Empowering Women for Sustainable Natural Resource Management: Women and Environment Forum 2015

March 4, 2015 - 08:30AM

Women across Africa play an important role in managing natural resources­—their actions shape our environment. Women, furthermore, form the bulk of farmers on the continent, producing most of the food we eat.

In collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), the Government of Kenya, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) will host a day-long Women and Environment Forum to explore the multiple dimensions of gender and natural resource management. These encompass the response of women to climate change and desertification; gender and agroforestry; women and land management: challenges in conservation of forests and forest products, among others.

The Women and Environment Forum will be held on 4 March 2015 at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) campus in Gigiri, Nairobi, and is part of Wangari Maathai Day and African Environment Day celebrations. The Forum’s theme will be ‘Empowering Women for Sustainable Natural Resource Management.’

In recognition of the numerous challenges faced by women across the continent, the Assembly of the African Union designated 2015 as the Year of Women’s Empowerment and development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063—a global strategy to optimize use of Africa's resources for the benefits of all Africans.

“Gender inequality is one of the underlying causes of low productivity in agriculture. This inequality hampers the participation of at least half of the country’s population. As such, gender equality and gender equity has always been an integral part of our work with communities,” said Aisha Karanja, Executive Director of the Green Belt Movement.

Research by ICRAF and partners has shown that gender inequality in areas such as education, ownership or access to resources, land tenure, farmer advisory services, and health contributes to sub-optimal agricultural productivity and high poverty levels in sub-Saharan Africa. While there is variation, land tenure systems on the continent overwhelmingly grant the rights to own and dispose of land to adult males.

More equitable rights to land, and better access to high quality tree seeds and seedlings, knowledge, capital, markets and labor would all boost women’s ability to fully engage in sustainable natural resource management. Agricultural productivity, women’s income, food security, and environmental sustainability would all benefit.

Africa Environment Day is celebrated on 3 March, to raise awareness of the critical environmental challenges facing the continent, as well as recognize successes. The Day is now celebrated in conjunction with Wangari Maathai Day, in honor of the life and work of the eponymous Kenyan Nobel Peace Laureate, a champion for the environment and social justice.