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Filling the gap for financing work on gender and forestry

| Mon, 24 Jun, 2024 · 10 min read

Photo credit: © FAO/Luis Tato

Many stakeholders recognize the need to address concerns related to gender and forestry to ensure sustainable forest management and equitable benefit sharing. Such concerns may include the need to include women in forest-related governance and decision-making, the need to address gender-based violence in forest settings, and the need to promote women’s forest-based entrepreneurship, to name a few. There are often socio-economic, social, cultural, and political barriers faced by women within many developing countries. Explicit and deliberate action needs to be taken to ensure women, in addition to men, are equitably, actively, and meaningfully involved (UN-REDD, 2017). However, some actors are still constrained in putting their plans into action due to a lack of financing. 

According to the UN, the world is facing a $360 billion annual deficit to finance its goal of achieving gender equality by 2030. This is a huge challenge for governments, institutions, organizations, communities, and people who work on building prosperous and inclusive economies on a healthy planet. 

Likewise, a recent online survey revealed that financing is a major challenge among the 100 members of the Gender & Forestry community of practice, a forum for exchange and information sharing led by FAO under the Sida-funded project, Global Transformation of Forests for People and Climate: A focus on West Africa. The respondents ranged from representatives of community-based organizations and NGOs to gender focal points in various institutions, including forest agencies across West Africa. As one member lamented, ‘If you don’t have an established network and experience, it can be difficult to know the opportunities. We really struggle sometimes to find funds to support our women’s empowerment activities’.

To provide a space for sharing experience and exchanging tips between experts, practitioners and participants on this topic, FAO in collaboration with USAID’s West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development (WABILED) organized an online event held in January. This event was part of a series of regular engagements to advance gender and forestry in the region.  

The most common difficulty identified by participants was the lack of capacity to identify opportunities and to develop and submit successful proposals. Members of smaller NGOs pointed out that sometimes there are high technical requirements that they simply don’t have, making some funds out of reach. Furthermore, many applicants miss the mark in failing to properly research and align their proposals to meet the criteria of donors.

The online event also highlighted some ways to overcome the challenges of accessing finance.  Here are some of the tips and recommendations provided by the participants:

  1. There is a great potential for sub-contracting services that align with the needs of larger implementing agencies – for instance, in conducting gender analyses and implementing training programs on gender-related topics, and from foundations and many embassies interested to enhance their visibility in-country through support to on-the-ground activities. The research process for small organizations should include reaching out to program officers to seek guidance and to float some concept ideas to assess interest and suitability. Furthermore, apart from financial support, it may help to offer specific trainings and capacity-building programs to design and manage projects.
  2. Researching and understanding the funding landscape, including the priorities, procedures, and requirements. By doing so, organizations can also engage in a dialogue with potential funders to raise awareness of the importance of investing in gender-focused projects. 

Carbon finance is a growing area, particularly given increasing attention to gender and women’s benefits by various international standards (i.e. Verra VCS, Plan Vivo, Gold Standard, W+). Accessing carbon finance requires high technical competency, so it’s critical to identify a trusted partner with a commitment to equity.  

  1. Develop a clear mission: It is important to clearly articulate the organization's mission, vision, and objectives related to gender equality and women's empowerment and to ensure alignment with the priorities and goals of potential supporters. 
  2. Demonstrate impact: show the key achievements, lessons learned, and best practices to showcase effectiveness to potential funders. NGOs can serve as a conduit to bring resources to the grassroots level for women’s empowerment and gender-related activities through community-level economic activities for men and women, ideally with multiplier effects. For example, investments in tree nurseries, beekeeping, and non-wood forest product entrepreneurship can bring sustainable revenues for many years. There may also be opportunities to build relationships with reliable microfinance institutions or to secure payments for environmental services – finance that flows directly to improve local livelihoods. 
  3. Share knowledge and experience with other organizations and institutions to learn from the most effective strategies for raising funds. Learn also from failures, leading to continuous improvement.
  4. Build an effective communications strategy: Underlying success with these potential opportunities is the importance of building an effective communications strategy. This strategy should help to tailor information for specific audiences, to establish a visual identity, to build a strong on- and offline presence, and to tell compelling stories that spark donor and partner interest.  

By developing appropriate fundraising and communications strategies while heeding some of these practical tips, many organizations will be able to unlock more financial resources for their vital gender and forestry work.  Maintaining transparency and accountability in all aspects of the organization and establishing a robust monitoring and evaluation system to track project progress and outcomes will be very important to ensure continued success.

To learn more, please view the recording of the event ‘Tips and tricks to access funding for gender and forestry work’, available here.