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    Indigenous Women Propose Inclusive System to Conserve Forests in Costa Rica (Part 3)

    A native example to be proud of

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    Closing gaps

    Work on gender gained momentum from 2016 when, at the international level, clearer guidelines were given on the subject, explains María Elena Herrera, a technical professional at Fonafifo.

    In 2014, during the climate summit held in Lima (Peru), the countries approved the Lima Work Program on Gender. This was a key issue in the design of the gender action plan in Costa Rica.

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    As a starting point, a gap analysis was done. “What we saw? Well, women are important conservation agents in this country: where there is a greater presence of women landowners at the cantonal level, there is more forest. The analysis also revealed to us that, in the buffer zones of the protected wild areas, there is a large presence of women”, comments the official.

    Regarding indigenous women, she points out: “Their productive areas are generating a significant impact on reducing emissions.” In these spaces, the forest coexists with crops that guarantee the family’s food security and provide them with an economic income option when marketing the products. There are also medicinal plants and water sources are protected.

    Based on the data from the Ecomercado I and II projects, executed by Fonafifo, a growing trend was also observed in terms of the number of PES contracts on behalf of women. In the 2010-2019 period, 1,387 were counted. In other words, 14% of that total is in female hands. The other thing they noticed is that only 15% of the registered land belongs to women. But, the reality is not so clear, warns Herrera.

    “Sometimes we realized that, in order to earn more points in the evaluation matrix (a mechanism that we promoted as long as more women entered the program), the land was transferred, but when the money came to the account Well, the man was behind the woman to take the money from the ATM, ”he explains. “So, we realized that establishing requirements, such as that the property is in the woman’s name, does not necessarily work because we are not guaranteeing that the money reaches her and thus she can distribute the benefits with the family”, she adds.

    For indigenous women, the issue of property is not a problem: the land —in the case of the Bribris and Cabécares— belongs to them. “By intergenerational line, there is a safeguard and a guarantee that the woman will not be thrown out of her property,” Herrera points out. However, although they own the land, they live in the cantons (municipalities) with the highest poverty rates. And they do not have access to credit or paid jobs.

    “As indigenous women, we do not have access to loans or financial support to run a business. In the system, I do not appear earning a salary and it already limits me there. Even if I have a farm, because I have a right of possession as an indigenous woman, I do not have a deed, so I cannot give that as a guarantee when responding for a loan, ”explains Villanueva.

    Small communities coexist with the Costa Rican forests. Photo: Giancarlo Pucci / UNDP Costa Rica

    Following a roadmap

    Fonafifo’s work focused on drawing a roadmap with indigenous and peasant women. Workshops were held and the enthusiasm of the indigenous women was such that, according to Herrera, they agreed on a specific time to plan the climb to the hill in order to have a better cell phone signal and be able to participate in the validations. This roadmap resulted in the gender action plan, which is transversal to the REDD + strategy.

    REDD + is a mechanism that has been negotiated since 2005 within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

    So far, the Fonafifo launched 2 projects derived from this plan. One of them, launched in June 2020, is promoted by the Minae “+Mujeres +Natura” program. This aims to strengthen the economic autonomy of women, addressing gender gaps while mitigating the economic impacts caused by the covid-19 pandemic, all under a sustainability approach.

    In this way, “Fonafifo by your side” emerged, which has managed to place US$ 100,000 in 2020. In its “Fonafifo by your side-PSA Woman” modality, 25 additional points are awarded in the evaluation matrix to opt for a contract of PES -in the category of forest protection- to those farms in the hands of women.

     The second modality, “Fonafifo a tu lado – Crédito Mujer”, is a credit line of up to US$ 8,176 with fiduciary guarantee, with a term of 10 years to pay and a fixed rate of 4% per year for productive development, capital of innovative work, infrastructure, equipment and projects related to forest.

    “Despite the pandemic, as of December 2020, we had placed 11 credits totaling US$ 86,675 in different activities such as ecotourism, agroforestry systems (combination of crops with trees), nurseries and an apiary with one hectare of teak trees. We are diversifying the options for women and this shows, once again, that women want to work. It’s about giving them options”, says Herrera.

    The other project, announced in October 2020, consists of an award to recognize achievements in favor of gender equality made from productive units that are under PES schemes. The participants carry out an analysis of the gaps and propose actions to close them. Based on the execution and results, they are awarded annually. Issues such as social security, participation of women in decision-making and others related to gender are considered within the agri-environmental approach.

    The first award is scheduled for 2021. The public recognition of these organizations and farms also seeks that consumers know the conditions behind the product they are purchasing. Thus, according to Herrera, it is intended to create virtuous chains; women can offer their products to nearby restaurants and hotels, while they can use the award as an incentive when marketing.

    The Sibu women

    Although indigenous women benefit from the general actions, they proposed a pilot project to demonstrate that their ancestral farms can be a model that contributes to the reduction of GHG emissions.

    The objective is to identify the environmental services that these productive spaces can offer, so that the information can be used to build a PES for Women. To do this, the idea is to start with the collection of scientific data in 50 farms: 25 managed by bribris and 25 by cabécares. In addition, the pilot will serve to identify other issues related to governance, legal and administrative issues.

    “With them, there is no problem regarding who owns the land, but there is work to be done at the community level, because the lands are in a single registered plane and it is the association that manages them,” Herrera said. And she adds that “there is an internal job so that they can receive a payment through the local indigenous government or see if there is a possibility that the Fonafifo will pay them directly under the protection of a legal permit. Those are things that have to be analyzed”.

    Although the pilot project has already been designed, and envisions that it is the women themselves who collect the data in order to empower them and strengthen their technical capacities, funding is still being sought. The intention of Fonafifo is to train indigenous women in the use of GPS so that they are the ones who delimit the area on their lands that would be part of the pilot project.

    Another goal of the action plan is to hire more indigenous women as resource guardians. Herrera says: “They want to be involved, because, up to now, there has been more hiring of men than women. In this way, they are given the opportunity to have a job while they are trained in the use of technology and knowledge for forest monitoring”.

    Indigenous Women Propose Inclusive System to Conserve Forests in Costa Rica (Part 4)

    Resonance Costa Rica

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