21 September, 2015
Empowering women can help drive sustainable forest use in Africa
According to the director and founder of the Cameroon-based NGO African
Women's Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF), Cécile
Ndjebet, millions of African women work in forestry, but many lack the
rights of land tenure afforded to their male counterparts. The global
forestry sector could play a powerful role in empowering rural women
through land tenure.
©Sergei Uriadnikov via 123RF
"Women have a vital role, but their positions are often precarious.
Women are frequently disadvantaged in a range of interrelated cultural,
socio-economic and institutional ways, in their access to and control
over forest resources and in the availability of economic opportunities.
is a need for collective action and commitment from all stakeholders to
promote community rights and improved livelihood of local people,
including women. Certification of forest products is a powerful tool for
delivering that action for forest smallholders to grow a sustainable
business and build livelihoods and dignity."
Ndjebet adds "Women
often have highly specialised knowledge of trees and forests in terms of
their species diversity, management and uses for various purposes, and
conservation practices. Compared with men, women's knowledge tends to be
linked more directly to household food consumption and health, which is
particularly important during food crises.
Empowering women, benefitting communities
women in the forest sector can create significant development
opportunities for them and generate important knock-on benefits for
their households and communities." She adds that a primary component of
this action is dedicated funding mechanisms for forest smallholders to
make certification effective and to ensure secured land tenure for
In emerging nations, women's rights are often not
directly linked with property rights and customary rights. There is a
need to build the business case for women's inclusion, to invest in
education and leadership training for women at all levels, and to raise
awareness among both men and women of women's exclusion and of the
benefits of women's inclusion, says Ndjebet.
executive director of FSC, concurs: "Collective action on land tenure
for women will not only improve the economic and ecological
sustainability of forestry, but promote the ethos of Forests For All,
Forever rather than exploiting a finite resource to the point of
The Forest Stewardship Council is developing a
gender strategy to bring this crucial topic forcefully into the global
forestry debates, he adds.