Equal opportunities, gender, justice and tenure

Getting forest governance, rights and institutions right could make or break forests for future generations – and the global climate.

Half of the world’s land is held by Indigenous Peoples and other local communities (IPLCs), but they have legally recognized rights to only 18%. Much of the rest is held under customary arrangements alone. Whether customary or formally recognized, forestlands are subject to intense competition, for resources above and below ground, for the land itself, and both for clearing and for conservation. Unequal power relations and differences in interests and priorities – from the household to communities, regions, countries and the global arena – shape access, rights and decisions over the future of these forests.

As a cornerstone of sustainability, CIFOR is committed to addressing inequalities pertaining to gender, ethnicity, age, and so on, by understanding processes and institutions that affect the ability of IPLC women and men to effectively and equitably govern and manage forest landscapes.

About this team

In many countries, uncertain tenure and overlapping rights leads to conflict and forest and land degradation, disproportionately affecting women, poor people and ethnic minorities. Governance processes, markets and institutions at multiple levels – which shape forest landscapes – discriminate against the women and men who live in and near forests. These topics cut across CIFOR’s research, and our team links broadly with others.

CIFOR’s work on equity and tenure is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 3: Good health and well-being; Goal 4: Quality education, Goal 5: Gender equality, Goal 10: Reduced inequalities, and Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.


Solving complex social and environmental problems means addressing power and inequality for effective collaboration and just outcomes. This approach is central to CIFOR’s research on rights and gender. We also promote engaged, participatory and change-oriented research, as well as capacity building.

Research priorities:

  • Understanding obstacles, opportunities and outcomes of the recognition of local forest and land rights – investigating how forest tenure reforms are implemented; outcomes for tenure security and the investment and livelihood effects of forest rights recognition; and how benefits are shared where forests are collectively owned and governed.
  • Conducting gender-specific research on participation and land and resource rights – understanding how gender equality and social inclusion affect, or are affected by, drivers of change in tree-based and forested landscapes.
  • Integrating gender across all of CIFOR’s work – deepening our abilities to undertake more nuanced and relevant gender analyses, synthesize current gender research, and distil lessons for policy actors at national, regional and global policy levels.
  • Addressing tenure in forest landscape restoration (FLR) – understanding customary systems and land policy reforms needed to support FLR initiatives for local rights and livelihoods.
  • Understanding multistakeholder platforms and processes – exploring equity in collaborative processes through comparative research and engagement; understanding how power differentials are addressed; and testing innovative methods for understanding diverse perspectives.
  • Fostering equity in resource governance regimes – strengthening collaboration across forest and water resource governance regimes and supporting tenure arrangements that ensure local communities participate in benefits from biodiversity conservation.

Cross-cutting team

Team members

CIFOR scientists bring a passion for equality to their work, whether they’re listening to the ideas and concerns of indigenous people in remote villages, challenging government and NGO officials to reflect on power relations, synthesizing the latest insights on gender and intersectionality for policy makers, or supporting innovative and sustainable use of forests by social enterprises.

Scientific group

Enabling staff

Rahayu Koesnadi
Team support assistant
Made Dwi Astuti
Senior Project Officer

Research sites

From Peru to Indonesia, Nepal and Tanzania, our research team is delving into the nuances of rights, access and gender, nurturing close relationships with government, NGOs and communities across the tropics.

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Research projects

CIFOR scientists have been making the connections between poverty, land rights, livelihoods and gender for over two decades. Our multidisciplinary research projects dig deep to bring local insights into the global context.

Active project list

Completed project list

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