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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

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

Westholm, Lisa; Arora-Jonsson, Seema;


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 womens 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

Published in

Conservation and Society

2015, volume: 13, number: 2, pages: 189-199

Authors' information

Westholm, Lisa
University of Gothenburg
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action
SDG5 Gender equality
SDG1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere

UKÄ Subject classification

Gender Studies
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Publication Identifiers


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