Women and their central role in fighting climate change and sustainable land management was the focus of a special session during the 15th summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) which closed Friday in the Ivorian commercial capital.

In a session organized by the African Development Bank on Monday 16 May, a panel comprising female entrepreneurs, women’s groups and youth representatives, reflected on the journey of African women in devising strategies and implementation frameworks to address land degradation. The panelists also shared first-hand accounts of solutions that are working in their home countries which has women at the forefront of innovative efforts.

In Senegal, the Ndoloum Vert project has been fighting desertification since its inception four years ago. The project, which focuses on the protection of green spaces, waste management and education, has a central goal to plant 20,000 trees by 2023.

Under the “Un nouveau né, un abre” initiative (For every newborn, one tree) tree component of the project, a tree is planted for every baby born in the village of Futa in northern Senegal. The plan includes local authorities, the community, NGOs, and already 3,000 trees have been planted.

The premise is simple: find a sponsor to keep a tree for its first year; the trees are named after prominent persons in the community. “Naturally, women are at the heart of this project,” said Fatou Niang, journalist and Communication Officer for Gender and Climate Change at the Ministry of Environment in Senegal.

No economy can meet its full potential without full participation of men and women on equal footing…Civil society organizations have a role to play alongside media,” Niang added.

The panelists also discussed data, funding and technical capacity, policy and reforms.

Ezgi Canpolat, Social Development Specialist, Climate Investment Funds for the World Bank, said efforts to include women had created stepping stones for them to build resilience based on their indigenous knowledge. “We have solutions – better data, capacity building…We need to bring on board both gender champions and sceptics,” she said.

Chadian, Colette Bénoudji, Lead of RADDO (Réseau associatif de développement durable des oasis) shared her experience of organizing the preparatory workshop Désertif’actions in Chad. She said in Chad there was a revival of natural products produced by women, providing an opportunity to fight for sustainable land management. “In Chad, we are fighting to put an end to disparities. Together, we want to scale up the small actions women undertake. Women are the guardians of nature,” she said.

Soumaya Zaddem, North African representative on the African Youth Advisory Board on Disaster Risk Reduction, stressed the importance of working as a team to solve problems. “We are talking about the public sector, the private sector, financial partners, civil society organizations. Technology, capacity building must improve women’s empowerment. We need to have the voice of indigenous women in decision-making positions.”

African Development Bank Acting Director for the Gender, Women and Civil Society Department, Amel Hamza, who gave opening remarks at the start of the session, decried the lack of documentation of women’s participation in nature-based solutions.

“This is part of the commitment of the African Development Bank to work with other partners…and its commitment to gender equality,” she said.
Source African Development Bank Group

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