Defining Solutions, Finding Problems: Deforestation, Gender, and REDD+ in Burkina Faso

Woman roasting shea nuts in Burkina Faso. Photo: Ollivier Girard CIFOR (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Defining Solutions, Finding Problems: Deforestation, Gender, and REDD+ in Burkina Faso

Lisa Westholm and her colleague Seema Arora-Jonsson were published in Conservation and Society.

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Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) is a policy instrument meant to mitigate climate change while also achieving poverty reduction in tropical countries. It has garnered critics for homogenising environmental and development governance and for ignoring how similar efforts have tended to exacerbate gender inequalities. Nonetheless, regarding such schemes as inevitable, some feminists argue for requirements that include women's empowerment and participation. In this paper we move beyond discussions about safeguards and examine whether the very framing of REDD+ programs can provide openings for a transformation as argued for by its proponents. Following the REDD+ policy process in Burkina Faso, we come to two important insights: REDD+ is a solution in need of a problem. Assumptions about gender are at the heart of creating 'actionable knowledge' that enabled REDD+ to be presented as a policy solution to the problems of deforestation, poverty and gender inequality. Second, despite its 'safeguards', REDD+ appears to be perpetuating gendered divisions of labour, as formal environmental decision-making moves upwards; and responsibility and the burden of actual environmental labour shifts further down in particularly gendered ways. We explore how this is enabled by the development of policies whose stated aims are to tackle inequalities.

deforestation, gender, global governance, REDD+, World Bank, Burkina Faso

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