women, market prices and sharing of information among the community members. In addition to help its ongoing work in preserving the mangrove and tropical forest the association is developing another mobile phone app Pohonku (My-Tree) to source public funds for tree planting and forestation. The app provides the donor with real time pictures of the tree/s sponsored, the family and the process of selection & planting as well as data on its carbon sequestration, ecosystem, etc. The initiative contributes to SDG 1, 2, 5, 13, 14, 15 and Aichi targets 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 15.
- Targeted funds in the form of grants or challenge/competitive proposals could further support substantial work in this field.
Within the BIOFIN process, it strives to ensure equal and active participation of all stakeholders and decision makers, across different sectors, in planning, decision making, implementation and evaluation of its activities and results.
Gender perspectives are mainstreamed in the Theory of Change of the project, annual work plans and guidance is included in the 2016 Workbook. Specific sessions have been organized in several regional workshops to promote and guide the country teams and partners in mainstreaming gender issues in the BIOFIN work from planning to evaluation. Gender screening criteria are introduced to different tools and implementation stages of the project.
The initiative is working with global, national and local partners to expand its work in implementing finance solutions in collaboration with women, local community and indigenous groups and catalase at the same time knowledge and good practices for capacity development, replication and upscaling.
Blerina Gjeka is BIOFIN's Project Management Associate and Gender Lead.