San Antonio de Calarma Pijao Indigenous Reservation (@FAO)
Since 2018, Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development has been promoting community forestry (CF) as an approach to sustainable forest management, and significant progress has been made, particularly in engaging more women in the process. With technical assistance from FAO under the UN-REDD Programme, a gender responsive approach has been adopted in five departments, whereby more women and youth are encouraged to actively participate in CF activities.
Over the last year, 129 women were engaged with various local organizations to support concrete actions to conserve and sustainably manage forests. These organizations include community councils of Afro-descendant communities, an Indigenous reservation, and two rural community associations.
In Colombia, for cultural, socioeconomic and institutional reasons, among others, women have traditionally been relegated to a secondary role in forest management. Despite their reliance on forest and agroforestry systems, women have not been given chances to take leadership roles or access forest-related economic opportunities.
By contrast, under the CF program, gender gaps have been progressively reduced in territories inhabited by Afro-Colombian, Indigenous and rural communities. The well-being of women and their families has improved through production and value addition for timber and non-timber forest products including honey and medicinal plants, as well as for agroforestry system crops such as rice and coffee.
Lessons learned from the CF experience include maintaining community cultural traditions promotes a sense of belonging and complements efforts geared towards the sustainable use of land and ecosystems. Also, the promotion of collective action for conservation is the key to reinforcing community solidarity and sustaining the model.
Practitioners have found that community work requires improving relationships between men, women, and youth. Better relations allow for the diversification of roles within families and communities, leading to strengthening the capacities of community organizations, improved livelihoods, sustainable production, and orderly management of territory.
Diana Isabel Villalba Yate, one of the leaders of the Indigenous Reserve of San Antonio de Calamar, and president of the AGRORIS association, commented during a recent exchange: “Community work has been strengthened, allowing for the development of leadership skills in women and the social media management for the community by young people, who now have another language with respect to the territory and productive activities”.
Conservation actions within the CF framework have succeeded in strengthening the close relationship between communities and ecosystems, a fundamental aspect for maintaining biodiversity and local culture.
The implementation of CF initiatives is part of the Comprehensive Strategy for Control of Deforestation and Forest Management (EICDGB) – Forests Territories of Life. This strategy seeks to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, while contributing to decent work and economic growth, and the promotion of the forestry economy (as spelled out in the Sustainable Development Goals 15.1 and 15.2).
Tools and guidance for gender responsive approaches are available on the UN-REDD Programme website here.
Juliana Zuñiga Gallego. Component leader of the Technical Assistance project for the implementation of the community forestry model in Colombia, FAO Colombia (FAOCO), firstname.lastname@example.org
With contributions from:
María Alejandra Chaux Echeverri. Senior Specialist Natural Resources, FAOCO, Maria.ChauxEcheverri@fao.org
Lucio Andrés Santos Acuña. Forestry Officer, REDD+ Team, FAO, Lucio.Santos@fao.org